It might not be surprising to see someone sit in the rarefied liberal air of a PBS set and dismiss the undignified palaver of talk radio and Ann Coulter, but on Friday's PBS NewsHour, this line was coming from former Bush speechwriting chief Michael Gerson, and the target was Gov. Rick Perry.
Gerson and liberal Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus were sitting in for David Brooks and Mark Shields. (In other words, Gerson was in the "I agree with Mark" chair.) Both agreed that Perry really gaffed in suggesting Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke was "treasonous" if he shoveled more dollars into the economy before the election:
JIM LEHRER: Well, explain, Michael, why those gaffes wouldn't disturb the Republican electorate, for a candidate to use the word treasonous in the same -- in a context of talking about Ben Bernanke?
MICHAEL GERSON: I think the unfortunate context here is that that's the importation of language that's used on the Internet, used on talk radio, used in book titles. We have titles like "Treason." We have -- you know, so I think those -- that type of language has been imported in the Republican primary process. I agree that it's a long-term problem. I don't think that it's necessarily a short-term political problem in Iowa and other places.
Gerson must be referring to the Ann Coulter book "Treason" -- which was about actual communist espionage, and the anti-anti-communist liberals who were soft on it. It doesn't exactly match the current controversy. It's more snobbish than artful. One can dismiss the idea that Bernanke is a traitor as overbaked without dragging Coulter books into it.
Speaking of the Fed, Lehrer brought up Ron Paul's chances, since the pundits have dismissed his second-place straw poll showing as another insignificant CPAC-style outlier. (Lehrer didn't mention that the "End the Fed" author said Perry's remarks "make me look like a moderate.") Gerson gave the usual conservative line that Paul is too libertarian on drugs and too strangely supportive of Iran to win over the GOP:
LEHRER: Why -- there's been a lot of complaints from Ron Paul and his folks that he's been -- he came in within 100 -- within 200 votes of Bachmann in the straw poll, and he was just brushed aside. Is he not considered a serious contender for the Republican nomination?
GERSON: Well, I think he's not a serious contender for the Republican nomination. He has a floor of very committed supporters and a ceiling that's not too much higher than the floor, because he has very radical views, which came out in the debates. He seemed very much excusing of Iranian behavior. He's a libertarian on even the hardest -- legalization of the hardest drugs.
You know, he has views that are definitely not mainstream views, in my view and in the view of most Republicans. So, I do think that he is a force, but I think that he has a very committed core that's not likely to expand beyond that group.
At least on Friday, Marcus disappointed Obama partisans by agreeing with Gerson that the president's stance on unemployment is not cutting it:
GERSON: So, I think the president's problem here is not just the vacation, which is easy to focus on, but it's the fact that he's coming up with a big jobs plan 28 months after unemployment went over the nine percent figure, which most people seem -- see as quite late. He's playing catchup on the most important issue in American politics.
JIM LEHRER: Ruth?
RUTH MARCUS: I wish I could say I disagree. The -- I thought the tour was very odd, because it was: I'm on a tour. I'm going to come up with a policy. Wait until September. And that was problem one with it. Problem two, I thought, was when he started to sort of ramp up this argument against Congress, you know: I need your help to get this Congress to get off its -- and get something done.
Well, when President Truman ran against the do-nothing Congress, he had not promised the voters earlier that he was going to be able to make the Congress do something and that he was the guy who was going to be able to come to town and change all of this. So, for the president now to be ramping up against a do-nothing Congress, I feel his frustration, but he did tell us he was the one who was going to be able on fix this broken political system that still turns out to be broken.
Marcus may be one of the few media liberals who want to remind voters Obama pledged to be a terrific bridge-builder to the other party -- something the other party can easily reject -- as the Democrats proved with George W. Bush.