Sunday, June 01, 2014

He Said He Said

As I have been writing about for years, one of the strongest critiques one can make of the media today is its tendency to allow politicians, pundits, corporate leaders and pretty much anyone else with power to say whatever they want without any fear of being challenged when they lie, misrepresent or provide arguments that are easily disputed. I decided to watch democratic turncoat George Stephanopoulos this morning to check out one of the worst examples of this uncritical approach to “news programming.” First I watched him interview Ted Cruz while demonstrating all of the major elements associated with a simpering, sycophantic weasel, allowing the “Tea Party Star” (their tag line on the bottom) to talk about "the Future of the GOP." Stephanopoulos smiled throughout his questions about Benghazi, Ukraine, the future of the GOP, critiques of Obama and a host of other soft balls that fed directly into Cruz’s wheelhouse. More importantly, as Cruz essentially started what looks like a run for President, George felt it unnecessary to ask even the most obvious of follow-up questions, to challenge any of the rewriting of history or to, at minimum, highlight those facts that the media has essentially established regarding these issues over the past year. Shouldn’t a news pundit, with the opportunity to interview one of the most controversial big name politicians in the country, ask some tough questions? Challenge him to speak to some of the clear criticisms of his approach and policies? To ask the most obvious of follow-up questions? Apparently Stephanopoulos doesn’t think so, as he appears to be one of the most one-sided, passive Sunday morning hosts I have ever seen.

Afterwards, George had his usual roundtable with the right-wing ideologues Peggy Noonan and Bill Kristol spewing the same tired old smog that they have for years, only occasionally challenged by the more liberal Tavis Smiley and David Remnick. Finally, he talked about global warming and new Obama administration regulations to attempt to address some elements of it, reinforcing the tired old line that global warming is still an open, debatable topic (hey, why not talk about evolution vs. creationism as a worthy topic?) and then focused on the economics over the health concerns (as many are already suffering from carbon emissions).

Take a look at the full Ted Cruz quick transcript here, but for your viewing pleasure, I’ve included the intro and questions (with some of Cruz’s response, when necessary):

STEPHANOPOULOS: Texas Senator Ted Cruz lighting up the crowd at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans yesterday. He won their presidential straw poll after that speech. Senator, congratulations for that. Thanks for being here this morning.

STEPHANOPOULOS: First let's get your reaction to the Bergdahl deal.
CRUZ: At the same time the terms of the deal are very troubling.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If you were president, you wouldn't have negotiated?
STEPHANOPOULOS: But what if that's the only way to get Bergdahl home?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Of course, that policy has been broken in the past. But your policy being no trades, never?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And you saw Secretary -- I mean, Ambassador Rice's response to your criticism of that pattern. Your response to that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you say -- you say you were in Ukraine. What would you have done different there? Would you have sent -- would you have used military force? Would you have threatened military force?
STEPHANOPOULOS: We've seen the first chapter of Hillary Clinton's memoir, "Hard Choices;" it's about Benghazi. Pretty defiant chapter. Here's what she had to say about Republicans in Congress. She says she "will not be a part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans. It's just plain wrong and it's unworthy of our great country. Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me.” It sounds like she's says -- suggesting, perhaps, that she's not going to testify in these new investigations. Should committees force her to testify?
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- Rand Paul said her handling of Benghazi is disqualifying her from the presidency. Do you agree?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the 30-second case against Hillary for president?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You took on what you called the gray beards in the Republican establishment yesterday at that Republican leadership conference. But hasn't the establishment had something of a role in these primaries, beating back the Tea Party again and again and again? And aren't factions of the Republican Party going to have to come together if you're going to have any hope of defeating Hillary Clinton or any Democrat in 2016?

CRUZ: So for example, in 2014, we should be saying -- and I think a great many Republicans are saying -- we will repeal every word of ObamaCare because it isn't --
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of Republicans starting to run away from that. But you sound like you're ready to run for president.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We just heard a preview at a speech. Come back when you're ready and make the official announcement.

The last question provides the perfect example of both the media bias and the inability or unwillingness to even challenge the basic premise of a politicians statement — in this case that Obamacare has failed and should be revoked. The obvious question here would be, “Why would we revoke a policy that has allowed millions of Americans to get health insurance?” “What is actually wrong with Obamacare?” “What is your alternative plan?” Instead he makes a throw-away comment about Republicans running from this strategy and moves on to another preening question that serves Cruz’s agenda. Don’t get me wrong, George Stephanopoulos has always been a rather terrible pundit, but at least he used to be a little pugnacious and vitriol-spewing. Watching him is actually rather soporific these days and almost makes me yearn for the combativeness of Bill O’Reilly … almost. 

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