Watching House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on “Meet the Press” yesterday, it was hard not to wonder about the Republican leader’s frame of mind. Given the distance between reality and his rhetoric, one question hung over the interview: does Boehner actually believe his own talking points?
For example, the Speaker insisted, “[T]here’s no plan from Senate Democrats or the White House to replace the sequester.” Host David Gregory explained that the claim is “just not true,” leading Boehner to respond:
“Well, David that’s just nonsense. If [President Obama] had a plan, why wouldn’t Senate Democrats go ahead and pass it?”
Now, I suppose it’s possible that the Speaker of the House doesn’t know what a Senate filibuster is, but Boehner has been in Congress for two decades, and I find it implausible that he could be this ignorant. The facts are not in dispute: Democrats unveiled a compromise measure that required concessions from both sides; the plan enjoyed majority support in the Senate; and Republicans filibustered the proposal. That’s not opinion; that’s just what happened.
“If he had a plan, why wouldn’t Senate Democrats go ahead and pass it?” One of two things are true: either the House Speaker has forgotten how a bill becomes a law in 2013 or he’s using deliberately deceptive rhetoric in the hopes that Americans won’t know the difference. It’s one or the other.
What’s worse, the “dunce vs. deceiver” debate intensified as the interview progressed.
Consider this gem:
“Listen, there’s no one in this town who’s tried harder to come to an agreement with the president and to deal with our long-term spending problem, no one.”
If by “tried,” Boehner means “blew off every overly generous offer extended by the White House,” then sure, he tried. In reality, Boehner walked away from the Grand Bargain in 2011, walked away from another Grand Bargain to pursue “Plan B” (remember that fiasco?); and walked away from balanced compromise on sequestration.
Or how about this one about the sequester:
“Listen. I don’t know whether it’s going to hurt the economy or not.”
Boehner, just two weeks ago, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that the sequester is going to hurt the economy. Does the Speaker not remember this?
And finally, let’s not forget this one:
“I’m going to say it one more time. The president got his tax hikes on January the first. The issue here is spending. Spending is out of control.”
First, no sane person could look at stagnant government spending rates during the Obama era and think it’s “out of control.” Second, using Boehner’s own logic, the Speaker got his spending cuts in 2011 — to the tune of nearly $1.5 trillion — so if we’re following his line of reasoning, the issue isn’t spending.
Honestly, Boehner came across as a man who’s just terribly confused about the basics of the ongoing debate. Putting aside ideology and preferred policy agendas, the Speaker just doesn’t seem to keep up on current events especially well — he doesn’t remember the 2011 spending cuts; he doesn’t remember last week’s Senate filibuster; he doesn’t remember President Obama’s offers to cut more spending; he doesn’t remember his own op-eds; and he doesn’t remember the economic growth that followed tax increases in the 1980s and 1990s.
I’m tempted to take up a collection to help buy Boehner some remedial materials, but I’m not sure what he’d need first: an Economic 101 textbook or a subscription to a daily newspaper.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 4, 2013
Looking back at the tragic and deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi last fall, we know quite a bit about what happened. We also know, thanks to an independent investigation, that “Republican charges of a cover-up” were “pure fiction.”
But as Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) argued yesterday, he can’t be bothered with facts — he has a partisan vendetta to pursue.
For those who can’t watch clips online, “Meet the Press” host David Gregory pressed the Republican senator on the unsubstantiated charge that the Obama administration has engaged in a “massive cover-up.” Gregory asked a simple question: “A cover-up of what?”
McCain, just a few days after explaining how important it is not to be “disagreeable,” became unusually belligerent, asking the host whether he cares about the deaths of four Americans.
Gregory tried to get an answer anyway, responding, “You said there is a cover-up. A cover-up of what?” McCain, unable to think of anything substantive, said, “Of the information concerning the deaths of four brave Americans.”
Even for McCain, whose capacity has deteriorated sharply in recent years, this was a pathetic display.
Remember, McCain has had several months to think about this. He’s sat through classified and unclassified briefings. He’s participated in a series of congressional hearings. He’s (presumably) read the results of independent investigations, and had his own questions answered, verbally and in writing.
And yet after all of this, McCain is not only ignorant of the basics, he doesn’t understand his own conspiracy theory. The senator, after pondering the issue since September, still believes there’s an elaborate “cover-up,” but doesn’t know why he thinks this.
The exchange on “Meet the Press” wasn’t awkward; it wasn’t bizarre; it was alarming.
This was the point at which it might have dawned on everyone watching, including journalists who still consider the senator credible on foreign policy and national security, “Good lord, John McCain has no idea what he’s talking about.”
I hate to be a stickler for such things, but as a rule, when the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee accuses the White House on national television of orchestrating a cover-up as part of a terrorist attack, it’s not too much to ask that the senator have some idea what he’s talking about.
But in this case, McCain is simply lost in a fog of his own partisan rage. At this point, the man doesn’t understand what he doesn’t understand, and worse, he just doesn’t care. McCain no longer thinks it matters that he can’t back up his accusations; he simply wants to keep making them. And if you press him for details he should understand, the increasingly unhinged senator will suggest you’re indifferent to the deaths of Americans at terrorists’ hands.
Why? Because he’s John McCain.
Incidentally, this was McCain’s fourth Sunday show appearance of the new year — that’s four appearances in seven weeks — which suggests he’ll have another opportunity to answer similar questions in a national setting very soon.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 18, 2013
Mark Leibovich, in his 2008 profile of Chris Matthews, reported that the MSNBC talking head lived under the constant shadow of then-Meet the Press host Tim Russert.
Russert, the inquisitive jackhammer host of “Meet the Press” — is a particular obsession of Matthews’s. Matthews craves Russert’s approval like that of an older brother.
Following Russert’s death several months after that profile was written, David Gregory took over Russert’s seat. And since then, it’s always seemed to me that Gregory, much more so than Matthews, has suffered from attempts to live up to Russert. While Matthews wears his liberalism on his sleeve, Gregory feels he must maintain a tough-talking ‘pox on both houses’ approach that has become increasingly difficult as the Republican party has veered rightward. Take, for example, today’s Meet the Press.
Earlier this morning, Gregory asked New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to explain why Romney rarely gets specific about his proposed policies. Christie dodged the question, responding that it was Obama who needed to explain why, among other things, he rejected the recommendations of the 2010 Simpson-Bowles deficit reduction plan. (He likely rejected it, by the way, because Congress wasn’t adopting it either, so doing so would needlessly hurt him with the base, which wasn’t happy with the entitlement reductions enumerated in the plan.) And why didn’t Congress adopt the plan? Because Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan almost single-handedly derailed it.
Ryan [was] “clearly was the leader” of House Republicans in setting the terms of a grand debt bargain, said Andy Stern, a panel member and Democrat….Ryan’s support would have likely drawn votes from (David) Camp and possibly (Jeb) Hensarling and made it all but impossible for the president to reject a plan created by his own self- appointed commission.
But rather than push back agianst Christie, Gregory shifted gears and asked him about his RNC speech. Gregory’s reluctance to mention Ryan’s complicity in the failure of Simpson-Bowles–not to mention the President’s 2011 commitment to a ‘grand bargain,’ or the general fiscal absurdity of the Romney/Ryan budgets–is borne out of his crippling obsession with impartiality. More specifically, I’d argue it stems from his instinct to honor ‘Meet the Press’s’ reputation for being ‘tough on both sides’, a trademark the late Tim Russert helped cement. Here, however, the admittedly tame Gregory’s attempts to live up to Russert’s attack-dog style serves him badly.
In Russert’s seventeen years at Meet the Press, Republicans and Democrats feared his acerbic approach equally. But it’s unclear that Russert would have remained equally balanced were he alive today. He never covered a House so radical and a Senate so obstructionist as the current models. He never encountered a Republican Party platform as extreme as this year’s. He never even got to interview Vice-Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, depriving us of the thorough grilling he might have unleashed upon her. In that way, Gregory who’s made it something of a trademark to exchange nuance for balance, has foolishly tried to live up to the Russert model in an era that doesn’t allow for it.
By: Simon van Zuylen-Wood, Washington Monthly Political Animal, September 30, 2012
“If It’s Sunday, It’s Meet My Friends”: NBC’s David Gregory To Headline Conference For Major Republican Advocacy Group
The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which calls itself “the voice of small business,” is one of the Republican party’s strongest allies. The group spent over $1 million on outside ads in the 2010 campaign — all of it backing Republican House and Senate candidates (and, Bloomberg News reported last month, “another $1.5 million that it kept hidden and said was exempt” from disclosure requirements). The group is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Obamacare law and bankrolled state governments’ challenges to the law. The NFIB has also taken stances against allowing the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases, opposing regulations on businesses, and supporting curtailing union rights.
Given the group’s obvious Republican alliance, it comes as little surprise that the NFIB’s three-day 2012 Small Business Summit, which begins Monday, will feature headliners Karl Rove and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
But the first name and photo on the invitation for the $150-per-person event — Tuesday’s “keynote address” speaker — is NBC’s Meet the Press host David Gregory. He is marketed by NBC as an anchor and “trusted journalist.”
The Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics states:
— Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.
Regardless of whether Gregory is being paid for this event and of what he says in his keynote, allowing the NFIB to raise money for its political mission using his name, reputation, and celebrity appears to be at odds with journalistic ethics.
Gregory did not to respond to a ThinkProgress request for comment.
By: Josh Israel, Think Progress, May 12, 2012
Meet The Press had a very interesting cast of characters today for their round table discussion on the events occuring in Libya. Panelists included Helen Cooper, White House Correspondent for the New York Times; Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent; Michael Hayden, Former Director of the NSA and CIA; John Miklaszewski, NBC News Chief Pentagon Correspondent; and Richard Haass, President of The Council on Foreign Relations.
None of the input by these elitist panelist’s came as a surprise. In fact many of their responses were predictable. Cooper, Mitchell and Miklaszewski obviously wanted to use their airtime to promote their next story..to keep the news cycle going. That’s their job so more power to them. Hayden, as a George W. Bush appointee, surely would not suddenly have a change of heart and say anything contrary to the proven failed policies of that administration. Richard Haass, in symphony with Hayden, played his “bad cop” role to the hilt. Haass never seemed to miss a step in his criticism of the Obama administrations handling of Libya (excerpted comments):
David Gregory, the host (and I use that term lightly) of Meet The Press, Began the discussion: I want to talk, however, about how much is on the president’s plate right now. You talk about crisis management and a confluence of crisis. We’ve pulled together some cover stories from Time magazine–I want to put it up there on the screen–”Target Gaddafi.” The next one, “Hitting Home: Tripoli Under Attack.” And the next one, “Meltdown.”
MR. RICHARD HAASS: It’s a lot to manage, but also it raises the importance of an administration having its priorities. You’ve got a lot to manage with Japan, you’ve got a lot to manage with what’s going on in the broader Middle East, you’ve got a lot to manage what’s going on in the United States in terms of our economy and our deficit. So one of the real questions is why are we doing as much are we are doing in Libya? So many of your guests are talking about too little too late. Let me give you another idea, David, too much too late. In times of crisis and multiple crisis, administrations have to figure out their priorities. They got to do some triage. The–to me, the big problem is not what we haven’t done, it is what we are doing.
MR. GREGORY: Richard, you, you just have broad concerns as you, as you penned a piece in the Wall Street Journal earlier this month, “The US should keep out of Libya.”
MR. HAASS: Again, our interests aren’t vital. We’re talking about 2 percent of the world’s oil. Yes, there’s a humanitarian situation on, but at the risk of seeming a bit cold, it is not a humanitarian crisis on the scale say of Rwanda. We don’t have nearly 100–a million people, innocent men, women and children whose lives are threatened. This is something much more modest. This is a civil war. In civil wars, people get killed, unfortunately. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves. This is not a humanitarian intervention, this is U.S. political, military intervention in a civil conflict which, by the way, history suggests, often prolongs the civil conflict. And, as several people have already pointed out, what is step B? Whether Gadhafi complies with what we want or whether he resists successfully, either way, we are going to be stuck with the aftermath of essentially having to take ownership of Libya with others. And just because others are willing to share in something, as so many people point out, doesn’t make it a better policy. It just means the costs are going to be distributed. But the policy itself is seriously flawed.
MR. GREGORY: The big ideas and are we getting them right?
MR. HAASS: Mike Mullen says the big idea, the biggest single national security threat facing the United States is our economy, it’s our fiscal situation. This will not make it better. Instead, we are ignoring a previous secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, someone you haven’t had on the show in awhile. We are going abroad in search of monsters to destroy. There’s any number of monsters. But is this, right now, something that’s strategically necessary and vital for the United States, given all that’s happening in places like Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, around the world, with all that we need to repair at home? The answer, I would think, is not. And that’s the big idea the administration’s missing. It’s not enough to simply want to do good around the world wherever we see bad. We’ve got to ask ourselves, where can we do good, at what cost, against what else we might have to do?
All of Haass’ comments gave me a flashback. Iran immediately came to mind. Haass, Iran..Haass, Iran. When is enough actually enough..when is enough not enough?
The answer is Mr. Haass, you’ve got a credibility problem. The following article appeared in Newsweek on January 22, 2010. It was written by none other than Richard Haass:
Enough Is Enough
Why we can no longer remain on the sidelines in the struggle for regime change in Iran.
Two schools of thought have traditionally competed to determine how America should approach the world. Realists believe we should care most about what states do beyond their borders—that influencing their foreign policy ought to be Washington’s priority. Neoconservatives often contend the opposite: they argue that what matters most is the nature of other countries, what happens inside their borders. The neocons believe this both for moral reasons and because democracies (at least mature ones) treat their neighbors better than do authoritarian regimes.
I am a card-carrying realist on the grounds that ousting regimes and replacing them with something better is easier said than done. I also believe that Washington, in most cases, doesn’t have the luxury of trying. The United States must, for example, work with undemocratic China to rein in North Korea and with autocratic Russia to reduce each side’s nuclear arsenal. This debate is anything but academic. It’s at the core of what is likely to be the most compelling international story of 2010: Iran.
In the wake of 9/11, the Bush administration judged incorrectly that Iran was on the verge of revolution and decided that dealing directly with Tehran would provide a lifeline to an evil government soon to be swept away by history’s tide. A valuable opportunity to limit Iran’s nuclear program may have been lost as a result. The incoming Obama administration reversed this approach and expressed a willingness to talk to Iran without preconditions. This president (like George H.W. Bush, whose emissaries met with Chinese leaders soon after Tiananmen Square) is cut more from the realist cloth. Diplomacy and negotiations are seen not as favors to bestow but as tools to employ. The other options—using military force against Iranian nuclear facilities or living with an Iranian nuclear bomb—were judged to be tremendously unattractive. And if diplomacy failed, Obama reasoned, it would be easier to build domestic and international support for more robust sanctions. At the time, I agreed with him.
I’ve changed my mind. The nuclear talks are going nowhere. The Iranians appear intent on developing the means to produce a nuclear weapon; there is no other explanation for the secret uranium-enrichment facility discovered near the holy city of Qum. Fortunately, their nuclear program appears to have hit some technical snags, which puts off the need to decide whether to launch a preventive strike. Instead we should be focusing on another fact: Iran may be closer to profound political change than at any time since the revolution that ousted the shah 30 years ago.
The authorities overreached in their blatant manipulation of last June’s presidential election, and then made matters worse by brutally repressing those who protested. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has lost much of his legitimacy, as has the “elected” president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The opposition Green Movement has grown larger and stronger than many predicted.
The United States, European governments, and others should shift their Iran policy toward increasing the prospects for political change. Leaders should speak out for the Iranian people and their rights. President Obama did this on Dec. 28 after several protesters were killed on the Shia holy day of Ashura, and he should do so again. So should congressional and world leaders. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards should be singled out for sanctions. Lists of their extensive financial holdings can be published on the Internet. The United States should press the European Union and others not to trade or provide financing to selected entities controlled by the Guards. Just to cite one example: the Revolutionary Guards now own a majority share of Iran’s principal telecommunications firm; no company should furnish it the technology to deny or monitor Internet use.
New funding for the project housed at Yale University that documents human-rights abuses in Iran is warranted. If the U.S. government won’t reverse its decision not to provide the money, then a foundation or wealthy individuals should step in. Such a registry might deter some members of the Guards or the million-strong Basij militia it controls from attacking or torturing members of the opposition. And even if not, the gesture will signal to Iranians that the world is taking note of their struggle.
It is essential to bolster what people in Iran know. Outsiders can help to provide access to the Internet, the medium that may be the most important means for getting information into Iran and facilitating communication among the opposition. The opposition also needs financial support from the Iranian diaspora so that dissidents can stay politically active once they have lost their jobs.
Just as important as what to do is what to avoid. Congressmen and senior administration figures should avoid meeting with the regime. Any and all help for Iran’s opposition should be nonviolent. Iran’s opposition should be supported by Western governments, not led. In this vein, outsiders should refrain from articulating specific political objectives other than support for democracy and an end to violence and unlawful detention. Sanctions on Iran’s gasoline imports and refining, currently being debated in Congress, should be pursued at the United Nations so international focus does not switch from the illegality of Iran’s behavior to the legality of unilateral American sanctions. Working-level negotiations on the nuclear question should continue. But if there is an unexpected breakthrough, Iran’s reward should be limited. Full normalization of relations should be linked to meaningful reform of Iran’s politics and an end to Tehran’s support of terrorism.
Critics will say promoting regime change will encourage Iranian authorities to tar the opposition as pawns of the West. But the regime is already doing so. Outsiders should act to strengthen the opposition and to deepen rifts among the rulers. This process is underway, and while it will take time, it promises the first good chance in decades to bring about an Iran that, even if less than a model country, would nonetheless act considerably better at home and abroad. Even a realist should recognize that it’s an opportunity not to be missed.
Which is it Mr. Haass…Is the humanitarian crisis in Libya too small or is there just too little oil? Are you a realist or just another political hack?
By: raemd95: Excerpts are quotes from Meet The Press, March 20, 2011; Enough is Enough: By Richard N. Haass, originally published in Newsweek, January 22, 2010