On Friday's Morning Edition, Mara Liasson lined up talking heads who support RNC Chairman Reince Priebus' Monday report that advises Republicans to "embrace...comprehensive immigration reform" and "change our tone" on issues championed by homosexual activists. Liasson failed to include soundbites from traditional marriage supporters and anti-illegal immigration activists.
The correspondent hyped, "What's happening inside the Republican Party on immigration is as sudden as a tsunami." She later spotlighted how "potential Republican presidential candidates...are beating a tactical retreat in the gay marriage war."
Liasson led the segment with her "tsunami" imagery, and emphasized the apparent change inside the GOP by playing two clips from "the newly-anointed favorite of the Tea Party grassroots, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul", who supports, as he put it, "bringing these workers out of the shadows and into becoming and being taxpaying members of society."
The NPR journalist continued by noting that "lots of Republicans still consider a path to citizenship, or even legal status, to be amnesty, and Paul steered clear of that debate." But she apparently couldn't find any such members of the GOP, as she didn't let any give their side during the segment.
When Liasson moved to the marriage issue later in her report, she turned to Republican political strategist Whit Ayres and Bush administration veteran Michael Gerson, who advised the party to "accommodate the reality that gay marriage is not going away in large parts of the country", as Gerson himself put it. She also played soundbites of Priebus and Senator Marco Rubio, who was her example of the "potential Republican presidential candidates...beating a tactical retreat in the gay marriage war."
The correspondent did include one clip of Red State.com's Erick Erickson's, who asserted that the GOP "would have a huge problem with the base, unless they started the conversation from the aspect of protecting religious objectors...I think Republicans are going to have to raise that issue first and get those protections before they dare shift on gay marriage."
Liasson did something similar back on the February 1, 2013 edition of Morning Edition when she ballyhooed Hillary Clinton as "the most popular politician country" and turned exclusively to two close political associates of the Clintons as her talking heads.
The full transcript of Mara Liasson's report from Friday's Morning Edition:
STEVE INSKEEP: With his journey, the President temporarily left behind a changing American political scene. The Republican Party is struggling with that change. Public opinion on immigration and gay marriage is changing quickly. That forces Republicans to try a balancing act, as NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.
MARA LIASSON: As sea changes go, what's happening inside the Republican Party on immigration is as sudden as a tsunami. This week, the shift was on display from one end of the party spectrum to the other. The party chairman, Reince Priebus, issued a report calling on Republicans to embrace comprehensive immigration reform. Then, the next day, the newly-anointed favorite of the Tea Party grassroots, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, followed suit in a speech to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: Republicans need to become parents of a new future with Latino voters, or we will need to resign ourselves to being a permanent minority status.
LIASSON: Paul said the party needed to start by acknowledging they weren't going to deport 12 million illegal immigrants.
PAUL: This is where prudence, compassion, and thrift all point towards the same goal – bringing these workers out of the shadows and into becoming and being taxpaying members of society.
LIASSON: Lots of Republicans still consider a path to citizenship, or even legal status, to be amnesty, and Paul steered clear of that debate. But he also waded into the fracas over gay marriage, another divisive social issue where the GOP base finds itself at odds with changing popular opinion. Last week, Paul suggested taking the word marriage out of the tax code entirely, so it doesn't exclude same-sex couples. And this week, the Priebus report counseled the GOP to change its tone on gay rights. Here's Republican pollster Whit Ayres.
WHIT AYRES, REPUBLICAN POLITICAL CONSULTANT: I don't know that the party has to embrace gay marriage, and I don't think it will. But I think it's very important that the Republican Party not be perceived as anti-gay, and we're making real progress in that direction.
LIASSON: Sometimes, that brand new balancing act can be a little awkward. Here's party chairman Priebus.
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I know what our principles are, and I know our party believes that marriage is between one man and one woman. But I also know that we have a party that's going to be inclusive.
LIASSON: Some other potential Republican presidential candidates, like Marco Rubio, are beating a tactical retreat in the gay marriage war. Instead of advocating a constitutional ban, Rubio now merely says it should be a state issue.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA: Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot.
LIASSON: Reconciling such rapidly changing national attitudes with a party still defined by its socially conservative base will be hard, says grassroots conservative Erick Erickson, who suggests Republicans approach the subject from a different angle.
ERICK ERICKSON, RED STATE.COM: I think you would have a – a huge problem with the base, unless they started the conversation from the aspect of protecting religious objectors, with the ever-growing stories of churches risking their tax-exempt status; bakers being sued because they don't want to bake wedding cakes for gay marriage. I think Republicans are going to have to raise that issue first and get those protections before they dare shift on gay marriage.
LIASSON: That may be, but making the shift on this issue has become unavoidable, says Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
MICHAEL GERSON: Whatever their views are on the topic, Republicans are going to have to accommodate the reality that gay marriage is not going away in large parts of the country. Republicans are going to have to shape a message that builds alliances with people who both oppose gay marriage and support gay marriage to support stronger families.
LIASSON: That will be a difficult adjustment for the Republican Party. But on other issues, like abortion and guns, the GOP has not had to move out of its comfort zone. On gun control, Republicans have been able to maintain their staunch opposition to most new gun regulations. Whit Ayres-
AYRES: Guns are very different from either immigration or gay issues. Major overhaul of our gun laws is going nowhere. Some minor changes in background checks are about the most that's likely to happen.
LIASSON: But that's the exception, says Ayres, for a party facing years of internal struggle.
AYRES: There will be wide open debate on a great many of these issues, and that debate will not be settled until we select a nominee for president in 2016.
LIASSON: Mara Liasson, NPR News, Washington.