From the January 6 edition of NBC's Meet The Press:
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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?"
Members of the media have been quick to push the myth that the National Rifle Association can remove politicians from office who support new gun violence prevention measures in the wake of the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The influence wielded by the NRA has been overblown by the media for years, a fact further evidenced by the organization's poor showing during the 2012 elections.
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.
From the November 18 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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Four of the five major Sunday morning political shows ignored the issue of job creation and economic growth, which economists and voters say are the most important economic issues facing the nation. Instead, the economic discussion on the November 11 editions of these shows focused almost exclusively on the debate over how to achieve deficit reduction.
Among the participants in the major Sunday shows, NBC's Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation, ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Fox Broacasting's Fox News Sunday, and CNN's State of the Union, only This Week guest Katrina vanden Heuvel pointed out that the exit polls found that voters say the government should focus on job creation rather than deficit reduction.
By contrast, Meet the Press guest Bob Woodward identified deficits and debt as " the big issue" the government must solve. Woodward went on to suggest that Obama should be looking for a "payoff for everyone in the community, not just his base."
WOODWARD: I think the big picture here is that President Obama has got to deliver on the big issue, which is fixing the financial house of the U.S. federal government. It is in disarray. It's not just the fiscal cliff, it's $16 trillion in IOUs out in the world. In a couple of months, in February or March, they are going to have to renegotiate an authority -- lending and borrowing authority -- for another trillion or two dollars, and if the president can fix that and put us on some sort of path of restoration for the economy, that is a payoff for everyone in the community, not just his base.
And he's got to think much more broadly. The job of the president is to find the next stage of good for a real majority and he's capable of doing it.
The Associated Press analyzed data of national exit polls following the presidential election and found that 59 percent of voters interviewed listed the economy as the biggest issue facing the country. In comparison, only 15 percent said that deficits were the most important issue. Similarly, when asked about specific economic concerns, nearly 40 percent of voters said unemployment was the "biggest economic problem facing voters like them."
Economists and other experts also say that job creation and economic growth are the most important issue facing the country.
During a video retrospective of the presidential campaign, Meet the Press played a deceptively edited version of President Obama's "you didn't build that" line and followed it up with a clip of Mitt Romney claiming that the full context of Obama's remarks are worse than the quote.
Meet the Press made no effort to clarify that this is an obvious distortion of what Obama actually said: that the individual initiative required for success in business is aided by American education and infrastructure.
Host David Gregory described the retrospective as showing "what stood out for us" during the campaign. The montage began with a clip of Obama's July 13 speech in Roanoke, Virginia, in which he says, "If you've got a business, that -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen":
The context of Obama's remarks make it clear that showing only those few words leaves an entirely misleading impression of what he was saying:
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you've got a business -- you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn't get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.
The edited video of the Roanoke speech was used throughout the summer by conservatives, with the clip receiving heavy play on Fox News, despite the fact that journalists and fact checkers labeled it as deceptive.
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.
From the October 28 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
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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."
Mitt Romney's embrace of rejected right-wing Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork received another pass in the media on Sunday when David Gregory, host of NBC's Meet the Press, failed to ask Romney about Bork and his outside the mainstream view of the Constitution in the course of a lengthy interview.
Bork serves as one of three co-chairs of Romney's "Justice Advisory Committee," which, according to his campaign, advises the candidate on "the Constitution, judicial matters, law enforcement, homeland security, and regulatory issues." Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by a bipartisan Senate majority in 1987 because his positions on the Constitution were so far outside the mainstream.
GREGORY: I want to ask you one question on the social issue and that is abortion. You were on this program in 2007 and you said that you would fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. I know you said this is an issue for the courts. I ask you now would a President Romney fight to overturn Roe v. Wade? And what would you do in that fight to achieve that goal?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, there are a number of things I think that need to be said about preserving and protecting the life of the unborn child. And I recognize there are two lives involved: the mom and the unborn child. And I believe that people of good conscience have chosen different paths in this regard. But I am pro-life and will intend, if I'm president of the United States, to encourage pro-life policies. I don't--
GREGORY: Just encourage or fight for it to be overturned?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, I don't actually make the decision the Supreme Court makes and so they'll have to make their own decision. But, I will, for instance, I'll reverse the president's decision on using U.S. funds to pay for abortion outside this country. I don't think also the taxpayers here should have to pay for abortion in this country. Those things I think are consistent with my pro-life position. And I hope to appoint justices to the Supreme Court that will follow the law and the constitution. And it would be my preference that they reverse Roe v. Wade and therefore they return to the people and their elected representatives the decisions with regards to this important issue.
Gregory asked Romney one question which touched on the courts and the Constitution: "would a President Romney fight to overturn Roe v. Wade?" But that question falls short in addressing many other vitally important legal issues - from environmental regulation to racial justice, from women's equality to corporate power - that would come before judges nominated by Romney. Bork presumably advises Romney on these "judicial matters."
Romney's embrace of Bork is especially relevant and worthy of media scrutiny because the next president will almost certainly be in a position to appoint three or more Supreme Court justices. Four of the current justices are over 70 years of age, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will turn 80 next year. If Romney is elected and is able to confirm justices with views similar to Bork, he will shift the Roberts Court -- already one of the most conservative in history -- even farther to the right.
Despite the tremendous importance of the next President's ability to reshape the Supreme Court, major media outlets have for the most part ignored Romney's embrace of Bork and its implications for the future of the Court. The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and the three major broadcast networks have all failed to address the issue. Only The New York Times has provided substantial coverage of Bork's role in Romney's campaign.
This morning's Meet the Press featured a panel discussion on moderator David Gregory's interview with Mitt Romney, and the discussion turned to whether Romney will be able to separate himself from the policies of George W. Bush, given their persistent unpopularity. The panelists were near unanimous in their agreement that Romney was being hampered by the Bush legacy; the only dissenter was Reagan education secretary Bill Bennett, who argued that "Bush did a lot of fine things," but Romney already has separated himself from Bush "by having Paul Ryan there. Paul Ryan was a critic of Bush spending and he's a critic of Obama spending."
I'm not sure how many times I'll have to write this, but I'll keep writing it for as long as I have to: Paul Ryan voted for every high-cost, deficit-exploding, debt-ballooning policy the Bush White House put in place. He voted for Bush's tax cuts on income and capital gains. He voted for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He voted for the unfunded Medicare prescription drug benefit. He voted for TARP. That's a whole lot of spending (plus a whole lot of revenue reduction), and those policies tell almost the entire story of the current deficits and public debt.
Paul Ryan is as much an ambassador of Bush-era policies as anyone, and to claim otherwise is nothing short of nonsense.