Before Monday's House vote on the largest government bailout in American history, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.), in potentially one of the most poorly-timed displays of partisanship in recent memory, blamed President Bush and Republicans for the turmoil in the financial services industry (video embedded right).
Such ill-advised finger pointing seemed to surprise press members of all shapes and sizes as some prominent print media outlets including the Washington Post and the New York Times quickly published articles quoting Republicans who blamed the bill's failure on Pelosi's hyper-partisan speech.
On the television side, CNN aired Republican reaction to the Speaker's comments moments after the votes were counted (partial transcript and embedded video follow):
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R), MINORITY LEADER: Americans are angry, and so are my colleagues. They don't want to have to vote for a bill like this. And I understand that. But I have concerns about what this means for the American people, what it means for our economy and what it means for peoples' jobs. I think that we need to renew our efforts to find a solution that Congress can support.
I do believe that we could have gotten there today, had it not been for this partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House. I mean, we were -- we were -- we put everything we had into getting the votes to get there today. But the speaker had to give a partisan voice that poisoned our conference, caused a number of members that we thought we could get to go south.
And again today this was not about Democrats or Republicans. It's about our economy and what's best for the American people. And regardless of what happened today, we've got -- we have no choice, in my view, but to work together to try to find a solution to make sure that we save our economy and we save our constituents.
Roy Blunt --
REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MINORITY WHIP: Well thank you, John.
We did think we had a dozen more votes going to the floor than we had. No more than that, but we thought we had a dozen more. I think unfortunately, too many of our members were already on the floor when they heard that late speech by the speaker.
During this whole process, the tone in the room was so much better than the tone outside the room. We worked together well to try to come up with a compromise that could pass today, that the president could sign, that did what needs to be done in the economy. But every time you'd turn on television or read an article about the press reports of what the other side was saying, it was all about how Republicans either were unpatriotic or were there too late or whatever. Well, we're going to reach back out to them. We're certainly going to reach back out to our members. We're going to try to do our best to find a solution here that works for the American people. No matter how many times I said, Mr. Boehner said or Mr. Hoyer said or Mr. Frank said, we've got to put partisanship aside, there was way too much of that still going on, and a clock that nobody could control. You know, clearly needing to respect the holidays of this week, the Jewish holidays of this week, meant that we had to rush things in a way that made that job very hard and we made it harder today by so much partisan discussion in what should have been a bipartisan effort to solve this problem for the American people.
But we're going to reach back out to them. We're going to be talking to our members and see how we can come together in the next few days to reverse whatever negative impact there may be in the economy over the next few days because Congress has failed to act. And, remember, we're not in the majority in the Congress that failed to act today. And we need to reach back out to that majority and hopefully they'll allow us to be part of a solution rather than continuing to pursue a partisan discussion -- Eric.
REP. ERIC CANTOR (R), DEPUTY MINORITY WHIP: Right here is the reason I believe why this vote failed. And this is Speaker Pelosi's speech that frankly struck the tone of partisanship that, frankly, was inappropriate in this discussion.
CNN continued to raise this issue throughout the day Monday, while even more surprising, Pelosi's comments, as well as Republican reaction, were reported on all three broadcast network evening news programs.
For the record, here's a partial transcript of what Pelosi said on the House floor Monday that has gotten all this attention:
$700 billion, a staggering number, but only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our county. Policies that were built on budget recklessness. When President Bush took office, he inherited President Clinton's surpluses -- four years in a row budget surpluses, on a trajectory of $5.6 trillion in surplus. And with his reckless economic policies, within two years, he had turned that around. And now eight years later, the foundation of that fiscal irresponsibility, combined with an anything goes economic policy has taken us to where we are today.
They claim to be free market advocates when it's really an anything goes mentality. No regulation, no supervision, no discipline. And if you fail, you will have a golden parachute, and the taxpayer will bail you out. Those days are over. The party's over in that respect.
Democrats believe in a free market. We know that it can create jobs, it can create wealth, it can create many good things in our economy. But in this case, in its unbridled form, as encouraged, supported by the Republicans, some in the Republican Party, not all, it has created not jobs, not capital. It has created chaos.
We'll never know if those words actually offended enough Republicans to doom this bill from passing the House. All three of Brit Hume's panelists on Monday's "Special Report" -- Jeff Birnbaum of the Washington Times, and regulars Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke -- doubted that Pelosi's speech was the deciding factor in how this vote concluded.
By contrast, former Bush advisor Karl Rove told "The Factor's" Bill O'Reilly just moments ago:
Oh, she [Pelosi] had a huge impact on it [the bill failing]. You just ran a snippet of it. It's over five minutes of the most vicious, partisan rhetoric. This is the kind of thing you expect to hear on the floor of the House from some insignificant, partisan back-bencher. You do not expect to hear it from a leader, the Speaker of the House, whose responsibility is to try and set the bipartisan tone to get this bill passed. I was appalled by this. In a moment when leadership was required by the Speaker, she offered nothing but hyper-partisanship and it hurt a lot.
For what it's worth, here's my opinion: While I watched this live this morning, I suddenly wanted the bill to fail because of how appalling I found her behavior. As Rove accurately stated, her goal should have been to reach across the aisle today to get as many Republicans to vote for this as possible. This was essential due to the number of Democrats that weren't going to vote in favor of it.
With that in mind, to use this as an opportunity to once again bash the President and his Party was absurd, and the media reaction to it suggests many press members agree.
What does that tells us?
That so many media outlets chose not only to report this bizarre political miscue, but also air Republican assertions that Pelosi might have been responsible for the bill's failure could be an indication of just how concerned press members are about their own personal finances.
As NewsBusters has been reporting for the past several weeks, Obama-loving media members have been predicting that bad headlines from Wall Street help the junior senator from Illinois and hurt McCain. It seemed at times that press members have been almost jubilant about recent stock market declines.
Yet, that appears to have changed today, and maybe it's because as soon as the bill failed, the markets plummeted possibly waking media up to the possibility of much greater declines in the days, weeks, and months to come if a bailout doesn't occur.
Have their own wallets finally taken precedent over their political leanings? Was the thought of a cascading stock market, a deep recession nay depression, and massive losses to their retirement portfolios scary enough to make Obama-loving media point fingers at anyone that might have gotten in the way of a possible remedy...even if it was their beloved Madame Speaker?
If in the coming days press members that have been highly skeptical about the Bush-Paulson plan suddenly begin extolling the virtues of a bailout we'll know won't we?