When, on this weekend’s Inside Washington, host Gordon Peterson recited a list of issues Democratic congressional candidates could use against Republican incumbents -- “you've got Iraq, you've got Harriet Miers, you've got Katrina, you got Tom DeLay being indicted. You've got a lot of ammunition” -- NPR reporter Nina Totenberg jumped in to shout: "And you've got the tax cuts!" She soon offered her recommendation on how Democrats should campaign: “One of the other things is you say, 'look, we're in this mess fiscally and they want to increase the tax cuts for the most wealthy people in the United States,’ the top one half of one percent would get a hundred thousand dollars, people who make over a million dollars or something like that." (Still shot of Totenberg and John Harwood.)
Totenberg’s been on a crusade. On the same show last month, as detailed in a September 24 NewsBusters posting, she dismissed the idea of cancelling $24 billion of transportation bill earmarks, to pay for Katrina recovery, as small change and suggested that “if you canceled the tax cuts, you'd get $225 billion." A week earlier, she asserted that President Bush’s New Orleans speech “would have been a great opportunity to say, 'look, I'm for tax cuts, but we need a Katrina tax, we need to really pay, to do this and to pay for it.’" And two weeks before that, as recounted with a video clip on NewsBusters, Totenberg blamed tax cuts for the levee breakage: “For years, we have cut our taxes, cut our taxes and let the infrastructure throughout the country go and this is just the first of a number of other crumbling things that are going to happen to us.”
I caught Totenberg’s latest outburst on the Friday night airing of Inside Washington on WETA-TV channel 26, Washington, DC’s PBS affiliate. The program is taped at ABC’s Washington, DC affiliate, WJLA-TV, channel 7 (actually in Arlington, Virginia), where it airs Sunday morning at 10am after This Week. It also runs Saturday nights at 7pm on NewsChannel 8, the local all-news cable channel owned by the ABC affiliate.
Gordon Peterson: "If you're running against a Republican in a vulnerable district, you've got Iraq, you've got Harriet Miers, you've got Katrina, you got Tom DeLay being indicted. You've got a lot of ammunition."
Nina Totenberg, over Peterson: "And you've got the tax cuts!"
John Harwood, political editor of the Wall Street Journal: "And I do think the whole issue of having a positive agenda is somewhat over-rated in politics. A lot of politics is in reaction to how bad the person you're running against is. But Democrats do believe that by the middle of next year they've got to come up with a few bumper sticker points that they can run on and they probably will."
Peterson: "What's your platform? 'We're not the other guys.'"
Totenberg: "Well that's one of the things. One of the other things is you say, 'look, we're in this mess fiscally and they want to increase the tax cuts for the most wealthy people in the United States, the top one half of one percent would get a hundred thousand dollars, people who make over a million dollars or something like that."
Harwood pointed out: "It didn't work so well for Democrats in '04 though."
Totenberg: "That's '04. I think-"
At that point she was cut off by panelist Colby King, a Washington Post editorial writer and columnist.