The beautiful thing about being a Republican and having your own network (Fox) is that you can hide out there and refuse access to all of the real news outlets, which also refuse to call Fox out on their misnomer of news. This puts all of the other networks in a bind if they want access, which they need in order to cover the election, which they need in order to get ratings.
It’s called playing hard to get.
This means you can set the terms for the few interviews you agree to do, and pick the “moderator”. Naturally, if you’re a Republican like Mitt Romney who hasn’t actually “met the press” since 2009, you’ll pick David Gregory on the now inaccurately named Meet the Press.
No one puts on a better show of pretending to push back with stern looks while his words actually just open the door for Romney spin than David Gregory, and this is a widely perceived bias that led to the 24 hour trending hashtag of brutal satire: “DavidGregorysToughQuestions”.
Today’s prize interview with the meet the press averse Mitt Romney went according to plan. The lies were literally too numerous to track. Were Gregory to have actually fact-checked Romney, this interview would have stopped about every two minutes (seriously). It felt just like covering Palin in the sense of getting lost down the winding paths of lies, only the words fit together well and they were bigger. The amount of Romney rewriting reality that went on would have slayed the most ardent fact-checker.
We will go with but one example; Romney inaccurately blamed Obama for cutting defense spending (this is often confused with cutting funding to the troops, when in fact the military industrial complex feeds much money into unrelated and sometimes unnecessary areas like military contractors, technology we’re not using, etc).
Gregory cut him off by pointing out that Republicans agreed to those cuts and then let Romney spin away again, saying that he, Mitt Romney, didn’t agree with that and the President never should have done it.
Transcript via NBC:
MITT ROMNEY: Well, I want to maintain defense spending at the current level of the GDP. I don’t want to keep bringing it down as the president’s doing. This sequestration idea of the White House, which is cutting our defense, I think is an extraordinary miscalculation in the wrong direction.
DAVID GREGORY: Republican leaders agreed to that deal to the extend the debt ceiling.
MITT ROMNEY: And that’s a big mistake. I thought it was a mistake on the part of the White House to propose it. I think it was a mistake for Republicans to go along with it. The president was responsible for coming out with specific changes they’d make to the defense budget. It was supposed to have come out this last week. He has violated the law that he in fact signed. The American people need to understand how it is that our defense is going to be so badly cut.
Left off of the table is the reality that if Mitt Romney really feels that way, why did he pick Paul Ryan as his running mate?
If Mitt Romney thinks this is THE ISSUE of the times, why in the world did he pick the guy who killed the Simpson Bowles compromise that led to the automatic kick in of those defense cuts? It was Paul Ryan who refused to compromise one bit on ways to cut to the deficit. Ryan refused to meet Democrats even on one inch of their territory, which was that they wanted to fund the government with some revenue, which is called math.
That revenue had to come from somewhere, and sine the middle class is still suffering in this country, the Democrats wanted to raise taxes by a teeny tiny bit on the top 2%.
This was unacceptable to Paul Ryan, who calls himself a budget hawk and yet seems to have no idea that it takes revenue to pay down a deficit. Paul Ryan and the Republican House didn’t want to pay for the deficit, which partially consisted of debt from George W. Bush’s two wars that he left off of the budget completely. It’s like they can’t do math.
So instead of allowing any revenue at all, and still refusing to make any cuts to defense spending, the Republicans insisted that not only were they not going to pay off their old debts by raising the debt ceiling to pay the creditors, but they would not cut spending on their preferred big government programs and they would not look for waste for fraud in those programs and they would not raise taxes on the rich.
The Republicans wanted to only make cuts to social programs that hit middle class and poor families. Democrats were unwilling to agree to this, and so the automatic cuts kicked in.
Now, Republicans are blaming Obama for their own refusal to compromise one bit, and David Gregory let that stand. It’s not as if the Republican refusal to raise the debt ceiling was a normal event that’s ever happened before- it was a calamity of epic proportions. It harmed this nation’s credit rating. It hurt the economy.
Their failure led to the need for the SuperCommittee because they insisted that we must pay down the deficit at all costs even in the midst of a recession. Fine, Obama said. Find cuts in your places and the Democrats will find them in theirs. The Democrats did that, and the Republicans refused.
Gregory failed to mention any of that. It’s sort of a big deal. In fact, if you care at all about the deficit, it’s a BFD. Why? Because Republicans put on that big show and ruined our credit rating over their alleged passion over the deficit, but when it came time to play, they refused to find any cuts in their favorite government programs. They also refused to raise any revenue.
How can Republicans call themselves fiscally conservative or responsible under those circumstances? They can’t, and no remotely educated journalist would allow them to get away with it. Especially not after they followed the shiny ball deficit distraction for years. It was the George W Bush administration that, while destroying Clinton’s surplus, told us, “Deficits don’t matter.”
Suddenly when a Democrat is in office, the deficit the Republicans created matters very much. So much that they are unwilling to raise taxes on the rich or find any place to make cuts from their preferred programs that feed the private contractors that make up their funders (there are Democrats in charge of districts that cater to defense spending as well who were equally unwilling to make those cuts).
Instead, we are treated to a scripted reality TV show version of politics and policy, where the main character is sleeping with the producer/writer and gets all the good dialogue even though he isn’t charismatic and the audience doesn’t care about him. So we get beauty queen inanity like “I am for world peace” with no specifics and no incredulity on the part of the “moderator”. Yes, Romney tells us he can fix Iran. He can fix the economy. How? He won’t tell us, but we should trust him because of his “principles”. If I could find one of his principles that was not a moving part, I would happily investigate. (Mitt Romney has already reversed his position on pre-existing conditions from this interview. He does not plan to make sure those with pre-existing conditions can get health insurance. Big shock.)
And while NBC’s MSNBC ostensibly fired Keith Olbermann over donating to a Democratic candidate and not disclosing it, things are different on Meet the Press, where David Gregory was allowed to speak at a fundraiser for Republican causes. NBC said he wasn’t paid for this activity, and perhaps he got prior approval to do it, but journalistic standards dictate that he should not take gifts in kind such as swag, travel, gifts, etc. NBC never confirmed that indeed he received no in kind gifts or that he paid for his own travel.
This is the same press that gleefully announces that there’s a drag in enthusiasm for this President. Yes, four years of unchecked lies will do that to a person. And no, that’s not just my opinion; a Pew Research study surveyed 11,000 media outlets and proved that Obama gets the most negative press and Romney gets three times the positive press of Obama. If that press were negative because the press were questioning the President on real policies, that would be a good thing for this country; it’s called a fourth estate.
But instead, most of the negative press comes from unchecked lies about the President:
No candidate has received the amount of constant media negativity that President Obama has endured. President Obama has not had a single week in 2012 when positive coverage has outnumbered the negative. Obama’s negative coverage was driven by the media’s willingness to parrot Republican talking points, and the Supreme Court challenge to health care reform.
Today’s episode of Reality TV on Meet the Press explains why Americans are so woefully misinformed. If, in fact, the press were liberal, they would not give this President his most negative press on issues regarding the middle class and poor.
Still, it’s hardly Gregory’s fault that he is only allowed a few minutes per topic with the evasive Mitt and that his main job is to feed questions that won’t antagonize Romney or allow him to display Mitt the Twit. We can’t expect Gregory to be George Stephanopoulos, who came prepared with numbers for his Paul Ryan interview today. But even Fox News doesn’t cater to Romney like Gregory did today.
David Gregory rolled out a well ironed red carpet for Mitt Romney today. He didn’t even let Romney give us specifics on the few occasions Romney appeared as if he might. It was an infomercial for the Republican nominee, complete with fake push back that really only gives the candidate the air time to spin the issue. Had this been anything other than Meet the Press, this sort of homey documentary style get to know Mitt and let him and Ann explain his previous mistakes interview wouldn’t be so offensive. But “meet the press” is not supposed to be meet Mr. Romney as he wants you to see him.
There really is no place to go from here but home to Fox News.
It was Republicans who told us that it was perfectly acceptable for journalists to shout questions at the President during a Rose Garden address, because they needed answers and couldn’t wait until the proper time for questions. Yet their candidate won’t even meet the press for real. How’s he going to be President?
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah has won two Telly Awards and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.