CNN actually put this lunacy on the air: Republicans have been complaining about the budget deal Obama offered last week.
Guest hosting for Anderson Cooper last Friday, Ashleigh Banfield conducted a long and crazy discussion of Obama's proposal. Since she never really explained what Obama has proposed, we’ll give you Paul Krugman’s description:
“As his opening bid in negotiations, Mr. Obama has proposed raising about $1.6 trillion in additional revenue over the next decade, with the majority coming from letting the high-end Bush tax cuts expire and the rest from measures to limit tax deductions. He would also cut spending by about $400 billion, through such measures as giving Medicare the ability to bargain for lower drug prices.”
As noted, Banfield never offered any such description in her long, remarkable segment. That said, her performance was so bizarre we thought it should be memorialized.
As she started, Banfield basically failed to explain what Obama had proposed. Instead, she introduced her key talking point—the idea that Republicans feel “insulted” by his absurd proposal:
BANFIELD (11/30/12): In "Raw Politics:" With the country one day closer to the fiscal cliff, President Obama took his case to the public today. He used an event in Pennsylvania to ratchet up the pressure on Republicans to freeze taxes for the middle class while allowing the tax rates on the wealthy to go up.For her first guest, Banfield interviewed Republican congressman Lee Terry, who had spoken colorfully about the political fix his party finds itself in. She spoke to no Democratic pols.
OBAMA (videotape): If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on January 1. That's sort of like the lump of coal you get for Christmas. That's a Scrooge Christmas.
BANFIELD: Hmm. In other words, the day after the White House puts its opening bid on the table, the president comes out swinging. That opening bid didn't have a whole lot of concessions in it to the Republicans, and the Republicans reacted as many would have predicted. They were mad, basically saying that that offer was an insult.
In her opening question for Terry, Banfield made a startling suggestion. Maybe the GOP will have to play the “debt ceiling” card again!
BANFIELD: I love it when politicians talk from the hip, especially using colorful language like “we're screwed either way.” But I don't understand what you mean, because as I see it, there's still this extraordinarily powerful tool called the debt ceiling and y’all [sic] have to be on board for that. So how do you not see that as a good tactic for negotiating?Ever so casually, Banfield suggested that the GOP should threaten to default on the debt once again. To his credit, Terry quickly moved away from this idea. Weirdly, this was Banfield’s final plea to the congressman:
BANFIELD: I hope y’all [sic] can come to some consensus because you’re costing me money as I sit here and everybody else watching us. And I think a lot of people are pretty frustrated with the people we’re electing to do something big and bold. Come on! Negotiate!We don’t know what that highlighted statement meant. To watch Banfield’s session with Terry, you can just click this.
Now it was time for Banfield’s “political panel,” Paul Begala and Mary Matalin. To watch the bulk of that segment, click here.
Banfield spoke with Begala first. As she did, her point of view became increasingly clear:
BANFIELD: Paul, let me begin with you. This feels by most reporting to be a bit of an unfair offer, given the wholesale rejection, and even Mitch McConnell's purview, the comity of it. Is this a wise decision, to come at the Republicans with something that is so unacceptable right off the bat?According to Banfield, “this feels by most reporting to be a bit of an unfair offer!” As she neared the end of her chat with the old Clinton hand, she challenged him thusly:
BANFIELD: Paul, where are the overtures, though? Where were the overtures with this deal that was presented to the Republicans? I mean, listen, you don’t have to be Mensa to know that delivering a deal like that was going to make Mitch McConnell laugh. Where were the overtures from the Democrats?Now it was time for a chat with Matalin—and for Banfield’s weirdest statements. As she closed her discussion with Begala, Banfield explained how she could tell that Obama's offer was just insultingly wrong:
BANFIELD: Mary is shaking her head. And you know what? I am shaking my head, too. Listen, I’ve traveled enough in the Far East to know you bargain appropriately with respect. You don't come in knowing that something's laughable.No, we didn’t make that up. Due to her travels in the Far East, Banfield could tell that Obama's proposal was disrespectful. It was no bad, the GOP can't even present a counter-offer!
BEGALA: I don't travel in the Far East! You think people should just give up on their principles and the things that they campaigned on?
BANFIELD: No, but I think you do have to bargain from a position of respect.
Mary, is this something that was so disrespectful that you can't even counter, Republicans can't even counter-bargain here?
In reply, Matalin admitted that she herself “was offended and felt disrespected yesterday,” when Obama made his proposal. After that, Banfield signed off with one last oddball remark:
BANFIELD: I will recommend that maybe Raoul Felder get into this and start bargaining some kind of settlement, because this is intransigence like I have seen before.Banfield has been all through the Far East. But Obama’s proposal represents intransigence like she’s never seen!
Mary Matalin, Paul Begala, it's always a pleasure. Thank you both.
This is a nation of more than three hundred million souls. Plus, there’s Canada, from which Banfield hails, despite her histrionic “y’alls” when talking to Terry. There’s also England, where our news orgs go to procure their most erratic performers.
Given the talent pool at their disposal, it’s astounding to see the types of discussions our news orgs will put on the air.