Odd voices facing the nation

ODD VOICES FACING THE NATION…. CBS’s Sunday morning show, “Face the Nation,” offered viewers quite a line-up yesterday. The week Americans saw Democrats deliver on some historic breakthrough victories, the lead guest was Sen. Jim DeMint (R) of South Carolina, arguably the Senate’s most right-wing member, who had no role whatsoever in shaping any of the policies at hand.

After his interview, DeMint was followed by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, arguably the House’s most right-wing member, who had no role whatsoever in shaping any of the policies at hand.

The final guest was DNC Chairman Tim Kaine. When Sunday shows look for “balance,” this is generally how it works.

Bachmann, who is by most measures stark raving mad, didn’t disappoint. Given the national spotlight, again, the Republican extremist made a variety of ridiculous claims. To its credit, “Face the Nation” published a sort-of fact-check piece online after the program.

“[N]ow we have the federal government taking over ownership or control of 51 percent of the American economy. This is stunning. Prior to September of 2008, 100 percent of the private economy was private.”

Ms. Bachmann offered no facts to back up her assertion that the government owns or controls 51 percent of the U.S. economy.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis data since 1929, the highest percentage of government spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product was during World War II when government spending was 47.9 percent (in 1944). The lowest level of government spending as a percent of GDP was 9 percent in 1929 at the outset of the Great Depression.

At no time during this period was the United States’ GDP 100 percent private.

Bachmann proceeded to pretend that the stimulus and the financial-industry bailout were effectively the same thing, and claimed that the New England Journal of Medicine published a survey that found American physicians planning to leave their profession in the wake of health care reform. Bachmann was wildly wrong on both counts, and the online piece made note of reality.

And as much as I give the show credit for noting the facts in a follow-up piece online, I have two related questions. First, why on earth couldn’t the show’s host, Bob Schieffer, know enough about the subject matter to alert viewers to reality during the interview? Bachmann’s absurdities are not new; she’s been repeating them constantly of late. A little pre-show research would have made it obvious what she was going to say on the air. Aren’t hosts paid to prep before the interviews, and don’t they have a responsibility to pushback against obvious lies?

Second, for crying out loud, why invite Michele Bachmann onto “Face the Nation” in the first place? It’s not like she’s proven herself to be an insightful, thoughtful, and effective federal policymaker. More accurately, she’s an embarrassment to herself and the institution. Sunday shows are not supposed to be circus acts, giving microphones to the nuttiest clowns the producers can find available.