With recent experience I almost don't want to write this. I had to just give up on the comments in Nobody Wrote a Diary About John Kerry Today? when it turned into a David Gregory hate festival. Two weeks back when I wrote Thank You Senator Harry Reid it was once again seen by many as a place to call David Gregory an idiot and make fun of his hair.
I think a media personality who did more to bring rich tax payers back to Clinton levels than the President ever did by hammering Republicans all summer long on the falsehood of being deficit hawks while protecting the rich from tax increases deserves a little respect.
Well today David Gregory got Eric Cantor in the hot seat and just took him apart. He started off with the fact that Republicans will not compromise, got right into Republican blackmail, pointed out they have no direction, went to the fact that Republican have no healthcare answers and even played back the Harry Reid Social Security video for him.
We all know that "Meet the Press" is the most-watched Sunday morning public affairs program. It is such a pleasure to see someone with the nerve to sit some Republican down and force them into a corner in a place where so many Americans are watching.
David Gregory started today off by exploring the Republican definition of "compromise." The question, can Republicans support a combination of some cuts and some spending to keep America competitive? Cantor almost evaded an answer with "cut and grow" but with the suggestion that House Republicans will reject President Obama's call for new "investments," saying that "the investment needs to be in the private sector," obviously the answer was no.
MR. GREGORY: Right. OK, well, let's, let's pick up where Republicans have left off. Cut and grow, that's the mantra. You campaigned on a pledge to America last September, and this is a part of what you said, it was very clear: "We will roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels, saving us at least $100 billion in the first year alone and putting us on a path to balance the budget and pay down the debt." And then you came into office and you said, "Well, we're not going to hit that $100 billion figure." And here was the headline on Friday in The Washington Post: "GOP bloc in the House calls for deeper cuts," and the sub-headline: "Campaign pledge divides the party." You're arguing about just how much to spend. I thought this was already worked out.
One of David Gregory's finest qualities is not allowing politicians from either Party to squeeze out of a direct question. Cantor had already slipped by that failed campaign promise on on the PBS Newshour and probably elsewhere. But Mr. Gregory kept at him until he admitted $100 billion was not happening in the first year.
MR. GREGORY: It seems like it's a straightforward question, though. Are you going to live up to the $100 billion pledge? I assume you've put a lot of thought into that...
REP. CANTOR: David...
MR. GREGORY: ...$100 billion figure. Can you make it or not?
REP. CANTOR: Absolutely. On an annualized basis, we will cut spending $100 billion.
MR. GREGORY: You do it this year as you pledged?
REP. CANTOR: On an annualized basis...
MR. GREGORY: Which means what exactly?
Then the lively discussion moved on to Republican blackmail. Mr. Gregory kicked out a quote from The Washington Post;
"It's a leverage moment for Republicans," Cantor said in an interview Friday. "The president needs us. There are things we were elected to do. Let's accomplish those if the president needs us to clean up the old mess."
David Gregory wanted to know what he meant by "leverage moment" and what promises Republicans would demand from the President in order to increase the debt ceiling. Mr. Gregory was liking Cantor's answers about as much as any sensible American. Great line!
MR. GREGORY: But you don't have--if you say serious spending cuts, you clearly have--don't have something specific in mind, right? You--in other words, you'll, you'll know it when you see it, is that the approach?
Followed by the usual Republican chatter about "everything's on the table." David Gregory needled him with "Including defense cuts?" and tried to get specific with the Dick Armey quote from last week;
Let's scrap the Departments of Commerce and Housing and Urban Development, end farm subsidies, and end urban mass transit grants, just for starters.
And while Cantor was trying to come up with a way to defend those, Mr. Gregory enjoyed interrupting him to ask "Cancer research is on the table?"
Then came the best part. Just in case some Americans missed when Harry Reid defended Social Security two weeks ago, they played the whole thing over for Eric Cantor. Then in a pretty heated fashion, Mr. Gregory pushed Cantor into admitting that Republicans have nothing to offer Americans under the age of 55.
MR. GREGORY: How about--and the irony of Paul Ryan being introduced, the budget chairman, and he's doing the response to the State of the Union, he is the one who's proposed draconian cuts to Social Security and to Medicare...
REP. CANTOR: Well, David...
MR. GREGORY: ...and Republicans don't stand behind him.
REP. CANTOR: David, that's not true. I just told you that we put a chapter in our book about it because the direction in which the Roadmap goes is something we need, we need to embrace. Now, let me tell you this.
MR. GREGORY: Raising the retirement age, means testing benefits, those are specifics. That...
REP. CANTOR: The fundamental--the starting point in any plan has got to be we need to distinguish between those at or nearing retirement. Anyone 55 and older in this country has got to know that their Social Security benefits will not be, will not be changed. It is for all the younger people, those 54 and younger, we're going to have to have a serious discussion. Now, with Harry Reid talking about the fact that he doesn't want to even discuss it...
At that point I was waiting for one of those pop out thermometers to come out of that turkey's neck. But there was still plenty of time for Mr. Gregory to go into the fact that Republicans have nothing to offer in healthcare and the vote last week, the campaign promise they did keep, was nothing more than grandstanding for the 2012 election.
MR. GREGORY: All right, let, let's, let's move on to health care because House Republicans did repeal the president's healthcare reform plan, but the real question is what Republicans are prepared to replace it with and whether you have a serious plan. Major Garrett in the National Journal reports this week the following about the speaker's plan, Speaker Boehner: "The Boehner plan, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would add just three million Americans to the insurance rolls, leaving about 50 million still without coverage through 2019. CBO said that the proposal would reduce costs in the group-insurance market, which constitutes nearly 80 percent of private-sector premiums, by less than 3 percent. `If it's all they do, it is not a serious effort,' Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a former CBO director and chief policy adviser for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, said of the Boehner alternative. `You can't just do that.'"
The truth is, Republicans do not have a serious alternative to covering more Americans, do they?
What was Cantor's answer? Who cares? Stick a fork in him, he was done. But David Gregory still found time to explain a few more things to Cantor. First he worked hard to force Cantor to admit that he believed Barack Obama was born in the United States. Then Mr. Gregory explained that leadership would include shutting those "birthers" and standing behind the fact that the argument is "illegitimate" would tone it down.
With little time left David Gregory wanted to bring up Harry Reid's prediction that the Tea Party is just a passing fad and get into whether the Republicans will be able to manage them. He even squeezed in Michele Bachmann's ridiculous additional response to the State of the Union to point out that the Republicans are out of control. Cantor went with "a very fresh, new look to all spending" and claimed the Tea party is "absolutely" with us to stay. Oh really?
That was one great interview, a reality check going into the American living room this morning. Too bad the Democratic doesn't feel like lending a hand more often because David Gregory would be even better at it with a little support. I can't count the number of times David Gregory has thrown "straight lines" to Democrats in those round table discussions as they just sat on their hands.
I understand why so many here feel it is necessary to make everything the fault of the MSM while calling people who are working the issues "tools" but David Gregory's efforts today would do a progressive blogger proud and he did it right in front of what passes for Republican leadership. In the round table discussion that followed today even Erin Burnett, who has been called a tool of industry so many times here, even Ms. Burnett was making more sense than most Democrats today;
But I think one thing that doesn't get talked about, that maybe when we're feeling really bad about ourselves relative to China and the rest of the world, is even after the financial crisis with the 20 percent drop in net worth in this country, you've got $63 trillion in household assets. Our debt's $13.5 trillion. So we can cover that. We are a very, very wealthy country. And we can deal with these--what you call the big three: Social Security, Medicare and defense. We have to put a real plan out there. But we don't have a crisis right this second on debt.
I've known what is missing from the national debate for years. Five years back I wrote a diary about how we rant at the media instead of working to force Democrats to do the right thing. It was called Milquetoast Democrats and since then it has only gotten worse, far worse. With the Republicans in charge of the national debate eventually the people just lose interest. After that Republican and Blue Dog controlled health care debate, even my lifelong interest in supporting Democrats is drying up and after the tax cuts for the rich with President Obama now playing to this business card, I'm not even sure who's who anymore.
But I do know who David Gregory is and he is doing the right thing. Eric Cantor will still do pretty well going toe to toe with most in the Democratic leadership but I don't think he will be going "one on one" with David Gregory anytime soon.
We need people like David Gregory. We should thank people like David Gregory because today when he called Eric Cantor out and I was pretty sure he enjoyed doing it.