Media coverage of the debt ceiling frequently claims that raising the limit without simultaneous spending cuts would give President Obama a "blank check," repeating a pattern of promoting this false narrative -- or failing to correct it -- that occurred during the unprecedented brinkmanship of 2011. The phrase implies that the debt ceiling governs additional spending desired by the White House, when in fact it is a restriction on the executive branch's ability to borrow money to pay for spending measures already enacted by Congress.
The National Rifle Association refused to answer questions at what it had claimed was a "press conference" today in response to the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Instead, NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre gave a speech calling for armed police officers at all schools and blaming violent video games for mass shootings, rather than the ability of those shooters to obtain a firearm.
Notably, an armed police officer was present at Columbine High School at the time of the mass shooting there. After attempting to fire on one of the shooters with his pistol, he was quickly pinned down by the greater firepower of the shooter's assault weapon.
This puts special pressure on the hosts of NBC's Meet The Press and CBS' Face The Nation, who will host LaPierre and NRA president David Keene on Sunday, to ask the questions that the rest of the press corps was unable to.
Any such interview should address the conspiratorial language that LaPierre typically uses in speaking to his base, notably his claim that President Obama plans to use his second term to "erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights."
National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre will be the "exclusive" guest on NBC's Meet the Press on December 23, nine days after the horrific shooting in Newtown, CT, and five days after the NRA mustered the courage to finally comment on the tragedy. Meet the Press moderator David Gregory is soliciting questions for LaPierre via Twitter, and we're happy to propose a few that touch on LaPierre's and the NRA's credibility on gun rights, drawing from LaPierre's long record of conspiratorial rhetoric in the name of aiding the firearms lobby.
LaPierre: Obama will "erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and excise it from the U.S. Constitution."
At the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference, LaPierre delivered a speech sketching out what he saw coming should President Obama win reelection:
LAPIERRE: We see the president's strategy crystal clear: Get re-elected and, with no more elections to worry about, get busy dismantling and destroying our firearms' freedom, erase the Second Amendment from the Bill of Rights and excise it from the U.S. Constitution.
The only way to "erase" a constitutional amendment is with another constitutional amendment. Given that the passage of an amendment requires two-thirds supermajorities in both houses of Congress (one of which is controlled by Republicans) and ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures (more than half of which are controlled by Republicans), the chances of the Second Amendment being "erased" any time soon are infinitesimally small - even if Democrats supported such a thing. And in fact, Obama himself has repeatedly stated that he supports both the Second Amendment and passing reasonable restrictions on guns - as do most NRA members.
QUESTION: "There is no plausible scenario in which President Obama or the Democrats could possibly remove the Second Amendment from the Constitution, so how can you justify your claim that the president will do so in his second term?"
The hosts of Fox News Sunday and Meet The Press pushed the myth that Democratic support for gun violence prevention measures was a significant factor in their 1994 and 2000 electoral defeats.
These claims echo a false media narrative that the National Rifle Association is able to influence electoral outcomes and punish politicians who refuse to line up with the pro-gun organization. This narrative is faltering following the 2012 elections where the NRA spent tens of millions of dollars in a largely unsuccessful attempt to defeat candidates in favor of gun violence prevention policies. Furthermore, there is strong public support for specific gun violence prevention measures and claims that Democrats paid a price for supporting gun violence prevention in 1994 and 2000 are overblown.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace claimed during an interview with Al Gore's 2000 running mate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who advocated for universal background checks on gun sales and renewal of the assault weapons ban on the show, that support for such policies contributed to his 2000 defeat:
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: Back in the 90's you supported the Brady law which called for a five day waiting period.
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN: Right.
WALLACE: You supported the assault weapons ban. Then in 2000 you and Al Gore campaigned around the country and you lost, and a lot of people took as a lesson, part of it was in states like Tennessee and West Virginia, the fact that you were pro-gun control. And quite frankly ever since Democrats have been scared of touching that issue.
NBC's David Gregory showed Mitt Romney claiming that President Obama said he would lower unemployment to 5.2 percent and presented this statement as representative of Obama's economic record. But independent fact-checkers have rated the charge that Obama promised an unemployment rate of around 5 percent as false and misleading.
While economists working with Obama projected in 2009 that one version of a stimulus bill would lower the unemployment to that level, the severity of the recession wasn't fully understood at that time, and Obama never promised that level of unemployment would be achieved.
While interviewing White House senior adviser David Plouffe on Sunday's Meet The Press, Gregory aired a clip of Romney saying during a stump speech that President Obama said he would "bring the unemployment rate down to 5.2 percent by now" and that "unemployment today is higher than when Barack Obama took office." Gregory said Romney's argument was that "the unemployment rate [is] higher than when the president took office."
Gregory then paraphrased Romney's message as, "if you've got anxiety about the economy, this is the president's record -- you have to be disappointed."
Romney's statement is a reference to a report produced by Obama's economic advisers in January 2009, before Obama took office, predicting that unemployment would be near 5 percent in 2012 and that it would not exceed 8 percent if the stimulus was passed. But the report was produced before the release of data showing the recession was much worse than was thought at the time.
Indeed, in August 2011, the Bureau of Economic Analysis estimated that real gross domestic product had declined by 8.9 percent during the fourth quarter of 2008 -- over twice as much as BEA's initial estimate of 3.8 percent. These revisions made the economic contraction in 2008 the worst single-quarter decline in GDP since 1958.
Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and independent economists show that Obama's stimulus plan significantly raised employment and increased GDP, and lowered the unemployment rate from the recession's peak. There are also more Americans employed now than when Obama took office in January 2009.
Meet the Press host David Gregory helped Republican Governors Scott Walker (WI) and John Kasich (OH) take undeserved credit for the job recoveries in their states. In separate Meet the Press interviews, both governors took credit for an increase in jobs during their term, but Gregory did not point out that jobs were already on the upswing before either of them came into office.
NBC host David Gregory covered up a distortion of the Obama administration's tax plan by Bob McDonnell, letting the Republican Virginia governor claim that Vice President Joe Biden said the administration plans to "raise your taxes about $2 trillion" when in fact the administration has only proposed raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
McDonnell appeared on Meet the Press today to discuss, among other things, the October 11 vice-presidential debate. Commenting on Biden's performance, McDonnell claimed that Biden's remarks affirmed that "absolutely, Obama and Biden are going to raise your taxes about $2 trillion over the next couple months -- over the next four years."
Gregory made no effort to point out that McDonnell misstated the administration's tax plan. Biden did not say the administration will raise everyone's taxes, but very clearly restated the Obama administration's stance that tax cuts should expire for the wealthiest Americans, while tax cuts for middle-class Americans should be extended.
Indeed, during the vice-presidential debate, moderator Martha Raddatz, a reporter for ABC, asked Biden, "If your ticket is elected, who will pay more in taxes? Who will pay less?" The vice president replied that the Obama administration wants to "extend permanently the middle-class [Bush] tax cut" and allow "the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy" to expire:
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: The middle class will pay less, and people making a million dollars or more will begin to contribute slightly more. Let me give you one concrete example: the continuation of the Bush tax cuts. We're arguing that the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy should be allowed to expire. Of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, 800 million -- billion dollars of that goes to people making a minimum of a million dollars. We see no justification in these economic times for those -- and they're patriotic Americans. They're -- they're not asking for this continued tax cut; they're not suggesting it; but my friends are insisting on it. A hundred and twenty thousand families, by continuing that tax cut, will get an additional $500 billion in tax relief in the next 10 years, and their income is an average of $8 million.
We want to extend permanently the middle-class tax cut for -- permanently from the Bush middle-class tax cut.
Gregory also made no mention of the fact that analysts have said it's the Romney-Ryan plan that could actually raise taxes on the middle class. Studies from the Tax Policy Center concluded that Romney's tax plan would almost certainly have to "increase the tax burdens on middle- and/or lower-income taxpayers" in order to remain revenue neutral.
Liz Cheney claimed on Fox News today that President Obama "refuses to give a meeting to" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But Netanyahu himself stated hours earlier on NBC's Meet The Press that Obama has "met with me more than any other leader in the world and I appreciate that."
While appearing on America's News HQ, Cheney was asked for examples of America not being a reliable ally. Cheney responded by claiming that Obama "has reportedly offered to host a meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood president of Egypt" but "refuses to give a meeting to Prime Minister Netanyahu."
Today on NBC's Meet The Press, Newt Gingrich became the latest conservative to revive the oft-debunked falsehood that President Barack Obama voted as a state legislator to allow doctors to "kill babies." Neither Meet The Press host David Gregory nor the other members of the panel pushed back on this offensive smear.
Gingrich criticized Republican leaders for calling for Rep. Todd Akin to drop out of the Missouri Senate race for comments he made about "legitimate rape" and abortion. In defending Akin, Gingrich claimed that Obama holds the truly extreme position because he voted to allow doctors to "kill babies":
NEWT GINGRICH: The President of the United States voted three times to protect the right of doctors to kill babies who came out of an abortion still alive.
Gregory did not push back on this claim even though it has been widely debunked. The Associated Press noted in a fact check of a previous attempt by Gingrich to push this claim that Illinois law already required that doctors to provide medical attention if a live birth resulted from a botched abortion on a viable fetus:
As an Illinois state senator, Obama voted against legislation promoted by anti-abortion activists that would have conferred protection to fetuses showing any signs of life after an abortion, even if doctors did not believe the fetus was viable. Obama pointed to an existing Illinois law requiring doctors to protect fetuses they believed were likely to survive after an abortion, and said he was concerned the proposed new law was so broad it could interfere with routine abortions.
NBC's David Gregory muddied the waters on the Medicare debate, saying that President Obama "claims that he would extend the solvency of Medicare eight years until 2024." However, this is not just a claim put forth by the Obama campaign; the Medicare Board of Trustees has estimated that Medicare will remain solvent until 2024 thanks to the health care law.
CNN and NBC Sunday shows allowed Mitt Romney campaign surrogates to claim that the American people aren't interested in seeing more of Romney's tax returns, even as polling shows most Americans think Romney should release more of his returns.
In the wake of last week's tragic mass shooting in Aurora, CO, some in the media are distorting public opinion and election results to predict that the events will not have an impact on the debate over gun violence prevention. In fact, polls indicate public support for a broad range of stronger gun restrictions, including the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, which may have prevented the legal purchase of one of the alleged shooter's guns.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza kicked off the debate with a piece published the morning after the shooting headlined "Why the Aurora shootings won't likely change the gun control debate":
If history is any guide, however, the Aurora shootings will do little to change public sentiment regarding gun control, which has been moving away from putting more laws on the books for some time.
In 1990, almost eight in ten Americans said that the "laws covering the sales of firearms" should be made "more strict" while just 10 percent said they should be made "less strict" or "kept as they are now". By 2010, those numbers had drastically shifted with 54 percent preferring less strict or no change in guns laws and 44 percent believing gun laws should be made more strict.
By Sunday the claim that Americans don't support tougher gun laws was a regular feature on the morning political talk shows. But if Congress is not moved by this tragedy to pass new gun violence prevention laws, it won't be because the American people oppose such measures.
In fact, other polls indicate that contrary to the result of the Gallup poll Cillizza cited, Americans support the passage of an array of new, stronger firearm sale laws.
Note that this appetite among the public for stronger gun laws includes the support of more than three in five for reinstating the nationwide ban on assault weapons, which expired in 2004. One of the weapons used by the alleged shooter was an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, which reportedly may have been banned under that law. Members of the House and Senate have called for bringing back the ban in response to the shooting. They enjoy the support of 62 percent of Americans, including 61 percent of Independents and 49 percent of Republicans, according to a June 2011 Time magazine poll.
From the May 20 edition of NBC's Meet The Press:
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As host of NBC's Meet the Press, David Gregory talks with the most influential people in politics and the media. It was on Meet the Press, for instance, that Vice President Joe Biden made news with his statement supporting gay marriage.
His guests expect a fair hearing. But today, Gregory is scheduled to address the National Federation of Independent Business' Small Business Summit.
As Think Progress notes, the NFIB is not merely an industry group -- it's an organization with a clear record of partisan activism. In the 2010 election cycle, NFIB's political action committee spent more than a million dollars to support Republican candidates, and none on Democrats.
The NFIB is also the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act.
Gregory's willingness to associate himself with a group like this raises questions about his allegiances.
The NFIB states that it "pushes back against [the] Big Labor agenda." The next time a union leader appears on Meet the Press, will he be getting a fair shake?
The appearance of a conflict of interest should be a concern for both Gregory and NBC.
Interviewing Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday, Meet the Press host David Gregory adopted last week's right-wing spin when he asked if Obama's trip to Afghanistan to sign a security agreement with Afghan President Hamid Karzia and to address U.S. troops on the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden represented a failure for the president.
Gregory even incorporated the New York Post's page-one attack on Obama:
GREGORY: The president went to Afghanistan on the anniversary of the operation to kill Osama bin Laden with a message to America that this war is coming to an end. Headlines around the world, including this in The New York Post, which sort of was a little bit more colorful. "Ka-Bull! Now Obama spikes bin Laden football in Afghanistan," an allusion to the fact that he would not do that, that there would not be the politicization of killing bin Laden. Was all of this together in effect his "Mission Accomplished" moment?
So David Gregory asked if Obama traveling to Afghanistan to sign a long-term pact on the anniversary of a signature foreign policy and national security success, the killing of bin Laden, was equivalent to Bush's famously premature celebration of what many consider to be his biggest foreign policy and national security failure, the war in Iraq?
Bush's "Mission Accomplished" fiasco became universal shorthand (as well as a punch line) for his administration's botched handling of the war. How is that even remotely similar to the widely heralded raid to kill bin Laden?
And note to Gregory: The fact that the hyper-partisan and bitter New York Post whined (and whined and whined) about Obama marking bin Laden's death and traveling to Afghanistan wasn't surprising. But it's also not news. (The Post hates everything Obama does.) Why Gregory chose to try to legitimize the tabloid'sabsurd, knee-jerk Obama critique, and then try to compare a clear Obama success to an equally clear Bush failure, remains puzzling.