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On the October 20 edition of NBC's Today, co-host Meredith Vieira failed to challenge Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman's claims that Democrats would favor "across-the-board tax increases" and that "all the post-9-11 tools we've had [would] be surrendered" if Democrats were to win control of Congress in the midterm elections. In fact, Democrats have emphatically stated that they would not raise taxes on the middle class, and Democrats have said repeatedly that they support the employment of all effective tools in combating terrorism, in compliance with the law.
Vieira also neglected to ask Mehlman to explain his inconsistent statements about his relationship to disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, despite recent reports detailing political favors Mehlman allegedly carried out on Abramoff's behalf.
Mehlman's suggestion that a Democratic Congress would come at the expense of "all the post-9-11 tools we've had" is very similar to a baseless claim he made in August on NBC's Meet the Press, when he told David Gregory that Democrats "oppose efforts to surveil the enemy," in an exchange that was documented by Media Matters for America. Variations of that false claim have been repeated by other top officials in the Bush administration, including White House senior adviser Karl Rove, who said on January 20 that "[s]ome important Democrats clearly disagree" with President Bush, who "believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why." In fact, as Media Matters noted at the time, Democratic leaders have never opposed eavesdropping on terrorism suspects. However, Democrats -- and numerous Republicans and conservatives -- did raise serious questions about Bush's decision to bypass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which, except as otherwise specifically provided, requires the government to obtain a warrant to conduct domestic surveillance for foreign-intelligence purposes. To this day, no congressional Democrats or party officials have said that it is not in our interest to eavesdrop on Al Qaeda. Vieira neglected to ask Mehlman to specifically provide the names of Democrats who opposed spying on terrorists, and Mehlman did not volunteer any, saying only that it was "what the Democrat [sic] leadership would provide."
As Media Matters also pointed out, on the October 6 edition of Fox News' Your World, host Neil Cavuto failed to challenge Mehlman when he made the same false claim about Democratic tax policies that he made on Today -- that "you would get across-the-board tax increases" if Democrats regain control of the House. But in an appearance on Your World less than two weeks earlier, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY), who would become the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee if Democrats regain the House, had said that Democrats "would not raise taxes" and "would not roll back" President Bush's tax cuts.
From the October 20 edition of NBC's Today:
VIEIRA: It's obvious the Democrats -- at least it feels obvious to me that it's obvious the Democrats are going to make this election a referendum on the war on Iraq -- or in Iraq. And, Ken, what do you think of that?
MEHLMAN: Well, Meredith, I think Republicans are going to keep the majorities in the House and Senate, and here's why. Every election involves a choice of who's on the ballot. I don't think the American people want what the Democrat [sic] tax writer, head of the Ways and Means Committee, the committee that writes your taxes, says if he was in charge: across-the-board tax increases. There's not a single tax cut over the last five years he thinks is worth keeping. I don't think Americans want to lose the Patriot Act, I don't think Americans want to lose the interrogation program.
McAULIFFE: It's the same old story, Meredith. It's the same old rattle from these Democ-- Republicans.
MEHLMAN: I don't think Americans want all the post-9-11 tools we've had to be surrendered at a time when we're at war. That's what the Democrat [sic] leadership would provide. That's not where I think most Americans want to go.
VIEIRA: And very, very quickly, if you look at the pocketbook issues in this country, the polls are showing that the approval rating for the president, President Bush, in terms of the economy has actually gone up. So it would seem to me that would be bad news for the Democrats.
McAULIFFE: Well, he's up to -- I saw a poll yesterday, 44 percent. He's still six points under 50 percent.