Gregory on Gas: Surprising Voice of Reason?

Much as this column is quick to point out the prevalent liberal bias of the MSM, fairness compels us to acknowledge those occasions, rare as they might be, when the MSM plays it down the middle.

NBC's handling of the recent spike in gasoline prices could be shaping up to be one of those flying-pig moments of 'fair & balanced' coverage. At the very least, there are indications that the conventional wisdom within NBC News is that the Bush administration is not to blame for the high prices, and/or that there is little government can do to stem the price rise.

As noted here earlier today, Katie Couric and David Gregory both expressed skepticism on this morning's Today show as to the government's ability to do much in the circumstances. Gregory was back at it this evening, guest-hosting for Chris Matthews on 'Hardball.'

His guests were the liberal Dem Rep. Marty Meehan of Mass., and Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

Gregory's intro set the skeptical tone: "What can politicians do to get price of gas down, if anything?"

Blackburn certainly got the better of the debate, in this observer's opinion, pressing for measures that would increase supply and force down prices, namely increased domestic exploration and easing of the permitting process for refineries.

But when Blackburn flirted with populism/demagoguery in calling for investigations and legislation addressing 'price-gouging', Gregory surprisingly held her feet to the fire, asking whether she had "any evidence" that price gouging was occuring, and forcing an admission that, at least in the Volunteer State, there was no such indication.

Of course for liberal Dems, any occasion is a good excuse to raise taxes, and Meehan predictably proposed that "Congress ought to . . . tax this huge excessive windfall and get it back to the consumers where it ought to be." Funny how while government is great at taxing, it always seems to fall short on the 'get it back to the people' side of the equation. In any case, it's impossible to see how raising taxes on gasoline will lower the price of gasoline!

Gregory pursued his reality-based analysis with this tough question for Meehan:

"Let me ask you a political question here. Aren't both sides looking for cover here? Experts I've heard said there was plenty of complacency on the Democratic side as well when Democrats were in control and didn't see the prices ratcheting up to the degree they have been. Is there an attempt in Congress of political cover when there is nothing that can be done in the short term?"

Blackburn frankly acknowledged that "there are very few things you can do today or tomorrow that will get the gas pump price down today or tomorrow."

Rather than pointing the finger at the Bush administration, Gregory uncritically cited the president's explanation that the price spike is at least partially explained by a jump in demand by China and India.

Gregory reiterated the theme later in the segment: "Is this just an attempt at political cover when there are no practical solutions on the short term for Congress to pursue?"

As mentioned this morning, there's no reason to believe the trend will last, but let's give a hat tip to Gregory and NBC for, at least this time, not seeking to exploit the issue for Dem political advantage.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.