On the October 2 broadcast of CBS' Face the Nation, host Bob Schieffer convened a panel of three Republican congressmen to discuss, in his words, "all of these problems that have suddenly beset the Republican party." Schieffer stated that he did not invite any Democrats to be on the panel because the discussion focused on "a Republican problem," and he "wanted to give [Republicans] a chance to talk about it." While Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz in an online chat the next day said that in light of the discussion topic, the makeup of the Face the Nation panel was "not unreasonable," Schieffer's failure to provide balance or critical questioning allowed the Republican guests to make unchallenged claims about the motivations of the prosecutor in the conspiracy charges against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), attack congressional Democrats, and provide partisan analysis in areas unrelated to recent GOP ethics problems, such as President Bush's tax cuts.
Although much of the panel discussion focused on the challenges facing House Republicans following DeLay's indictment and his subsequent abdication of the House leadership role, Reps. David Dreier (R-CA) and John B. Shadegg (R-AZ) used the forum to advance Republican claims that the conspiracy case against DeLay is, in Dreier's words, "very, very thin" and that Ronnie Earle, the Travis County, Texas, district attorney who filed charges against DeLay, is a partisan Democrat who has, in Shadegg's words, "used his powers and his office for political purposes in the past." Dreier and Shadegg were joined on the panel by Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA). In the absence of any Democratic voices on the panel, Schieffer could have taken the opportunity to note evidence contrary to these claims, namely that during his career Earle has indicted far more Democratic elected officials than Republicans -- which Media Matters for America has previously noted (here and here). Media Matters has previously taken to task the CBS Evening News, anchored by Schieffer, for noting DeLay's allegation that Earle is a political partisan while failing to report Earle's record on partisan prosecutions.
Schieffer's all-Republican panel also provided a forum for Dreier to launch an unchallenged attack on congressional Democrats, claiming that "[f]rankly, there is really no plan that has come forward from [congressional] Democrats on any issue whatsoever. And they made a determination early on that they were going to attack Republicans on the issue of ethics."
The unbalanced format also allowed Dreier and Shadegg the opportunity to promote Bush's tax cuts without any Democratic response. Shadegg advocated making the tax cuts permanent despite the new financial burden imposed by the Hurricane Katrina relief and rebuilding efforts. He claimed, "Those tax cuts have stimulated this economy. ... I think to allow the hurricane to knock us off our agenda would be a serious mistake." Also promoting the president's tax cuts, Dreier claimed, "[T]he deficit has been -- the projections have been reduced by $94 billion because of the tax cuts that we've put into place. I'm a supply-sider recognizing the fact that we've generated these revenues because of the cuts."
Responding to a reader comment in his October 3 "Media Backtalk" online chat, the Post's Kurtz refused to criticize Schieffer's all-GOP discussion. In response to a poster who argued, "Viewers would have been better served by having some alternate points of view," Kurtz replied, "If the question is the degree of upheaval and discontent in the Republican Party, it doesn't seem to me unreasonable to have Repubs on to discuss it. Remember that Schieffer, unlike the other Sunday show hosts, only has a half hour." Kurtz did not address the poster's specific point that "Rep. David Dreier used the opportunity to plug permanent tax cuts."
Had the program instead hosted a Democrat and a Republican, as did the October 2 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press, with National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Thomas Reynolds (R-NY) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), viewers would have been exposed to more than just GOP talking points. For example, on Meet the Press, when Reynolds called the DeLay indictment "one of the most political indictments I've seen in 30 years of politics," Emanuel noted that Earle "has indicted more Democrats than Republicans." And when host Tim Russert and Reynolds pressed Emanuel on the purported lack of a Democratic agenda, Emanuel laid out a specific agenda for House Democrats including universal college education, a summit on the federal budget and federal debt, a new energy policy to "cut our dependence on foreign oil," a new "institute on science and technology" to maintain America's competitive "edge" in those areas, and "a universal health-care system."
Schieffer or a non-Republican guest could have also asked Dreier about the rise of Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) to replace DeLay as majority leader over congressmen such as Dreier -- a subject about which the media has been notably incurious.
From the October 2 broadcast of CBS' Face the Nation:
SCHIEFFER: And joining us now from Phoenix, Arizona, Congressman John Shadegg, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Congressman Jim Leach, and here in the studio, the chairman of the Rules Committee, Congressman David Dreier. They are all Republicans, and they are all here because of all of these problems that have suddenly beset the Republican Party that sort of culminated last week with Tom DeLay having to step aside as the majority leader in the House of Representatives because he's been indicted by a Texas grand jury.
DREIER: You know, there's been a real rallying around the fact that Democrats and Republicans -- in fact, some of Tom DeLay's greatest detractors -- have determined that this indictment is very, very thin.
SHADEGG: I think there are grave questions about this indictment, as David Dreier has already said. I do know that prosecutors can drag cases out for a long time, and I know that in this case, there are questions about whether this particular prosecutor has used his powers and his office for political purposes in the past.
DREIER: Frankly, there is really no plan that has come forward from Democrats on any issue whatsoever. And they made a determination early on that they were going to attack Republicans on the issue of ethics. The fact of the matter is -- and I'm not going to point the finger at ethical problems that exist on the Democratic side.
SCHIEFFER: Let me just point out, I didn't invite any Democrats to be on this morning because I thought this was a Republican problem and wanted to give you a chance to talk about it.
SCHIEFFER: Do you think you can still go ahead, gentlemen, with tax cuts with what you're now facing on Katrina and the war?
SHADEGG: Well, Bob, my view is --
SCHIEFFER: How about you, Mr. Shadegg? I hear you kind of nodding -- see you nodding your head.
SHADEGG: Yes, I think we can move forward with that. Indeed, I think the American people expect us to do that. Those tax cuts have stimulated this economy. We need to look for savings within the federal government right now to pay for part of this hurricane relief, but I think to allow the hurricane to knock us off our agenda would be a serious mistake.
SCHIEFFER: What's the first thing you would cut, Mr. Dreier?
DREIER: Well, let me just say, Bob, that the deficit has been -- the projections have been reduced by $94 billion because of the tax cuts that we've put into place. I'm a supply-sider recognizing the fact that we've generated these revenues because of the cuts.
From the October 2 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press:
RUSSERT: Congressman Reynolds, let me start with you. The leader of your House Republicans, Tom DeLay, indicted, stepped down as leader. Why shouldn't he resign from Congress?
REYNOLDS: Well, first of all, I think it's one of the most political indictments I've seen in 30 years of politics, and I think he has his day in court like everybody else.
EMANUEL: And he will have his day in court and we have a process for this, which is where it's going to be, in the courtroom. And he'll have a chance to air his grievances with Ronnie Earle. Ronnie Earle, as you know, there's a history, has indicted more Democrats than Republicans. This is an attempt, in my view, to not deal with the problem we have here in Washington, which is -- and there's always an attempt to divert other people and question other people's motivations.
RUSSERT: But what are the Democratic ideas?
EMANUEL: I'll give you five quick ideas. One, we make college education as universal for the 21st century that a high school education was in the 20th.
RUSSERT: And who pays for that?EMANUEL: The American people, because it offers -- let me get to it. Second, we get a summit on the budget to deal with the $3 trillion of debt that's been added up in five years and structural deficits of $400 billion a year. Third, an energy policy that says in 10 years, we cut our dependence on foreign oil in half and make this a hybrid economy. Four, we create an institute on science and technology that builds for America like the National Institutes has done for health care; we maintain our edge. And five, we have a universal health-care system over the next 10 years where if you work, you have health care. That says fiscal discipline and investing in the American people by putting people first. The policies that the Republicans have offered have gotten us in the ditch we have today.