There they were, four regulars of NBC’s Sunday morning political gabfest known as Meet the Press, host David Gregory, Andrea Mitchell, David Brooks, Chuck Todd, and the first time appearance of Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the young and dynamic Mayor of Baltimore.
Rawlings-Blake who has been credited with taking over the mayoral reins of the city of Baltimore during troubled times and has done well in correcting the affairs of her city, seemed smart professional and somewhat out of place, in terms of her perspective, with the denizens of the Washington establishment press, but I had no idea just how out of place she would be until the usual Obama critics weighed in with glee on the healthcare law’s heretofore troubled website.
Despite news of the improvement of the website, David Gregory launched into prosecutorial indignation on what he surmised as the White House’s separating the President from blame. He began by asking Chuck Todd about the eagerly awaited "accountability", as if the President has not already on several occasions taken responsibility for the issues surrounding the website. David Gregory, like the Republicans, wants more!
DAVID GREGORY: They want to separate the president from all the problems. But where is the accountability? Does somebody still have to be fired for this before Americans think they're really going to get on the right track?
CHUCK TODD: Well, I don't know if it's going to have to. But I think if this doesn't turn out to be the fix, if this website fix doesn't turn out to work as well as if they are promising, they're promising right now on various conference calls, and what they're promising as far as the public is concerned, then I think you would see public accountability and some sort of demand for action.
Look, behind the scenes, I think all of these reports and all of this in a weekend sort of placement of where the website is at this point, all of this seems irrelevant to me, because we haven't had a real test of the system. They say it can handle up to 50,000 at one time. Okay, let's see what happens. The test is, right, if they're going to.
I have looked at this last line a number of times and all I can see is an adversarial statement, not exactly impartial reporting. This is us versus them talk:
They say it can handle up to 50,000 at one time. Okay, let's see what happens.
Okay, let's see what happens.... (emphasis diarist)
NBC’s Andrea Mitchell breathlessly chimed in with some negative musings of her own, hardly able to conceal her mirth at the possibility of what seemed like some Obama juggernaut falling apart.
ANDREA MITCHELL: And it's also the fact of what happens when people actually start enrolling and insurers start interacting and bills have to be paid. You know, when people put claims in, all of those larger tests are so far down the road. Seems to me to put out a fact sheet today and say that they've got 400 bugs fixed, what kind of bugs? Big bugs? Little bugs? (LAUGHTER)
Laughter indeed. Not exactly reporting from the MacNeil/Lehrer days of broadcasting. The merriment continued:
DAVID GREGORY: Right.
ANDREA MITCHELL: It seems as though –
CHUCK TODD: They have a nice chart, and they have a lot of—
ANDREA MITCHELL: They have charts and graphs.
This adversarial journalism continued unabated until David Gregory introduced an article from Dan Balz.
DAVID GREGORY: Here's something to throw out there, from this morning's paper in The Washington Post, political correspondent Dan Balz writes about the lost year. "By almost any measure--
ANDREA MITCHELL: Right.
DAVID GREGORY: --this has been a lost year for Obama on the domestic front. The flawed rollout of the health care law, the most important initiative of his tenure, has been a huge setback, hardly what Obama could have envisioned as he looked toward his second term in the weeks after his reelection." Mayor?
With that he tossed to Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who had been sitting there stone faced and in apparent disbelief at the joviality that had been displayed by the individuals seated with her around the table, as though she was a bystander to some exclusive party that even forgot she was present. She opened her mouth and they all stopped laughing.
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: I think that's a bit of an overstatement, "The lost year?" Focusing on trying to get more people affordable quality health care? In Baltimore, over 80,000 people are without health care. In the state of Maryland, over 800,000. At the end of the day, everyone knows, we can all agree, the rollout could have been, should have been, better.
But underneath all of that is Democrats and the president trying to make sure the people have health care. You know, that is the side that we should be on, not, you, this sort of, "Is it right? Is it wrong? Should he be mad about it? Should he not be mad about it?" This is about making sure people can live.
Chuck Todd physically blanched at what Rawlings-Blake had to say. There was a palpable feeling of discomfort, as though the air had been sapped from the room, but this is how it feels following the physical puncturing of pomposity. David Brooks attempted some ill-thought-out football analogy that sounded convoluted and nonsensical.
Andrea Mitchell, still evidencing a sign of discomfort made an attempt to answer Rawlings-Blake.
ANDREA MITCHELL: And the challenge is, I think the goals are laudable, Mayor. And in fact, it's something that the president articulated brilliantly as an election and a reelection mantra. But this was a very tough bet. And he had an obligation, I think, to make sure that the rollout was not this disastrous, in order to achieve those goals. Because now they are at risk of losing the credibility of government as an agent of change for a generation--
Sure, they are at risk of losing the credibility of government as an agent of change and you are laughing at it because you are so sad.... Well, Rawlings-Blake would have none of it, and like a good Democrat who had been frustrated by the Republicans in Congress sabotaging of the President and cheering for failure she responded forcefully.
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Republicans are insistent, relentless pursuit of failure, standing on the sidelines, cheering for failure. You know, at the Conference of Mayors, I was just saying earlier, we have Democrats, we had Republicans, nobody's rooting against each other. We're trying to make sure that we all, we know that when cities—
ANDREA MITCHELL: And—
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: --succeed, the country succeeds. And in Congress, we have people that are standing on the sidelines, rooting for failure. We know that the rollout was botched. But Democrats are focused on trying to build and trying to fix it.
ANDREA MITCHELL: I'm just saying that—
ANDREA MITCHELL: --the president gave his opponents--
STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE: Yes.
ANDREA MITCHELL: --and can certainly make the argument that he has had this monolithic Republican opposition in Congress. I mean that's a good and valid excuse. But he gave them a weapon against them.
She continued to mutter along.... If only more Democrats would challenge these people, they would not get away with framing the narrative as often as they do. The Republicans engage in pushback all the time; that's why so many of them fear Republicans. The mayor of Baltimore was serious, forceful, eloquent, and, most of all, right.... This is how it should be done.