Journalists in the service of Pete Peterson

Press Criticism | By Kevin C. Brown |

Place your cursor over highlighted text to see observations and critique.


Maria Bartiromo

Interviewing Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chair of the House budget committee (2011):

“This plan did not talk about Social Security, restructuring Social Security. You’ve talked about it before, but it is not part of this plan. I wonder if you had dealt with Social Security that perhaps you would not have to have some of the other spending cuts that you are talking about — on education, food stamps, cutting services on the people who desperately need those services.”

Bartiromo only imagines playing different programs off one another.


Tom Brokaw

Interviewing former President Bill Clinton (2012):

“We seem to be moving to more deeper and deeper into the extreme poles, and leaving out the mass of the people. How can you activate that group that does want to do the responsible thing? Should there be some kind of an extraordinary coalition that goes beyond Simpson–Bowles that becomes a political movement in this election year, and says, in effect, we are linking arms and saying to these two candidates: ‘we want something done that is realistic and we want it done urgently.’”

Brokaw indulges in two fantasies here: that cutting spending is responsible and that he knows that the “mass of people” actually want to take that route.
Simpson-Bowles is his starting point; the issue is how do you give that “sensible” center enough political muscle to impose its view.
The classic code: adults know that wanting to maintain a robust safety net is just not possible.


Erin Burnett

Interviewing John Boehner (R-Ohio), speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (2012):

“One final question, and this goes to sort of, I think, the frustration so many Americans feel about the political process right now. You’ve been doing this for 22 years, and a lot of people have talked about you wanting to have a legacy, to make a difference, to go out and have this on John Boehner’s name. Do you think that democracy is part of the problem? That in a democracy people are always going to vote for more things, they are never going to vote to take them away. Now the payroll tax is down; good luck ever having it go back to the way it was. Good luck with a lot of these things. Is democracy going to be what sends us over the cliff?”

If you allow power to be in the hands of the people, they’re just going to act like children. Isn’t there some other alternative?


John F. Harris

Moderating a discussion on “Finding the Political Will to Act,” between and among Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio); Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.); Kathleen Hall Jamieson, public policy professor, University of Pennsylvania; and Patricia Murphy, political journalist, Daily Beast (2012):

To Kathleen Hall Jamieson:
“Is there an answer — is it a pox on both your houses – or is one component of this more responsible for the 2011 failure to get a grand bargain? Democratic intransigence over spending or Republican intransigence over taxation — both equally to blame or would you say in the current political dynamic one of those components is more?”

Harris treats it as self-evident that getting a “grand bargain” would have been a good thing, and thus the questioning proceeds from within that limited premise.

To Patricia Murphy:
“We heard President Clinton here say, you know what I think that the — I’m paraphrasing here, but I think fairly — that the stars might be aligned after [the] election, perhaps in a lame duck session after the election or early in 2013, and you hear this line a lot, the argument being that enough factors are converging – the debt limit runs out, the tax cuts expire, the sequestration measures go into effect, in particularly at the Department of Defense in a big way – what is your guess? Is there a grand bargain to be had late in 2012 or early in 2013 that eluded Washington in 2011?”

Ever hopeful.


Gwen Ifill

Participating in 2010 and 2011:

Not apparently caught within Peterson frame.


Ezra Klein

Moderating a panel discussion featuring David Brooks, columnist, New York Times; former Senator Alan Simpson, co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (Bowles-Simpson commission); David Cote, chairman and chief executive officer of Honeywell and member of Bowles-Simpson commission; Tamara Draut, vice president of policy and research, Demos; and Megan McArtle, business and economics editor, The Atlantic (2011):

To Alan Simpson:
[Klein is referring to the Bowles-Simpson proposal that the Social Security retirement age be increased.] “One of the interesting — I don’t want to call it a disconnect — but tensions, is that when you poll very specifically on things like Social Security, you do begin to see a bit of a gap open up between sort of people in DC, particularly policy folks in DC, and the public. When you directly poll the public and ask them would you prefer to see Social Security or Medicare, their spending gaps or revenue gaps closed through tax increases or raising retirement age and doing a similar benefit cut, tax increases tend to dominate those polls. But in Washington you have a real sort of affection, or, I think, it is almost a consensus position that raising the retirement age makes sense. And what worries me when I look at that is that in Washington, it seems to me, that people want to work long past the retirement age, they like their jobs, they like what they do. You pretty much have to carry people out of the U.S. Senate. Conversely, in the country people don’t retire at age 65, they retire at age 62, they retire on average immediately.  So do you think that there is a difference between — a significant difference, if you really sit down and explain it to people — between what the public would like to do on entitlements and what elites would like to do entitlements?”

An exception to the rule: Imagining that there can be a difference (and that the elites may not be right).
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