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November 14, 2011 8:40 AM If it’s Sunday, it’s ‘Meet the GOP Talking Points’

By Steve Benen

“Meet the Press” host David Gregory spoke with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, and the interview was pretty tough to watch. (via Upper West)

The host initially push the notion that polls are what matter, and Americans aren’t satisfied with economic conditions under President Obama. The DNC chair pointed to real-world improvements — more jobs, stronger growth — which led Gregory to again rely on more polls. It was a reminder that, for the media establishment, polls trump facts every time.

When attention turned to debt-reduction efforts, Gregory said, simply as a matter of fact, that Republicans on the super-committee “did agree for tax increases that Democrats have not accepted this week,” and then tried to change the subject. The host wanted to leave viewers with the impression that GOP officials were making a good-faith offer, when in reality they offered some modest revenue in exchange for more tax breaks for the very wealthy. Gregory ignored all of these details, simply passing along the Republican talking point as if it were fact, when it’s not.

He then asked Wasserman Schultz:

“On the debt, how irresponsible is it that this president has allowed America’s national debt to increase by 41 percent over his term of office?”

What Gregory failed miserably to offer viewers was context and any of the relevant details. The president inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit, plus a global economic collapse, plus two wars Republicans never even tried to pay for, plus GOP lawmakers who fought to kill every deficit-reduction measure proposed by the White House. The question presupposes that Obama was fiscally “irresponsible,” which is ridiculous, and presupposes that Obama’s priority should have been the debt, rather than the economy, which is insane.

I expect this on Fox News. “Meet the Press” is supposed to have higher standards.

And to top it off, the host inexplicably showed a clip of Obama from July 2008 talking about his desire to lower the deficit if elected. July 2008 — before the crash, before TARP, before the need for the Recovery Act, before Republicans demanded an extension of Bush-era tax breaks that they refused to pay for.

Gregory pointed to Obama’s July 2008 comments and asked, “Should it not be turned on him now?” If a Mitt Romney aide had been asking the questions, they wouldn’t have been much different.

It was one of the worst interviews I’ve ever seen on “Meet the Press.”

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • DAY on November 14, 2011 8:53 AM:

    You DO realize that the media- ALL the media- desperately needs a horse race to increase viewers, which increases advertising revenue, which increases the paychecks of the hosts?

  • SadOldVet on November 14, 2011 8:54 AM:

    I expect this on Fox News. “Meet the Press” is supposed to have higher standards.

    On what basis do you believe that "Meet the Press" is supposed to have higher standards?

    David Gregory is just another well paid tool of the corporately owned media performing his assigned roles as echo chamber and message amplifier for the repukes! He has shown consistency in this since he was given the job of replacing the previous tool.

  • Schtick on November 14, 2011 8:54 AM:

    But..,but....but....Gregory so loves bending over for his lil buddy fartblossom Rove. His job is not to be fair or factual, but to make sure uninformed people get the idea that Obama is a failure. He almost has a lock on his next gig at Faux Fake and BS Newz.


    crapcha....aternst 10-7....if only 10-7

  • T2 on November 14, 2011 8:57 AM:

    I stopped watching these kinds of shows years ago for this very reason. They've been slanted against Democratic plans, programs and politicians since the demise of actual, real journalists. Hacks like Gregory are there to prove a point of view, not present the points of view so the viewer can make judgements.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on November 14, 2011 8:57 AM:

    Every taking head on the Sunday shows are a part of the 1%.
    Whose team do you think they are rooting for?
    Any economic downturns don't affect them except maybe they buy a new Lexus instead of a Bentley.

  • SYSPROG on November 14, 2011 8:58 AM:

    I don't even watch MTP anymore. I used to be such a fan but not only is Gregory out for himself but he attacks women MUCH more than men. For something GOOD that actually talks about POLICY is UP! with Chris Hayes on MSNBC. I have been enjoying that show and skipping MTP.

  • Danp on November 14, 2011 9:02 AM:

    I wish DWS had said that a large part of the problem is that the television media relies far more on reporting polls of what people think, than giving them facts. Since most people like to think of themselves as "centrist", polls feed on themselves by convincing people that certain views are the norm and therefore more likely to be correct.

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  • Brenna on November 14, 2011 9:03 AM:

    I stopped watching MTP a little after David Gregory took over. My husband asked me why and told him it's just republican garbage.

    Chris Hayes does have a good show going. Kudos to MSNBC.

  • del on November 14, 2011 9:05 AM:

    It's not only the Sunday shows that follow GOP talking points. All you have to do is watch the morning news on any station and you will hear them talking the same GOP nonsense. They all have been pushing the bull that the GOP offered tax cuts when/if you read what the proposal is you can see that it's bull.

  • lou on November 14, 2011 9:06 AM:

    The sad part is that Gregory and all the media/celebrity crew probably hob nob with all the dem and rep politicians at all the gala dinners and parties in D.C. It is a fucking game and racket to all (OK, most) of them. The muddle they create is a good environment for the 1% to prosper.

  • Ralph Kramden on November 14, 2011 9:07 AM:

    "Gregory [...] simply passing along the Republican talking point as if it were fact, when it’s not."

    Listen - this is a softball. You have just demonstrated WHY it's a softball. Wasserman-Schultz should just plaster this, making Gregory look stupid. That's her job here. If she can't do that, we need a new DNC.

  • walt on November 14, 2011 9:07 AM:

    The best you can hope for on MTP is a roundtable in which a liberal sometimes gets the chance to talk back to the Village. I gave up even that modest pleasure years ago since the heartburn in waiting for those 10 seconds wasn't worth the toll of right-wing talking points.

  • jTh on November 14, 2011 9:11 AM:

    Hmm, sounds like someone failed to call him out on all his bullshit when she had the chance... She needs to be better prepared next time.

  • Dan on November 14, 2011 9:14 AM:

    You notice that while Meet the Press will promote Michelle Bachman and every right wing lunatic, they have never allowed Bernie Sanders on this program because he knows he can destroy every Republican talking point he throws at him. He also knows that Sanders point of view is the one that 75% of people inthe polls agree with. Saving Soc Sec, Saving Medicare, and raising taxes on the wealthy! You will never see him on that program and I'm sure that Tim Russert is rolling over in his grave watching how his even handed show has become right wing propaganda! I won't watch this crap again until Gregory is out.

  • Meanie-meanie, tickle a person on November 14, 2011 9:19 AM:

    I expect this on Fox News. “Meet the Press” is supposed to have higher standards.

    Really? I mean the second part, not the first. Frankly, I've come to expect it from all of 'em. Since you don't mention Wasserman Schultz ripping him a...ahem, schooling him on all this, I assume she didn't. *That* is the problem, Steve. When weasels are ripping your flesh, don't blame the weasels, it's what they do. Freakin' defend yourself, fer crapsake.

    Oh, and us, too, Debbie...

  • Josef K on November 14, 2011 9:22 AM:

    Its David Gregory and a Sunday 'talk' show. What'd you expect? Substance?

  • Ron Byers on November 14, 2011 9:25 AM:

    Ralph Kramden hit the nail on the head. Instead of beating up on Gregory for doing what he is paid to do by NBC we should be looking closely at DWS and why she didn't do a better job answering the questions. I had great hopes for her, but she has been a pushover since she took the job.

  • Lifelong Dem on November 14, 2011 9:34 AM:

    David Gregory continues to be "MC" Rove's dance partner. And for those taking shots at DWS, she knows that if she tries to interject or interrupt Gregory, that clip will be shown over and over again as proof that she's nothing but a shrill harpie.

  • bigtuna on November 14, 2011 9:38 AM:

    “On the debt, how irresponsible is it that this president has allowed America’s national debt to increase by 41 percent over his term of office?”


    It is important to see the context of this, Mr. Gergory. The Obama administration inheritented a collapsing economy, spending and taxation concepts from the Bush admin. that are untenible, and two wars, one of which was absolutely not what we should have been doing. We were looking at collapsing banck, unemployment into doubly digits, and fundamental core aspects of the American economy foundering.

    Mr. obama, like he has done on so many issues, worked with democrats on the hill, and with the American people, to craft legislation that crated large, and some would say, the largest tax cuts in the last xx years; reward people for work, education, to get this nation moving. Every credible economist, Mr. Gregory, views the ARRA and related work as having reduced the unemployment of this nation; stopped the hemmoraging of the banks, and stabiliized the nations financial system.

    At the same time, Mr. Gregory, the Obama administration pursued a very aggressive war on terrorist muderers, reorinted the war efforts, rebuilt international relations, and starting this nation on a path to recovery.

    At every turn; at every turn, Mr. Gregory, Mr. Obama has met with resistance, pessimism, lack of credible alternative plans, and a publically announced repbulican plan that is purely polictally motivated to win elections, and not govern.

    So, yes, Mr. Gregory, to put people back to work, and to educate people, and feed people, and to take care of our veterans, and all the other things that we need to do, it is the responsible thing to have done. And we, as always, stand ready to listen to credible ideas from all sides, but Americans do not have the time to listen to tired talking points and empty ideas trumped up to gain a few votes and hew to the needs of a narrow elite of power brokers and contributers from the right.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on November 14, 2011 9:46 AM:

    Sometimes it's just difficult to believe the world is this fucked up.

  • HMDK on November 14, 2011 9:50 AM:

    Hey, Lifelong Dem, instead they now have clips of a wimpy, floundering fool. Heads they win, tails we lose.
    I think it's better to actually go out swinging.
    Apart from any message, people tend to respect those who stand up for themselves. If you're gonna get screwed, and you KNOW you're gonna get screwed... why even go on the show? And if you DO go, go in hard. Gregory should be beaten like a gong.
    Another thing: I notice some commenters claiming to have enjoyed MTP in the past. By which I guess they mean when Russert was there. And they think of this NOSTALGICALLY? Ahahhaa... Okay, compared to Gregory, it's no contest, but Timmy Pum'kinHaid was no great shakes either.

  • c u n d gulag on November 14, 2011 9:59 AM:

    It takes quite a bit of effort to make me miss Tim Russert.

    And Gregory's been giving it all he's got!

    I did love though, when DWS openly laughed at the asshole when he said, "Well, my own sources tell me …”

    Pillow talk with Karl again, Lord Gregory?

    And then David Brooks came on, and the show got even worse, if that's possible.
    I was waiting for Gregory to fellate Brooks right there in the studio.

  • Richard on November 14, 2011 10:00 AM:

    It was bad. But DWS failure to prepare for a loaded interview was the saddest ting in it. This is not a first time for Gregory. She should have known what she was going to get an nailed that clown right then and there. That is the only way you shut down a creep like Gregory. He will do it again and he will do it again. SO: Either decline to be interviewed by him. ( that is what the GOP'ers do and it gets them softballs ) or nail him hard.

  • johnny canuck on November 14, 2011 10:32 AM:

    I think so many of you are being unfair to DWS because you can't conceive how biased Gregory was, and he is control of the agenda after all. Go to the transcrpit and look at the interview. I don't think her answers were bad, or that she was unprepared. Take for example the exchange re Republican proposal for new revenue:

    MR. GREGORY: Well, let's--they did, they did agree for tax increases that Democrats have not accepted this week. But I want to ask you about, specifically, about the debt.

    REP. SCHULTZ: Well, no, no, no. Because that wasn't a serious--come on, David, that was not a serious proposal. What they proposed was, you know, reducing the number of itemized deductions in exchange for a passage, an extension of all the Bush tax cuts, which actually would've resulted in less revenue and brought the overall tax rate, top tax rate down to 28 percent. So that was not a serious proposal. We need a serious proposal that balances the revenue of the super committee generates and the cuts.
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    MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, there, there was new revenue, there was new revenue that was proposed, but I realize that's still a subject of debate. But let me, let me focus...

    REP. SCHULTZ: That would result in less revenue overall.

    MR. GREGORY: Let me--well, again, that's in dispute, according to my reporting on that. On the debt, how irresponsible is it that this president has allowed America's national debt to increase by 41 percent over his term of office?

  • bdop4 on November 14, 2011 10:41 AM:

    Here's the rest of the interview:

    MR. GREGORY: Let me--well, again, that's in dispute, according to my reporting on that. On the debt, how irresponsible is it that this president has allowed America's national debt to increase by 41 percent over his term of office?

    REP. SCHULTZ: Well, President Obama inherited a, a significant, significant debt, one that President Bush handed him after receiving a record surplus from President Clinton. So, I mean, we're, we're talking about a president who inherited the results of two wars that were unpaid for, a prescription drug program unpaid for, and 2001 and 2003 tax cuts that went to the wealthiest, most fortunate Americans unpaid for, and had the most significant economic problems that the Republicans had driven us to the brink of economic collapse of any president probably since FDR. So making sure that we could make investments to get this economy to begin to turn around was incredibly important. And this president did that, and that's why we've had 20 straight months of growth in the private sector.

    MR. GREGORY: Well...

    REP. SCHULTZ: And he stopped the decline.

    MR. GREGORY: But let me...

    REP. SCHULTZ: That was, that was critical, and began to turn things around.

    MR. GREGORY: Well, but he certainly didn't stop the decline when it came to the debt if the debt has gone up. And this was candidate Obama in July of 2008. Watch.

    (Videotape, July 3, 2008)

    PRES. BARACK OBAMA: The problem is, is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents, number 43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome. That's irresponsible. It's unpatriotic.
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    (End videotape)

    MR. GREGORY: That's his rhetoric. Should it not be turned on him now?

    REP. SCHULTZ: No. What should be turned--well, what we should be turning on is that Mitt Romney, for example, who purports to be the alternative to President Obama, would've allowed Detroit to go bankrupt, would've allowed more than a million jobs in the pipeline to just, just evaporate. We wouldn't have had an American automobile industry. He's also said that housing is something that we shouldn't address. We should just let investors come in and buy up all the properties and leave people who are struggling to remain in their homes out in the cold.

    I mean, so in the alternatives, in the field of Republican candidates, they continue to focus on making sure that millionaires and billionaires continue to have it good. And President Obama has focused on trying to make sure that the middle class gets 17 different tax cuts for small business owners. Ninety-five percent of Americans got a tax break at the outset of President Obama's administration. We are focused under his leadership on getting things turned around, and we've made 20 straight months of progress. So while, yes, we have increased our debt, we have done so in a way that has made sure that the economy can start to turn around. So we've made progress, and we've moved forward. We would make even more if the Republicans just stopped rooting for the economy to fail and join us in trying to focus on all of America's jobs, not just on the one job they care about, which is Barack Obama's.

    MR. GREGORY: We're going to leave it there. The debate will continue. Congresswoman, thank you.

    REP. SCHULTZ: Thank you.

  • jjm on November 14, 2011 10:42 AM:

    I don't watch MTP, although I LOVED it when I was a child, when it first appeared.

    David Gregory is a compromised and quite stupid OAF.

    However, I see something a bit different in this reported 'interview': the constant referencing of 'polls' -- unspecified, apparently -- says to me that behind this fierce propagandist effort on Gregory's part to claim polls for the GOP, the reality is that the polls are now going very heavily AGAINST Republicans (recall the 9% approval rating for the Congress they dominate).

    Not only that, it also seems to me that this escalation of mendacious support for the GOP is a reaction to the recent tide of votes this Nov. that went the way of the Democrats.

    So for me, the outlandishness of Gregory's attitude and behavior is a symptom: of GOP FEAR.

  • David Evans on November 14, 2011 10:49 AM:

    I've been really upset about MTP's slant toward GOP talking points for a couple years now. They often fill up their panel with republicans and DINO Harold ford, and act like its a balanced panel. Harold Ford is not a democrat; he is a corporate lobbyist. If for any reason, they must move an interview, it is the democrat who always gets pushed so for the first half hour we are treated to republican nonsense

    Now on to my big complaint for this week: at one point Debiie Wasserman-Schultz pointed out that republicans had blocked the debt ceiling in exchange for tax cuts for the wealthy, and Gregory said 'well that's not in my notes, that's not what I was told, let's move on'. He flat-out said, I am entitled to my own facts, and my producers say that democrats are wrong all the time.

  • POed Lib on November 14, 2011 10:54 AM:

    Gregory is a whore. It's simply that. He is an incompetent Repukeliscum hack.

  • SYSPROG on November 14, 2011 11:01 AM:

    I've read the comments with interest and especially the criticism of DW-S. Let's not forget if she wasn't polite, and just argued with Gregory, 'nailed him' and 'came prepared' (which she was) then she would not be 'invited' back on. It is HIS program and that is the problem. Stop bitchin' about the DEMS and write to NBC and tell them what a tool Mr. Gregory is...over and over again.

  • Byo on November 14, 2011 11:39 AM:

    I am really curious- but does anyone watch the Sunday morning talk shows anymore?
    That is apart from the new Chris Hayes discussion panel which appears cerebral.

  • Rick Massimo on November 14, 2011 11:44 AM:

    "The host initially push the notion that polls are what matter, and Americans aren’t satisfied with economic conditions under President Obama. The DNC chair pointed to real-world improvements — more jobs, stronger growth — which led Gregory to again rely on more polls. It was a reminder that, for the media establishment, polls trump facts every time."

    I don't suppose the overwhelming polling support for raising taxes on rich people made it onto Gregory's radar. After all, some polls are more important than others.

  • Grumpy on November 14, 2011 11:50 AM:

    Wait, you lost me when you said there was a Democrat on Meet the Press.

  • Roger Keeling on November 14, 2011 12:13 PM:

    I long ago began to wonder if certain key media figures (journalists, and also talk show bookers, producers, etc.) might not be secretly on the take from major conservative donors or foundations, or even directly from the GOP.

    As a former journalist, the fact that I could even wonder something like that was rather startling. But the Canons of Journalism haven't been repealed, and indeed are still taught in most journalism schools. How can David Gregory -- and others like him -- deviate so blatantly and frequently from the most basic rules? I don't know, and haven't understood it for years now. But bribery would explain a lot. Mind you, it would require very little money relative to what rightwingers in power have available for their endless war against progressives.

    This is not to say that David Gregory is on the take. I haven't a shred of actual evidence to accuse him of that, so I must just assume that he's a really crappy, biased "journalist." But it is to say that his actions -- versus those we'd expect from a real journalist -- are pretty consistent with such corruption.

  • Paul Papanek on November 14, 2011 12:13 PM:

    Mr. Benen - David Gregory has been a blight on Sunday morning for a long time. (From the comments, it appears that many of your readers already know that.)

    Gregory routinely allows obvious errors to go unchallenged, and piously intones right-wing nonsensical talking points as if they were established facts.

    A newsman? A journalist? A reporter? A pundit? Oh, please . . .

    Meet-the-Press has been garbage for a long time. Nobody should watch it.

  • Jimo on November 14, 2011 12:29 PM:

    Wasserman Schultz did an adequate job but this type of predictable bias requires something more.

    Rep. Wasserman Schultz should not only refute the questionable assumptions and conclusions of Gregory but also demand that he acknowledge his error. Can you imagine Barney Frank merely shrugging when an openly biased questioner wanted to move on?

    ["What do you mean 'up 41 percent'? Show your math. Through it up on the screen for the audience? What do you mean you don't have anything prepared? How many days have you known in advance I'd be on the show? Who are you, Hermann Cain? Okay, let's just take your numbers as if they really were truth, how do you count the $1.3T in additional debt from the last Bush fiscal year? Surely, you're not suggesting that that debt is the President's fault? What about the wars? Are you suggesting that the President should have 'cut and run' on Day One to put an end to the Bush policy of charging Iraq/Afghanistan on our godchildrens' credit card? David?!? What are you saying here? Are you trying to say that a collapsing economy and a panicked financial system can ever result in a expansion of demand for government, such as unemployment, simultaneous to a collapse in revenues? Where did you study budgetary policy - the Clown School of Economics? ......."
    Does anyone really think Gregory would ever--ever--ask such a stupid biased question again if Wasserman Schultz went all Barney Frank on him???]

    Blaming Gregory for being blind to corporate interests and conventional wisdom is like blaming a bear for rummaging through the careless litter of a campsite.

  • Upper West on November 14, 2011 12:36 PM:

    DWS was better than most Democrats (see, e.g., Brazile, Donna), but still could have politely exposed the question as the lie that it was.

  • deanarms on November 14, 2011 1:09 PM:

    Agree with Jimo. I like DWS but I don't think she's effective on these sorts of settings. I saw earlier this summer on MTP paired with Rance Rancid the GOP chair, and I was disappointed. I don't think she's had effective media training. Most GOP talking heads are much more effective on spewing their talking points aided by complicit idiots like Gregory and their willingness to surrender to any independent thinking, which of course is a prerequisite to being a card carrying GOP'er. I too have stopped wathing the Sunday morning shows. Leave them for the bloviators in the echo chamber.

  • Rick Bohan on November 14, 2011 9:15 PM:

    I agree with some of the comments above...quit whining about the questions (which are, in fact, soft ball questions). Get good at going on the offense.

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