I have to say, I've been really disappointed with the job This Week's Christiane Armanpour's been doing so far. Not that she's awful, because she's not (I mean, it's nowhere near as painful as watching the purring, declawed David Gregory give right-wingers a tongue bath), it's just that she's so smart, I thought she'd be a tougher interview than she is.
In this particular case, she seems far too easily distracted from the point: Namely, that the Republican economic policies are what destroyed the economy and drove up the deficit. I daresay the average C&L reader could have responded better to McConnell's cheerful lies.
I know network types think they have to walk the line between aggressive journalism ("aggressive" being a relative thing for Sunday morning shows) and ticking off the political figures so badly that they boycott the show, but I hope she amps it up a bit. Because if all she wants to do is allow politicians of either party recite unthinking talking points, even more people will be turning off and going online instead:
AMANPOUR: Thank you for joining us.
MCCONNELL: Glad to be here.
AMANPOUR: You heard what David Axelrod said about the Republican plan on extending all the Bush-era tax cuts and that it would really, you know, put the country more in hock. Analysts say that'll cause, you know, add some $4 trillion or so to the national debt. Are you really going to do that? Or do you think there would be a compromise on extending the middle-class tax cuts?
MCCONNELL: Well, let's understand what we're talking about here. This has been the tax rate for a decade. We're talking about raising taxes in the middle of a recession. And most economists think that's the worst thing you could do. The president himself was saying that was the worst thing you could do a year-and-a-half ago.
AMANPOUR: So do...
MCCONNELL: Raising taxes in the middle of a recession is a particularly bad idea, and Republicans don't think that's what we ought to do.
AMANPOUR: So do you not think you really, quote, unquote, "hold the middle-class tax cuts hostage" to all the tax cuts you want to...
MCCONNELL: Well, nothing's being held hostage to anything. It was the Democrats themselves who decided not to have this debate.
AMANPOUR: But would you compromise on that, even after the election?
MCCONNELL: I -- I was the only one who offered a bill. There was never a bill in the Senate. And you know why? Thirty-one Democrats in the House, five Democrats in the Senate said they agreed with me, that we ought not to raise taxes in the middle of a recession.
What might happen down the road is not the subject today. The question is, do we want to raise taxes in the middle of a very, very tough economy? All the Republicans think that's a bad idea, and a substantial number of the Democrats think the same thing.
AMANPOUR: Right, but there's also this huge thing that the people of the United States are worried about, and that is the deficit.
Well no, Christine, that's a Villager concern. And the Tea Party's. The rest of us are drowning in the economic tsunami, and trying to keep our heads above water.
AMANPOUR: And adding -- keeping the tax cuts will add trillions to that. And let me ask you this. According to Howard Gleckman at the Tax Policy Center -- let's see what he's just written -- "McConnell would have to abolish all the rest of the government to get a balance by 2020, everything. No more national parks, no more NIH, no more highway construction, no more homeland security, oh, and no more Congress."
MCCONNELL: Let me tell you...
AMANPOUR: So where would you...
MCCONNELL: Let me tell you how I'd reduce the deficit. There are two things you need to do. Number one, you need to get spending down, and number two, we need to get the economy going.
MCCONNELL: Everything that's happened in the last year-and-a-half has been to pump up the government. We borrowed stimulus money. We spent it to hire new federal government workers. We sent it down to states so they would not have to lay off state workers. You have to get the economy going.
That's the way you narrow the deficit. You get the economy going. You get government spending down. Throw a tax increase in there, and we're going to have this recession go on who knows how long.
This would have been a good time to point out that since economists say what we have is a demand problem, keeping government workers employed and spending money does keep the economy going. I mean, do private sector employers pay their employees with special magic money, with STP-like qualities? Instead, you let McConnell steer the conversation back to standard GOP talking points:
AMANPOUR: But you're still not saying where the big, big cuts would come from, because some of the things you're thinking about...
MCCONNELL: Well, let me give you an example of something...
AMANPOUR: ... I mean, would it be Social Security or Medicare, Medicaid? Would it be the defense?
MCCONNELL: Let me give you an example of something we've done already. Senate Republicans offered to freeze the top line on next year's appropriations at essentially what we spent this year. The difference between that and what the president asked for over a 10-year period would be $300 billion.
With regard to the entitlements, the president has appointed a deficit reduction commission. I've appointed three members to it. John Boehner has appointed three members to it. They're going to report in December and make a recommendation about what we might do about our -- our long-term unfunded liabilities. We'll wait and see what they recommend, but hopefully it'll be something that'd be supported on a bipartisan basis.
Christiane, you should have been on that "unfunded liabilities" line like white on rice. Social Security is not unfunded. Republicans stole the money and left IOUs in the form of U.S. treasury bonds. Is McConnell telling the world that U.S. bonds are worthless? That would have been quite a news story.
AMANPOUR: So all of -- all of this comes into the Pledge for America, which was announced this week, a platform for future governing by the -- by the Republicans. Now, many people say that it's simply more of the same. You've obviously heard a lot of that over the last couple of days, that there's basically nothing new. And whether they're left, right or center, people are complaining that, in fact, it doesn't go far enough, particularly for the -- the very enthusiastic Tea Party base that you have.
So, for instance, Erick Erickson has written about this pledge. "It's full of mom-tested, kid-approved pabulum that will make certain hearts on the right sing in solidarity. But like a diet full of sugar, it would actually do nothing but keep making Washington fatter before we crash from the sugar high."
How are you going to -- well, you're laughing.
You know what? If someone quoted Erick Erickson to me, I'd laugh, too.
MCCONNELL: Well, any time you do anything in public life, somebody criticizes it. Go ahead. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to...
AMANPOUR: No, that's all right. But I want to ask you, how will you satisfy the -- the base, which seems to be, really, in insurrection now, the Tea Party? Would you -- would you agree that they're...
MCCONNELL: Yes, let me tell you what...
AMANPOUR: ... cascading into your space?
MCCONNELL: Let me tell you what everybody agrees on, everybody agrees on. The primaries are over, and we all agree we want to go out and beat the Democrats November 2nd.
MCCONNELL: So there's all kinds of energy in the Republican Party or people who are inclined to vote Republican. The Tea Party people are not all Republicans, some independents. But one thing we know about everybody who's been active in this movement, we know none of them are going to go out and vote Democrat on November 2nd.
We may have some internal differences about various parts, but everybody knows who's been in charge of the government for the last year-and-a-half.
MCCONNELL: Everybody knows who's been in charge of the government for the last year-and-a-half. The Democrats have had the White House, they've had a huge margin in the House, a big margin in the Senate, and they know that if they want to save America, they've got to change the Congress, and that's going to happen on November 2nd.
AMANPOUR: Well, as you know, the -- the recession was declared over. There's no recession, and maybe will say that, you know, they stopped it from going into a Great Depression, and that they inherited this -- this...
MCCONNELL: But, Christiane...
AMANPOUR: ... situation. But let me ask you this. You say you want to go out and win in November. I want to play for you something that Tom Ross, the chairman of the Republican Party in Delaware, said to me on this program right after Christine O'Donnell, the Tea Party candidate, won in that last primary in Delaware. Let's -- let's just play what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROSS: We had a candidate that was very close to becoming the next United States senator from Delaware, and essentially people on our own team clipped him right as he was about to go on the goal line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Right. So that's Mike Castle, who they thought would win that -- that election come November. Now, he's basically saying perhaps not. So how do you square that? I mean, do you think these Tea Party candidates will be good for you in November?
MCCONNELL: Look, there are 12 places now, right now, where there's a Democratic senator where our candidate is either a little bit behind, dead even, or well ahead: California, Washington, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Indiana, North Dakota, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Connecticut, West Virginia. We're competitive in a lot of places.
Will we win them all? Who knows? The Delaware primary was interesting, a new candidate, fresh face. I think she's got a good chance of winning.
AMANPOUR: I mean, she definitely wasn't your candidate. I mean, basically, they -- one would way that the -- the Republicans...
MCCONNELL: You've picked out one Senate race.
AMANPOUR: No, no, no, no, many...
MCCONNELL: I just gave you 12 places where we have a chance of being Democrats.
AMANPOUR: Even -- even in your own state. And I want to ask you, actually, what are the qualifications are -- do these people have? For instance, what is Christine O'Donnell's qualification for actually governing? What is Sharron Angle's actual qualification for governing?
MCCONNELL: Well, they won the primary fair and square against real competition, and they emerged as the nominee. And Sharron Angle is running no worse than dead even against the majority leader of the Senate. I think that's pretty significant.
AMANPOUR: And you're not -- are you not afraid that they might be a turnoff...
MCCONNELL: Am I afraid of having more Republicans in the Senate? Of course not.
AMANPOUR: No, that wasn't the question. The question is, are you not afraid that their somewhat, one would say, some might say, bizarre statements, their sort of fringe quality might actually turn people off? I mean, for instance, what do you say about a Sharron Angle, who I know you just had a fundraiser for, who basically talks about enemies in Congress and talks -- and hints about, you know, armed rebellion to put them down? I mean, is that the kind of talk from a United States senator?
MCCONNELL: You know what most Americans think is extreme?
"Hitler!" Sorry, couldn't restrain myself. Amanpour almost, almost gets there with this question -- but not quite. Because here's the real issue: "By supporting these candidates, aren't you also putting the stamp of approval on their extreme positions?" But she didn't ask that.
AMANPOUR: No, I'm asking you that question.
MCCONNELL: Well, I know.
MCCONNELL: I'm going to answer it. I'm going to answer it. What most Americans think is extreme is the kind of government we've been running for the last year-and-a-half. We've seen the government taken over banks, insurance companies, car companies, nationalizing the student loan business. We're on a path to double the national debt in five years and triple it in 10.
Most Americans think what's been happening around here for the last year-and-a-half is extreme, and they want to change it. And they know that the way to change it is to change the Congress, because you don't get to make policy unless you get elected.
AMANPOUR: But you didn't tell me what you think about those kinds of comments from people who want to be, you know, a senator. I mean, it's kind of bizarre, don't you agree?
MCCONNELL: I don't think the people of Nevada should be attacked for the choice they made in the primary. And the candidate is running dead even with the majority leader of the United States Senate. Obviously, the people of Nevada think that she's a very good candidate or she wouldn't be running even with someone of such power and significance.
AMANPOUR: Do you think there will be more bipartisan compromise when they come in or less?
MCCONNELL: I think the way to get bipartisan compromise is to not have one side have an overwhelming majority. And the American people know that if they're frustrated with this administration, it won't change on November 2nd. The president will still be there for at least two more years. But they can take the first step toward moving this government back toward the political center, and maybe even a little bit right of center, if there's a very good election.
AMANPOUR: Senator Mitch McConnell, thank you very much for joining me.
MCCONNELL: Thank you.