UNUSUALLY CLEAR! Schumer was clear about Medicare. Can cable libs follow suit? // link // print // previous // next //
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1, 2011
Why would anyone want our press corps to have additional time: We never thought wed see someone say that our White House campaigns dont last long enough.
Yesterday, Steve Benen said that very thing, in this rosy-eyed post. Steve linked to a long and pointless Politico piece, then worried that we wont get all the facts about this years crop of contenders. Sorryabout next years crop of contenders. Heres how Steve reasoned it out:
Question: Can you name the planet from which this was filed? When have voters ever been subjected to fairly thorough scrutiny of our White House hopefuls?
First, lets note a factual point: The 2008 campaign started unusually early, even by our crackpot American norms. (Sorryour exceptional American norms.) Our White House campaigns have been getting longer and longer; this most recent race extended the trend. Meanwhile, how about this claim: At this point in the cycle, reporters are generally digging into every word a candidate has ever spoken? Sorrythats grossly misleading. As recently as Campaign 2000, the New York Times was ridiculing Candidate Gore, at this point in the cycle and later, for talking about policy matters when the public wasnt ready to listen. Gores insistence on boring the public to tears was directly attacked in the mighty Timesin news reports, no less.
That said, even that god-forsaken campaign started much earlier than previous runs. Two iconic examples:
In the 1960 campaign, Candidate Kennedy didnt announce, or start to campaign, until January of that very year. As recently as the 1992 campaign, Candidate Clinton didnt announce, or start to campaign, until October 1991.
At this point in the 1992 cycle, the voters had never heard of Bill Clinton. And uh-oh! When reporters began digging into every word Clinton had ever spoken, the New York Times produced Jeff Gerths massively bungled Whitewater reports, which helped create a political era devoted to pseudo-scandals.
Benens outlook might make some sense in a different, more rational world. In our idiocratic world, wed have a hard time naming any useful reporting that ever came out of our endless White House campaigns. On the other hand, we could spend all day and part of tomorrow listing the reams of garbage which have been produced about various candidates. Steve apparently hasnt noticed, but this has already started this time around, as the New York Times examines the interesting past of Mitch Daniels wife and fingers Newt Gingrichs jewels. Out on the front page, no less!
But then, thats what our journalists do. Bottom line: Our press corps is incapable of producing real work, no matter how much time they're given. Their specialty is brain-dead mischief aimed directly at those they dislike. Of that, there is much more to come.
Alas, poor Gregory! In his opening segment, he interviewed Mitch McConnell, a Republican senator. He discussed the politics of the Ryan plancould the Ryan plan possibly pass?but he never challenged McConnell about the Ryan plans actual merits.
Then he interviewed Charles Schumer, a Democratic senator. In this segment, he challenged the Democratic approach on the merits, referring to the high price of timidity of the Democrats on Medicare. Beyond that, he rather clearly seemed to say that Medicares current structure is unsustainable.
Finally, Gregory discussed Medicare with a four-member panel of pundits. When flatly inaccurate statements were made, the multimillionaire host simply stared off into air. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/31/11.
If Gregory stunk out the joint about Medicare, so did Betsy Fischer, his executive producer. (For Fischers bio, click here.) Her staff assembled a pundit panel which was balanced on its face. But as everyone must know by now, the Washington Posts Ruth Marcus is center left on just about every issue except for fiscal matters. On fiscal matters, Marcus is just this side of the most dogmatic Republican pol. In that regard, shes not unlike the late Tim Russert, who spewed right-wing talking-points about Social Security all through his influential Meet the Press career.
Russert was one of Jack Welchs boys. On budget matters, thats pretty much how he performed.
Does Fischer have politics on fiscal matters? We have no earthly idea. But she assembled a poorly balanced panel for the Medicare discussion her program would have. Gregory fumbled from there.
That said, there was a bright spot on this weeks Meet the Press. For our money, Schumer was unusually clear and instructive regarding the Democratic position on Medicare. Early on, he explained what the Democrats doand dontpropose:
According to Schumer, Democrats want to preserve the current Medicare system. They want to eliminate its duplications and inefficiencies without cutting its benefits to recipients. By way of contrast, Republicans want to change the system in radical ways, he said. When Gregory challenged this presentation, Schumer was even more clear:
Question: Before resorting to a major change like the Ryan plan, why dont Republicans agree (for one example) to let Medicare negotiate the price of prescription drugs as a way of reducing the programs cost?
Thats a fairly obvious questionbut McConnell wasnt asked. With McConnell, Gregory offered no challenges on the merits of Medicare policy. He saved all his attacks on the merits for his Democratic guest.
That said, Schumer gave a clear account of the Democratic position. Democrats want to maintain the structure of the system, but eliminate a range of practices which produce over-spending. And Schumer was clear on one more point. In his second Q-and-A, he said there is no split within the partys ranks:
From there, Schumer went on to describe what the Dems are proposing, as quoted above.
Schumer was extremely clear on the partys policy stance. He said all Democrats agree with that stance, from Obama (and Clinton) on down. Gregory did a miserable job with McConnell and with his pundit panel; Fischer had done a miserable job putting the panel together. But Schumer did a very good job explaining his partys position.
Unfortunately, the liberal world has done a miserable job with budget matters down through the years. Our career leaders wont criticize big media stars by name, nor do they tend to be bright enough to sort out the policy issues. For many years, Russert would mangle these big budget issuesin the face of a roaring silence from career liberals. Today, his multimillionaire successor is able to do the same.
Our career liberal leaders tend to be craven and inept. Progressives will never build a winning movement as long as such leaders are allowed to skate by in typical self-serving ways. And uh-oh! One of our most hapless leaders gave a good display of this syndrome on her eponymous cable program just last Wednesday night.
Our leader postured, gestured and flailed. Progressives cant build a winning movement with losers like this in command.
Tomorrowpart 3: Hapless Maddow