ABC's Cokie Roberts said something on national television Sunday that made her colleague George Will shake his head on camera.
During a "This Week" discussion about the recent credit rating downgrade by Standard and Poor's Roberts said, 'The problem that we have here is the Constitution of the United States of America which actually does require people to come together from different perspectives" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
COKIE ROBERTS: This group of people in New York [Standard and Poor’s] is actually talking about more government rather than less government, Congressman. In fact, the reason they like France and Great Britain is because they’re parliamentary systems where the majority gets what it wants no matter what.
And the problem that we have here is the Constitution of the United States of America which actually does require people to come together from different perspectives whether it's divided government or not. We have divided branches of government under any circumstance.
In June, Time magazine's managing editor Richard Stengel wrote a cover story asking, "Does the Constitution Still Matter," and now Roberts goes on national television blaming our credit rating downgrade on America's most sacred document.
Somehow I doubt Roberts would be bemoaning the majority's inability to ram through any legislation it wanted if the Republicans controlled the White House as well as both chambers of Congress. Liberals like her only decry divided government when they're in control.
But what shouldn't have missed the eyes of viewers was George Will shaking his head in the foreground as Roberts made this absurd comment.
Fans of his surely know how he believes one of America's greatest strengths is indeed divided government. As it pertains to the current debt issue, something Will wrote in September 2008 was amazingly prescient:
Divided government compels compromises that curb each party's excesses, especially both parties' proclivities for excessive spending when unconstrained by an institution controlled by the other party. William Niskanen, chairman of the libertarian Cato Institute, notes that in the past 50 years, "government spending has increased an average of only 1.73 percent annually during periods of divided government. This number more than triples, to 5.26 percent, for periods of unified government."
That bears repeating: "[I]n the past 50 years, 'government spending has increased an average of only 1.73 percent annually during periods of divided government. This number more than triples, to 5.26 percent, for periods of unified government.'"
As such, if your real goal is reduced spending, the divided government Roberts so despises is actually the answer.
It's certainly not surprising that she doesn't know this and Will does.