Memewatch: Savannah Guthrie, unprepared!


Rand Paul conquers Meet the Press: Last Wednesday, CNN’s Erin Burnett was unprepared.

She was unprepared for Rand Paul’s completely standard presentation about the debt limit. For our Memewatch report, click here.

Yesterday, Paul appeared on Meet the Press. He followed Jack Lew, who pretty much convinced the nation that we have little to fear from a failure to raise the debt limit.

We know, we know! Lew was trying to say the opposite. But what a horrible, narcotized spokesman! This brings us back to Paul’s appearance on Meet the Press, with Savannah Guthrie serving as substitute host.

Do we have to fear default if we don’t raise the debt limit? In truth, most people don’t know what the term “default” even means, but Guthrie made no attempt to explain it. She also saved this crucial topic for last.

At that point, Guthrie said this. All the analysts shuddered:
GUTHRIE (10/6/13): Very quickly, before I let you go, as you well know, there's a debt-ceiling vote on the horizon. Will Republicans let this country go into default?
The key words there were “very quickly.” They presaged disaster, defeat.

“Will Republicans let this country go into default?” Paul offered his party’s standard presentation on this topic:
PAUL (continuing directly): I think it's irresponsible of the president and his men to even talk about default. There's no reason for us to default. We bring in $250 billion in taxes every month. Our interest payment is $20 billion. Tell me why we would ever default. We have legislation called the Full Faith and Credit Act, and it tells the president, "You must pay the interest on the debt."

So this is a game. This is kind of like closing the World War II Memorial. They all get out on TV and they say, "Oh, we're going to default.” They're the ones scaring the marketplace. We shouldn't scare the marketplace. We should never default. There's no reason to default.
One minor note: Last Wednesday, Paul told Burnett that our interest payment is thirty billion dollars per month. Whatever!

On its face, if it goes unchallenged, this presentation may seem quite convincing. It says that the federal government receives more than enough revenue each month to avoid default, whatever that is.

Below, you see Guthrie’s response, followed by Paul’s rebuttal. By now, Guthrie is almost completely incoherent. Simply put, she isn’t prepared:
GUTHRIE (continuing directly): Let's say your plan worked and you can pay the interest on the debt and you don't have a technical default. Wouldn't there be dramatic consequences on the economy anyway? It may not be the letter of the default, but the spirit of it?

PAUL: Yeah, but look at what happened in 2011. Our credit rating was downgraded. But you know why? The reasoning they gave was because we have too much debt, that we weren't cutting enough spending. And so they downgraded us. It has to do with the big picture of how much debt we're accumulating.

It isn't so much of these deadlines that the market's worried about. The market's also worried about a $17 trillion debt and that we're not acting fiscally responsibly and we're spending more money than we bring in. That's what the market's worried about.
Guthrie seems to agree that we might be able to avoid “technical default,” whatever that more exotic creature might be. Incoherently, she even refers to “the spirit of the default,” using a phrase that has probably never been used on the planet before.

(The Nexis archives record no usage in the past five years.)

In response to this incoherence, Paul repeated familiar complaints about a pair of familiar concepts, too much spending and too much debt. After he gave his speech, Guthrie responded with this:
GUTHRIE (continuing directly): Senator Rand Paul, it's always good to talk to you. Thank you for your time, sir.
Like Burnett, Guthrie was unprepared to discuss this completely standard presentation.

This is the way our society works. Each day this week, we’ll the stars of our upper-end national “press corps” as they pretend to deal with this meme.


  1. Paul is suggesting the US pay the interest owed on its bonds, while going in arrears on the debt it owes to contractors, vendors etc.

    I'm not sure why so many people can't seem to grasp that. I'm guessing Paul understands and assumes most people haven't a clue.

    1. "I'm not sure why so many people can't seem to grasp that"

      Probably because, when confronting GOP talking heads, few if any "journalists" have the temerity to say, as a commenter suggested here over the weekend:

      "So, Congressman, you're saying you think the government should be in the business of saying "We'll pay these bills we've we've run up, but not these other ones?""

    2. Or more simply: "Senator Paul, which vendors or contractors do you suggest the Gov't not pay?"

    3. Well, first Anonymous, if that's what Paul is suggesting, according to Treasury, Treasury would be acting illegally if they followed his suggestion, and even if they legally could, it would be impossible to carry it out on a technical level (computer programs) and because of timing (per month averages are irrelevant -- cash flows vary, as you'd think business-friendly Republicans would understand). Not to mention the long-term damage created by undermining US credit. See Yglesias today. "Four Reasons Debt Ceiling Breach Means Default":

      Others have reported the same many times, even sometimes in regular newspapers. (Not that "journalist" hosts of Sunday a.m. programs ever seem to read such reports.)

      On most congress critters' (lack of) understanding of basic finance and monetary issues, I recommend this, by former rep. Brad Miller:

    4. Mch, thanks for that. One question, if that's not what he's suggested, then what IS he suggesting? Any clue?

    5. As to which vendors we should stop paying, I suggest we start with the White House chefs, the maintenance people on the military golf courses and the civilian choreographers for the military rifle twirling drill teams but you can bet those folks will never get cut one dime, even if it means no clinical trials for anything.

    6. Thank you, mch! I haven't seen any liberals say this on TV.

    7. Lionel, what did those people do, besides faithfully performing their jobs, to deserve to be stiffed? How are they supposed to cope with abrupt lack of a paycheck?

    8. Lindy,
      How about we stop their jobs? Pay them for past services and that's the end of it? Would that be OK with you? I see no good excuse or defense for the federal government spending money on White House chefs, twirling choreographers or golf courses.

      And that's the problem with the federal government or any government having more influence/power over medical care. They WILL continue funding the golf courses but we may be denied treatment. They will use medical treatment to hold us hostage to get the money to fund the golf courses.

    9. First Anonymous, I am sure you're correct about what Paul is suggesting. My "if that's what Paul is suggesting" was really just due to caution (with a bit of snark directed at Paul) because I really find much of what Paul says, in this interview and elsewhere, incomprehensible -- like a Sarah Palin word salad -- so that, even when he does seem to be making a clear statement, I'm still not confident that I have properly understood him. Btw, I think a lot of his word-salad making (in contrast to Palin's) is intentional. Lots of heat and no light as a tactic (and maybe even a strategy). It certainly makes things hard for an interviewer, even a well-prepared one (which Guthrie clearly wasn't).

    10. Lionel,

      Even you can't be seriously suggesting that Obama cook his own state dinners? Your contention that if something is not a necessity it should be eliminated makes no sense. Try applying it to your own life. Toilet paper is not a necessity (you will go on living fine without it) but should it be eliminated? There is no need to drink anything but water -- will you give up your morning coffee? If you do not provide R&R for troops, how well do you think they will function as defenders of the peace? Do you guys ever try to think about what your suggestions would actually mean in practice?

    11. Lionel is just filling this space with stupid. The Marine Corps drill team "choreographers" are a couple E-7s or E-8s who make around $50K each.

    12. Lindy,
      I looked it up. Obama's only had 6 state dinners since he took office so the chefs aren't there to cook for state dinners. State dinners are probably catered. What do the regular White House chefs do and how much are they costing us?

      JoshSN - if the choreographers are military personnel, they cost the taxpayers $140,000 each per year. I believe they are civilians, though. Whatever, if you can't cut the rifle twirling drill teams and their choreographers, you won't want to cut anything. Its waste. Same with military bands and golf courses. Those should be easy things to cut. I am surprised that there is any resistance.

    13. Lionel, you are right that the cost is a multiple of the salary.

      Why isn't it important? Because the amount of money you are talking about is so insignificant. There are BIG issues with the military, like the massive spending on the JSF or the next round of carriers. I'm talking about trillions. You are talking about millions. A trillion is a MILLION millions, so, you are worrying about things a million times less important.

    14. "so, you are worrying about things a million times less important."

      And, OF COURSE, he's dead wrong in his nut: "if you can't cut the rifle twirling drill teams and their choreographers, you won't want to cut anything"

      We've cut LOADS of expenses in the budget.

      Has Lionel heard of the sequester? Does Lionel know that the trend of budget expense to GDP under Obama now is the opposite of what it was under Bush -- that expense and deficit are trending down now, whereas they trended up under Bush?

      And, does what Lionel knows even matter?

      Can Lionel understand the difference between the budget and the debt ceiling? He keeps trying to conflate them -- a clear sign that he's either an idiot or a manipulator. If he's an idiot, can we help him? If he's a manipulator why do we waste our time with him?

    15. Anonymous 9:12AM
      The national debt has nearly doubled under Obama. Figures don't lie but liars can figure, of course. So he adds a trillion to the debt one year and only 900 billion the next year and its a 10% downward "trend."

      Rifle twirling drill teams, golf courses and military bands are just examples of the indefensible spending that goes on even with this terrible, terrible sequester.

    16. You're staring at the wrong side of the equation that makes up national debt.
      Tax revenues are DOWN SUBSTANTIALLY under Obama.
      We have a revenue, not spending, problem in this country.

    17. A revenue problem is actually a symptom, The cause is our economy operating below capacity since 2008. To paraphrase Dean Baker, prioritizing deficit reduction while de-prioritizing employment is like painting the kitchen while the house is burning down.

      The "government waste" bullshit, especially now, is the biggest scam since one-hour Martinizing.

  2. Too bad the government didn't "default" on giving Solyndra half a billion dollars.

    These contractors are happy, happy, happy to have the government's business. Either they bid on it or they got it as a sweetheart no-bid deal. They are either making good money or they see it as a constant source of income that covers their operating costs.

    The Obamacare/ACA subsidies that are at issue are certainly not "contracted" obligations. People have not even bought policies yet and the prices being quoted for policies are not firm.

    1. I guess you run a bank that never makes a bad loan? By extension, you are the richest person on Earth?

      If you want to invest in the future of America, you need to invest in green technologies. If you want to pull your head out of your ass, you'd realize not every investment is going to pan out. The loan program in question totaled 12 billion. Solyndra's 529 million is less than 5%.

    2. Solyndra was a sweetheart deal to Obama campaign contributors. You do know that Solyndra executives took the Fifth Amendment before Congress and that Obama restructured the loan to Solyndra executives' advantage AFTER it became clear the firm was in financial trouble. Look up George Kaiser, Obama fundraiser and major Solyndra investor. The restructuring subordinated the taxpayers interest to the interests of private investors. Why?

      It was corrupt, stink-on-ice corrupt.

    3. As opposed to Iraq, which was a sweetheart deal to Halliburton subsidiaries.

    4. Well, I know better than to engage in false false equivalence around TDH. But if Solyandra was a sweetheart deal to Obama campaign contributors, (like the Walton family?) the Iraq war was payback to Cheney's personal bankrollers. Nobody died at Solyandra.

    5. So you folks are fine with a $500 million pay-off to Obama's fundraiser George Kaiser, who is a billionaire? That does not offend you because Halliburton and friends of Cheney made money off the Iraq War? John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden all supported and voted for the Iraq War. Bill Clinton supported it. They all did it for personal political opportunism and the chances are they all made money on it.

      Half a billion dollars for Solyndra and trillions for the Iraq War. And no accountability for the people in the Obama administration who fast tracked that loan and then restructured it to advantage the investors over the taxpayers nor accountability for the bastards who supported the Iraq War. Imagine those people in charge of your healthcare, spreading their culture of non-accountability.

    6. Hey Lionel. Based on a guesstimate of your age I'd say THEY have been in charge of your health care for some time now.

    7. Lionel, it's only a payoff if all the money ended up in bondholder pockets. That did not happen. The company spent the money, and it failed to pay off. It had a chance, and it failed.

      It is regrettable that so many government contracts go to the well connected, and this has been a problem since before the Federalists took office in 1789. Democratic-Republicans, back in those days, tried to get away from it, while Federalists effectively said "Of course the leaders in society should run things." If we are to believe Jon Meacham, Jackson cancelled the 2nd National Bank specifically because so many loans were going to friends of Nicholas Biddle's (who just happened to be political enemies of Andrew Jackson's).

      But your attempt to make a point is even stupider than you think, since it was during George W. Bush administration that Solyndra was originally considered for this loan.

      A payoff means that money ends up in someone's pockets. I'm sure enthusiastic partisan operatives have pored over Solyndra's books, and if it had made absurd dividend payouts, or declared bankruptcy with money in the bank (in order to hand it to bondholders) they would be screaming to the high heavens.

      Instead we have you.

    8. And the Bush administration rejected the Solyndra loan, right?

      And Obama fast tracked it.

      If the investors get any of their money back it will be because of that restructuring that put them ahead of the taxpayers, right? I believe it was a unique deal to do that restructuring.

  3. When did fiscal conservatives become advocates of strategic default? Aren't they the ones who worked so hard to prevent individuals from evading debt by revising bankruptcy laws? How else can failure to pay debt be viewed than as a form of insolvency and why on earth wouldn't that be viewed negatively by the world financial community? Withholding money as a political manipulation exists only in the minds of certain Republicans. Everyone else views it as instability and irresponsibility. The biggest reason for paying debts is that you might want to borrow again sometime in the future. Who is going to seek a govt job, contract, or contribute to govt in other ways if the govt can at any moment not fulfill its commitments?

    1. What debts aren't being paid?

      The government routinely delays payments to private contractors and they are still happy for the business. They don't operate like your credit card that incurs a late fee and escalating interest charges.

      Its also routine for Congress not to fund every thing that's passed into law.

    2. Read the Slate piece Lionel and get back to us.

    3. Or, like Warner Wolf used to say, "let's go to the videotape."

      In this case, the SNL skit on John Boehner:

    4. cacambo,
      No, I'm not going to read a Slate piece; that is hardly a credible outfit. Please let me know exactly what it is you are referring to and I will certainly get back to you.

    5. Lionel said: "The government routinely delays payments to private contractors and they are still happy for the business..." Define routinely... anyway, if you read FAR and the PPA as amended in 1989 (i think) you'll note that if the gov't's payment is delayed, the gov't needs to pay the contractor interest. So aside from it's other issues, your plan could end up costing the Gov't more than a few chefs and golf courses in interest.

      Importantly, when there are payment delays it is caused either by an internal scewup i.e., failure to process payments (which is very rare and incurs interest) or when the gov't feels the work/product supplied is lacking (in which case interest is not owed).

      Delays are never caused by the gov't just simply saying "yeah, we're just not going to pay you as we're contractually obligated to do." The reason this has never happened is because we're not a banana republic, despite Paul's best efforts to imply otherwise.

    6. Lindy,

      The Republican Party platform states it doesn't want to pay for certain things. If, for example, it can pass a large number of small funding bills, it can effectively bankroll the programs it likes while utterly gutting all the stuff it doesn't (EPA, Ed).

    7. That is "the power of the purse." Its not something the current Republicans thought up by themselves.

  4. It's Monday afternoon. Where's our Free Drum?

  5. Rand Paul is a real tool. But, he's an elected tool, thanks to the dear sweet voters of Kentucky. But wait. Those numb nuts keep sending mealy-mouthed MItch McConnell to the Senate too. Maybe there's something in the water there.....

    As to Savannah Guthrie...she's no bimbo. She's what might be called "book smart" (she was the high scorer on the 2002 Arizona bar exam). But she's not the sharpest tack in the pack.

    At the link below, one can find her 2012 interview with President Obama on education. It's truly pathetic. Guthrie has no command of the topic whatsoever. Worse, she simply repeats the "conventional wisdom" on education reform.

    In three of her first four questions to Obama, Guthrie presents the unions are evil mantra. She suggests to teachers unions are "slowing the pace of reform." The "reform" she's talking about is more testing, and teacher pay tied to test scores. Does this woman never actually read any research on education? Not likely.

    Guthrie also repeats the PISA math/science test score nonsense spewed by our "talented, privileged Amanda Ripley. Guthrie cites average PISA score rankings of 15-year-olds and asks, "are we getting or money's worth?" Then she says that Obama's Race to the Top grant program – a sort of No Child Left Behind on steroids – "really broke decades of stagnation," and asks the president, "why not more competition?' Psst, Savanna. You're dead wrong about the "decades of stagnation" thing. Try doing your homework. And that "competition" bit? If it's so good, and effective, then why do big corporations hate it so much (think, for example, Microsoft)? And how well did that "competition" thing work when Wall Street was turned loose with mortgage derivatives and credit default swaps?

    Naturally, that was territory that Samantha Guthrie (and the "talented", Privileged Amanda Ripley) dare not tread.

    And for all this, what do we get? A nice face that gets a very hefty annual salary. But not much more.

    1. Some say BOB is a small child pointing out the Emperor has no clothes.

      Others say he is a grumpy old man ranting naked in the streets himself.

      Still others praise him for his socks.


    2. "And for all this, what do we get? A nice face that gets a very hefty annual salary. But not much more."

      Well, as loyal Bob tribalists have known, you do get one more thing.

      Namely, the opportunity to feel superior to and to look smugly down your noses at a nice (female, too) face that gets a hefty annual salary.

      I'm beginning to wonder if there is a young(ish) female journalist out there somewhere of whom Somerby would approve.

    3. "As to Savannah Guthrie...she's no bimbo. She's what might be called "book smart" (she was the high scorer on the 2002 Arizona bar exam). But she's not the sharpest tack in the pack."

      I don't think you have to be outstandingly "smart" or remarkably "sharp" to be a solid reporter or interviewer for programs like these Sunday morning spectacles. You need only enough smarts to have learned how to do research and how to exercise some basic tools of critical thinking. Then -- and here's where I think people like Guthrie completely miss the boat -- you need to do that research (which may involve relying in part on reports others have prepared for you) and to exercise those critical tools. If you prepare well and properly for an interview, you still have various challenges to meet in the course of the interview, but you will be in a better position to meet them. Great interviewers (Terry Gross, say, or Bill Moyers) have still other talents; I'm just talking baseline here.

      I don't see any of these Sunday morning interviewers preparing properly or well. That's why (along with their silly panels) these shows make for such wonderful satirical summaries (Charlie Pierce's, the cite Atrios links to, the ones Jason Linkins used to do). I haven't watched one of these shows in years. I just wait for whatever real news stories might come out of them -- and, of course, I read the satire.

  6. OMB (Next on Memewatch: Nattering Nabobs of Nexisism)

    What???!!! No Spirit of Default on Nexis? Holy Unpreparedness, BOBman!

    How about:

    "spirit of those elusive rules that govern the subatomic world"

    "spirit of Serious culture"

    "spirit of loathing"

    "bold spirit of energy, innovation, and unlimited possibilities"

    or Zarkon's personal favorite:

    "undead spirit of the old (Civil War)"

    Can you find these gems? Or do you come up with squat or squadoosh?

    Well, she may be unprepared, that Ms. Guthrie. But at least she's not a hapless half wit, like Ms. Burnett, eh BOB? Or a nutty bad person.

    KZ (Smells like Teen Spirit for a Thousand, Alec)

  7. My favorite question was when Savannah asked Rand if he felt any responsibility of guilt for Republicans' part in the current foofaraw. Rand hesitated, and for a moment I thought (hoped) he would say something like, "What kind of a crazy, f***ing question is that?" But instead he merely launched into his prepared speech.

    If that's the kind of question we can expect from the nation's top journalists, we might as well have Dr. Phil in there -- although Judge Judy would be my preference.

  8. A compromise position.
    We will pay all debts incurred by republicans.
    We will default on all debts incurred by democrats. (Bill Clinton is exempt; he ran a surplus).
    War in Iraq. War in Afghanistan.. No biggee. Pay up.
    White House Chefs? Golf courses? Default.

    Lionel, you may not be dumb, but you sure are stupid.


  9. The Obama campaign has no qualms about leaving bills unpaid for years. E.g., see and

    1. Of course, there's no story too off-topic that DAinCA won't misunderstand as long that story appeals to his ignorant prejudices.

      These are demands for payments from public officials to a private party, namely Obama's campaign, mostly for the costs of security for rallies, including paying cops. These bills may be reasonable. Or not. Campaigns routinely pay them, including Obama's, but they're not contractual. Public officials cannot demand payment for public, political assemblies. See one of the earlier entries in the Bill of Rights. If you hit guns, you've gone too far.

      Local security costs associated with Presidential visits are not the responsibility of the President or his campaign organization.

      You got to portray Obama in a bad light. Feel better now? Just realize that these stories are not part of the threatened national default on salaries, contracts for goods and services, and bond-holder's interest.

  10. This is an article calling for withdrawal from DMZ bases in Korea. Theres another article on g2mil about a general recently admitting taking a $3,000 "gift" from a South Korean. His explanation was that the South Korean was a "personal friend" - a personal friend who spoke no English and with whom he communicated using hand and arm signals.

    Most of the fabulous wasteful spending goes completely unchallenged. There would be much less of it if they were constantly needled about small things. Give them an inch and they will take a mile.

    1. Here's the real problem.

      Wasteful spending - what a crock!


  11. المنارة هي أهم الشركات المتخصصة في التنظيف الشامل على مستوى الإمارات المتحدة تقدم خدمات ذات مستوى عاليبجودة منقطعة النظير فهي عنوان للتميز والرقي حيث أن سياسة شركة تنظيف منازل فى الشارقة في جميع تفاصيلها تهدف إلى إرضاء العميل وتوفير جميع السبل المساعدة على ذلك .
    شركة تنظيف فى الشارقة
    شركة نظافة فى الشارقة
    شركة تنظيف بالشارقة

    شركة تنظيف موكيت بالبخار بالشارقة

    تنظيف السجاد بالبخار فى الشارقة
    تنظيف بالبخار فى الشارقة
    شركات تنظيف المنازل فى الشارقة
    شركة تنظيف فلل فى الشارقة
    شركات تنظيف المبانى فى الشارقة
    شركة تنظيف شقق فى الشارقة