Journalists in the service of Pete Peterson

Press Criticism | By Kevin C. Brown |

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


David Wessel

Interviewing Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury (2012):

“I think we are in the post-denial phase of talking about the deficit, both Democrats and Republicans — [Geithner interjects, “What follows denial, anger?”] — I hope so. I think Pete Peterson hopes someday you get to [a] solution, and you’ve got a few months left in this president’s term to get there. But I think that a lot of people are wondering why anybody should believe that our polarized political system is capable of doing something that touches as many people as this. Why should we believe that this can happen?

“When you talk about fiscal issues, the one question you hear often, particularly from audiences like this, is about Bowles-Simpson. Why didn’t the president embrace Bowles-Simpson and say, ‘I don’t like all of it,’ instead of what he did. Was that a mistake?

Wessel doesn’t ask “what was wrong with Bowles-Simpson” or “why did the President accept as much of it as he did?”
Wessel couldn’t be more explicit: thank goodness that the period of denial is over; perhaps enough anger will stimulate the necessary solution that Pete Peterson hopes someday will occur.


George Will

Interviewing Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana (2011):

“The role of public employees’ unions at the state level so far — and perhaps someday at the federal level — will become a big topic of argument over their role in causing and their possible role in helping to solve the fiscal problem at the state level. What’s been your experience in Indiana?”

“You can argue, Governor, that democracies only act on difficult problems under the lash of necessity, when they have no other choice. Hitler was warned about by Churchill, but they paid no attention until they got to the channel ports. In 1983, the Greenspan-Moynahan-Dole commission reformed Social Security because the checks were about two weeks from not being able to go out. What kind of lash of necessity will it take — what catalyzing event might cause the American federal political system to act?”

Typically lopsided: Will doesn’t consider that the fiscal problem at the state level in respect to pensions to which workers are statutorily entitled has been the failure of states to make adequate annual contributions.
As with other reporters, the possibility is not acknowledged that gridlock could be the function of a significant percentage of elected officials representing a significant portion of the nation’s population resisting a series of policies that would hurt average Americans and enhance the power and privilege of the relatively well-to-do.


Judy Woodruff

Moderating a panel discussion between four members of the “Gang of Six” senators then in deficit reduction talks (2011):

“Senator Durbin, you’ve been a member of this group from the outset. How hard has it been for the six of you to sit there — three Republicans and three Democrats — to talk about these issues?”

“And Senator Warner the reason I’m asking, I want to press a little bit more on whether everything is on the table, because what one hears on the outside is that one party is implacably opposed to revenue increases; the other party implacably opposed to any sort of significant entitlement changes. So how is the dynamic inside your group any different from that?”

“Senator Durbin, are you convinced — and I’m going to ask each one of you — are you convinced that you can sell the rest of the Senate on what you come up with?”

Translation: Are we really going to have people be responsible and accept the need for change?
If there were a fuller appreciation that a Peterson-style solution might not be a good thing, there might be more questions about why the “Gang of Six” should be thought to have more wisdom than the rest of the Senate.


Interviewing Representative Paul Ryan, chair of the House Budget Committee (R-Wis.) (2012):

“You were just again, and I’ve heard you in other venues criticize President Obama for demagoguery, playing class warfare in this budget battle by wanting to increase taxes on the wealthy and minimizing cuts in entitlements. However, the question is raised: is it class warfare in reverse to talk about massive tax cuts which mainly benefit the well off, while conversely cutbacks in Medicaid, food stamps, and the rest hurt people at the lower end of the income scale?”

Another rare exception to the rule.


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