In its continued campaign to virtually ignore Sen. Ted Cruz‘ (R-TX) crusade against Obamacare, the cable news media hid Cruz in plain sight on several Sunday political talk shows, including CNN’s State of the Union. During his interview with Dana Bash, Cruz delivered a devastatingly accurate media critique that, in truly meta fashion, applied most fittingly to the interview he was in the middle of giving.
As a liberal who does not support the repeal of Obamacare, there is not much that I agree with Ted Cruz about, but during his interview with Dana Bash Sunday morning, the Texas Senator delivered a blisteringly accurate critique of the media’s coverage, both of the government shutdown and the policy difference that caused it. As a news consumer, I could not agree more with Cruz.
Bash was pressing Cruz on the political effects of the shutdown, particularly with regard to fundraising. “Some colleagues think that’s what this was about,” Bash said. “This was a ruse to raise money for this group, and others, in order to take out your fellow Republicans.”
Cruz replied, “You know, Dana, it is amazing how many people in Washington want to focus on politics, at the expense of all else.”
As if on cue, Bash cut in, “Do you deny that? Is that not true?”
“It’s nonsense,” Cruz said, and added that such accusations are an attempt to “change the topic. What they don’t want to talk about is Obamacare. They don’t want to talk about the substance of Obamacare.”
Cruz was reading the minds of anyone who had watched the rest of Bash’s interview, which featured exacty zero questions about the policy, no matter how hard Cruz tried to shake one loose.
“They don’t want to talk about all the small business that are not expanding because of Obamacare and all the young people who can’t get jobs because of Obamacare, all people forced into part time work, African-American teenagers, single moms. They don’t want to talk about people all over this country…”
Cruz is exactly right, in that any news consumer, right, left, or center, would hear that passage and say to themselves, “Yes, I want to be informed about all of the businesses that aren’t expanding, and people being forced into part-time work, or, as Cruz would claim a few moments later, the skyrocketing premiums and jobs being killed, and this special exemption for Congress he’s speaking of.
Instead of asking him about any of that, Bash cut in to say “You made a lot of money — was it a moneymaking enterprise?”
“Not remotely,” Cruz replied, although raising money is not mutually exclusive to achieving policy goals.
“Listen, this is a deliberate strategy,” he continued. “The strategy in Washington is to launch personal attacks, and to encourage the media to do what a lot of folks in the media like to do, which is cover this like it’s a Hollywood gossip column. This politician versus this politician, who’s up? Who’s down? Who’s mad?”
“Sir, you’re the one that is starting to choose sides against your own colleagues,” Bash said.
Cruz went on to make several more substantive claims about the Affordable Care Act, then said “I understand you want to draw me into the back and forth with other Republican senators. That’s fun to cover. I’m not interested in playing that game.”
Ironically, even when it came to the Hollywood gossip aspect of the interview, Bash couldn’t get that right, either.
Set aside, for the moment, whether or not you think Ted Cruz would gain from that sort of substantial coverage (I believe he would not), what he is calling for is exactly the right thing: media coverage that informs the public, in the interest of the public. Throughout their interview, Ted Cruz made substantive claim after substantive claim, yet Dana Bash elected to ask him not a single question about any of them. Here’s what she asked instead:
- “What a rousing reception that you got from the women, the Republican Women’s Convention that we were just at.”
- “Obviously the reason it was so startling to somebody who came from Washington is to see the very big difference between the reception you’re getting here at home and in Washington.”
- “But does that — what does that tell you, when you come home and you get applause and you get a standing ovation and you get people treating you with such reverence, as opposed to the other things they’re talking back in DC?”
- “Are you planning on doing this again January 15th, when the current bill that was just passed to reopen the government, when it finishes?”
- “But you’re very deliberately not ruling it out?”
- “As you well know, your fellow Republicans pretty much unanimously agree with you that they want to get rid of Obamacare, but they just realize that it’s impossible to do with a Democratic majority in the senate, with a Democrat named Obama in the white house. Mitch McConnell, your leader in Washington, says it’s not going to happen again. There will be no government shutdown ever again as far as he’s concerned. And he hopes that the newer members, like you, you’ve been in Washington only ten months, have learned a lesson. Doesn’t sound like you learned a lesson, Senator.”
- “The reason they’re frustrated is because, senators said this to me, because they thought you were selling them snake oil. It was never going to happen.”
- “Let’s talk about what some of your colleagues are most upset about. First of all, you referred to the fact that your colleagues were yelling at you red faced about their constituents calling. There were a lot of very animated private lunches with you and your colleagues, correct?”
- “One of your colleagues told me said it was like an intervention. Colleagues saying why are you doing this? And really angry at you. I’m just wondering, even on a human level, they said you didn’t flinch. On a human level, that has to bother you, to be sitting in an institution and having your fellow Republicans so angry at you.”
- “Do you think Mitch McConnell is a good leader?”
- “When do you make your intentions for the White House known?”
- “Kathleen Sebelius. Some colleagues are saying she should resign. Do you agree with that?”
- “Doesn’t that help you politically? Doesn’t that help you make your point that it’s not the right program or policy?”
Dana Bash is not the exception in the media’s coverage of the Obamacare debate, which has been characterized by superficiality and absurdity, but that she managed to maintain that sort of coverage directly in the face of Cruz’s critique is somewhat remarkable.
You can watch the rest of the interview here, from CNN.
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