It’s frustrating to see so many prominent media voices reflexively blame “both sides” for the debt-ceiling fiasco, but some examples are more exasperating than others. Jonathan Cohn flagged a clip from NBC’s “Meet the Press” the other day, which I hadn’t seen.
Here’s the way host David Gregory phrased a “question” — I use the word loosely — to Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.):
“[S]o many people I talk to are frankly disgusted with Washington. You know, you have on the one side people saying that, that Republicans are, are just crazy. That they won’t negotiate. That they’re being unreasonable. That they’re denying the prospect of a default. Michelle Bachmann saying it’s a misnomer when the Fed chief says it would be economic calamity.
“And on the other side you, you know, you’ve got Republicans saying, ‘Look, somebody’s got to draw a line in the sand here. It’s, it’s the Democrats who have run up the debt since President Obama got into office.’ But the reality is nobody is really willing to compromise and to make a deal.”
I don’t know David Gregory personally, but I suspect he knows better. This kind of analysis isn’t just lazy, it actually undermines the public’s understanding of a pressing national crisis. In other words, at this point, the media must be playing a constructive role, helping Americans understand the process and the risks, and instead Americans have David Gregory parroting tired cliches that aren’t even accurate.
The “reality” is that “nobody” is “willing to compromise”? Has Gregory been on vacation for the last several months, unable to keep up on current events?
Reemphasizing a point from the weekend, let me put this as plainly as I know how: if you’re watching this debt-ceiling fiasco, and you think both parties are equally responsible for the mess, then you’re simply not paying close enough attention.
Forget subjective questions and consider the basics. GOP leaders are saying they want a deal that’s 100% in their favor. If they don’t get what they want, many Republicans are at least open to crashing the economy on purpose. As the process unfolds and the deadline draws closer, the GOP line is hardening and becoming more extreme, leading to today’s “Cut, Cap, and Balance” charade, which everyone acknowledges is both a vanity exercise and a waste of time.
In contrast, we have the Obama White House and congressional Democratic leaders, who are prepared to accept all kinds of concessions to make Republicans happy. This includes a series of compromise offers that lean heavily in the GOP’s favor.
There’s no question here which side of the political divide is open to compromise. There’s also no question which side has rejected any and all attempts at finding common ground.
And there’s also no question that tired media assumptions lead to coverage and analysis like this — blaming both sides equally because it’s easier than thinking about the facts.
Eugene Robinson had a column the other day that David Gregory should take the time to read. It laments “reflexive tendency to see equivalence where none exists,” and explains, “The truth is that Democrats have made clear they are open to a compromise deal on budget cuts and revenue increases. Republicans have made clear they are not.”
As for Gregory repeating the falsehood that “it’s the Democrats who have run up the debt” — a claim he presented as if it were fact — he’s demonstrably wrong about this, too.
With a Republican-made economic catastrophe two weeks away, Americans need the media to be at the top of their game. This “blame both sides” nonsense isn’t going to cut it.