Jeff Cohen, founder of FAIR—a self-described progressive media watch group—now a professor of independent media at Ithaca College, invited me to address his class of student bloggers this afternoon. Asked to name some of the fairer MSM journalists, I included David Gregory on my short list. That could understandably come as a surprise to those who remember Gregory from his days as NBC's chief White House correspondent, when he earned the ire of the Bush administration for his often-aggressive style. But I've found that Gregory plays it pretty much down the middle in his new role as host of Race for the White House on MSNBC.
By coincidence, on this evening's show Gregory vindicated my confidence with some tough questioning of an Obama surrogate on the issue of taxes and spending. Gregory went so far as to suggest that Obama's indication that he might not press for immediate implementation of tax increases on higher earners makes McCain's case. Gregory's guest was Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. When Van Hollen suggested Obama might postpone his tax-increase plan, Gregory moved in . . .
View video here.
VAN HOLLEN: Even Barack Obama has talked about a question of timing with respect to rolling back the Bush tax cuts on the very wealthy, and whether or not that's something you would do right away given the economic situation, or whether that's something you would postpone . . .
DAVID GREGORY: That's a very important point you're making there: I'd like to flesh that out. You're saying now that it would be potentially postponed, that rolling back the Bush tax cuts would not be an immediate priority of a Democratic congress under Barack Obama . . . Isn't that an acknowledgment that it is a risky thing thing to do, to raise taxes on anybody in this economic climate, if you're conceding that perhaps we have to cut taxes, that's the #1 thing we have to do for the middle class, but to raise taxes on even upper-income Americans would really hurt the economy. Doesn't that basically confirm John McCain's argument and his difference with Barack Obama?
After Van Hollen's windy response wound down, Gregory hit him on Obama's failure to identify any real spending cuts he would make.
GREGORY: Barack Obama has not outlined any program that he's promising that he would cut, or that he would forego, given this economic crisis. Can you name me one?
VAN HOLLEN: Well, what Barack Obama has said is that he wants to look across the whole area of the federal government and make smart reductions, and there are reductions --
GREGORY: Doesn't everybody promise that? Have you ever heard of a leader who doesn't promise that?