PBS's Lehrer Badgers Obama from the Left: What About Banks' 'Huge Profits?'

President Barack Obama; & Jim Lehrer, PBS Anchor | NewsBusters.orgPBS’s Jim Lehrer forwarded several questions with a clear leftward tilt during an interview with President Obama on his Newshour program on Monday. He urged the executive to “crack heads” to get his health care plan passed, and inquired if “taxing the wealthy” was an option to fund it. Lehrer later pressed Mr. Obama on the “huge profits” being made by “big Wall Street banks.”

The PBS anchor led the interview with a sympathetic question on the president’s slipping poll numbers: “Mr. President, it must have been a little unpleasant for you to wake up this morning to see this headline: ‘Washington Post poll shows Obama slipping on key issues, approval rating on health care falls below 50 percent.’ What’s that mean?”

After the president’s initial answer, Lehrer went right to health care, and hinted that the Democrat’s “reform” plan should be passed with little to no congressional input: “As you know, a lot of the commentary over the weekend was that nothing’s going to happen, getting from here to the final hurdle here, unless you really start cracking some heads, and really say, ‘Hey, this is the Obama plan, this is what I want. So much for what this committee wants and that- what that committee wants. Here’s what I want, and I'm going to push and go.’ Are you ready to do that?”

When Mr. Obama mentioned in his answer that he was going to bring key congressional leaders to the White House, the anchor repeated his “cracking heads” phrase, which the executive nuanced to “facilitating a discussion that solves these problems.”

Lehrer then turned further leftward on the health care “reform” proposal, specifically on how to fund it:
LEHRER: Taxing the wealthy to pay for this- are you in favor of that?

OBAMA: Well, here’s what I think- that people like myself, who can afford to pay a little bit more in taxes, should do so in order to help people who are desperate for a little bit of security when it comes to their health care. Now, I actually think that the best way to do that is simply to cap deductions that wealthy people can take at a 35 or a 36-percent rate, compared to ordinary folks who are only taking a 28-percent rate. I think that’s going back-

LEHRER: Rather than tax them-

OBAMA: Rather than tax them, right- and that would raise a sufficient amount of money to pay for any new people who are joining into this health insurance reform package. But I understand that there are other ideas that are being bandied about and not all of them are going to be the same. There are going to be some folks in the House who want to impose a surcharge- there are some in the Senate who are looking at a whole menu of different options in terms of raising the money. The gap, though, is one that I think can be closed relatively easily if everybody is committed to making sure that we get this done.
The PBS anchor followed up by asking, “What about taxing health benefits?”

Towards the end of the interview, Lehrer turned to a more strictly economic topic: “Do you share the concern and growing anger by some people over the fact that these big Wall Street banks are suddenly making these huge profits, while the unemployment rate continues to go up, foreclosures continue to rise- all kinds of other bad things are happening to individual Americans on the economy. Do you share that? What’s...going on?”

The president’s initial answer apparently didn’t satisfy the anchor, because he pressed the issue of the profits:
LEHRER: But, Mr. President, the point here is in the last week or so- you know, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs- huge profits-

OBAMA: Right.

LEHRER: And these- these are companies that survived because of federal rescue or federal bailout money- whatever you want to use-

OBAMA: Right.

LEHRER: And so Wall Street got help, but a lot of these other people didn’t get help. That’s what- that’s the question I’m getting at.

OBAMA: Well, I think the- two, two points. One is, the financial system, if we didn’t stop the bleeding in the financial system, then it would have been even worse for everybody.
    
LEHRER: So you don’t have any second thoughts about that?
Lehrer, who has moderated eleven presidential debates, including one last year between Obama and McCain, has again shown with this interview that he is not a “bias-free” journalist.

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