Joan Walsh added a bit of sanity to the Sunday morning bobblehead lineup when she called out Mitch McConnell for his Frank Luntz talking point that wa
April 26, 2010

Joan Walsh added a bit of sanity to the Sunday morning bobblehead lineup when she called out Mitch McConnell for his Frank Luntz talking point that was so bad that even the mainstream media finally had to acknowledge it. As Paul Krugman said, it was "Possibly the Most Dishonest Argument' 'In the History of Politics'".

Joan has more on the interview at Salon: Another Sunday, another Republican lie:

The Republican Party seems to have a new strategy for the Sunday shows: Use them to float the week's big political lie. Last Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell used his slot on CNN's "State of the Union" to claim the Democratic bank reform bill would commit the federal government to future "bailouts" of toxic banks, when in fact the bill outlines a new process to place such banks in bankruptcy, not bail them out. The proposed $50 billion fund to restructure such banks was called "a bailout fund," when in fact it is funded by fees on big banks, not the government. On CNN's "Reliable Sources" this week, there was broad agreement that this false storyline didn't work with the media.

This Sunday, GOP leaders tried again. Today's message: Democrats are playing politics by proposing comprehensive immigration reform in the wake of Arizona's likely unconstitutional racial profiling law. Sen. Lindsay Graham got the storyline rolling with a histrionic letter to John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, pulling out of a press conference where they were set to announce bipartisan climate change legislation, because Sen. Harry Reid announced the Senate will take up immigration reform as well. “Moving forward on immigration — in this hurried, panicked manner — is nothing more than a cynical political ploy,” Graham wrote. Read on...

Transcript via CNN.

KURTZ: Joan Walsh, the liberal view, coming back to this question about the bank bailouts in the Democratic legislation, is that the Republicans are lying about this. But journalists are reluctant to accuse politicians of lying, aren't they?

JOAN WALSH: They are, but the truth is they are lying, Howie, because there is a bill. It has language.

It prohibits bailouts. It throws these companies, should this happen again, into bankruptcy. And I think the Democrats kind of got a break because journalists are doing their job and saying, wait, Mitch McConnell, you can use bailout all you want. Frank Luntz provided the word; it's a lovely word. It simply isn't true.

So, I'm with Chrystia. I'm actually impressed by the job that journalists have done, apart from ideology, just saying, you know what? It isn't a bailout. And you can say it all you want, but I think they have come through.

KURTZ: I think that's less clear in the television coverage.

But, Amy Holmes, is the press giving short shrift to legitimate arguments being made by the Republicans? You worked on the Hill.

AMY HOLMES: I think that there's been this back and forth, and it's really hard to sort of tease out what is the truth of it. I would be -- I would hesitate to say that Republicans are lying about the questions of moral hazard. But I think you raise a really interesting and important point in the coverage, which is print versus television.

And television is where you get the food fights, and that's where you get the partisanship. And in print, yes, you get these arcane terms -- collateralized debt and derivatives -- and that the average person maybe doesn't know a whole lot about. But on TV --

KURTZ: But you have more space to explain in print.

HOLMES: Yes. And I think that the press actually was thrown a big break on this, that it did become political, it did become a question about Capitol Hill, and you could talk about the timing. The timing, say, of the SEC Filing the lawsuit with Goldman Sachs and was it political, while President Obama is trying to push financial reform -- financial regulation reform. And so for that inside-the-beltway crowd that doesn't necessarily know all of these business terms, they were able to approach this story from a political angle.

KURTZ: Let me go back --

FREELAND: I agree.

KURTZ: Go ahead, Chrystia.

FREELAND: Could I just jump in quickly?

KURTZ: Please.

FREELAND: I agree with Amy. And for me, that was the one big flaw in the coverage.

I think that there is a real temptation, if you find the actual issues at stake to be overly complicated, to not bother to try to understand them and to cover this stuff purely as a political horse race. And insofar as I would have a critique of the coverage, it would be too much horse race, not enough effort to really explain issues which, sure, are complicated, but actually have real bearing on everyone's lives, as 2008 illustrated. Right?

KURTZ: Go ahead, Amy.

HOLMES: Sure. And I would point out, too, that conservatives looking at this coverage say what about Freddie and Fannie, and what about their role in all of this? That while it may be sort of a discrete story about financial regulation and these particular banking firms, there is a larger context.

KURTZ: Joan Walsh, when Mitch McConnell gets 41 Republican senators, which is to say all the Republican senators, to sign a letter objecting to the bill, why shouldn't the press say they're being partisan?

WALSH: Well, they were being partisan. I mean, the facts were pretty clear here. There was no bailout. There is no bailout in this bill.

And Mitch McConnell pulled his people together for this letter, but then they started peeling off. I mean, I think this whole strategy blew up in Mitch McConnell's face.

But you're right. I think that especially television is very geared towards treating this as a horse race, covering the politics, doing he said/she said kind of coverage. And that's problematic. But I really do think that this week, it blew up in Mitch McConnell's face, and that the coverage ultimately had to get to the bottom of, are there bailouts in the bill or not? And if not, why are they saying this?

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