GOP Debate Questioner Karen Tumulty Bashed Santorum, Gingrich; Praised Gore, Clintons

Joining PBS host Charlie Rose as a questioner tonight at the Washington Post debate is Post reporter Karen Tumulty, who wrote for Time magazine for  quite a while. On the Post website, she promised "No gimmicks, no gotchas, just a discussion that is as serious as the issues that Americans are dealing with on a daily basis."

But Tumulty has a history of uncorking some liberal hosannas, hailing Obama's "conspicuous candor" and lauding Al Gore's documentary as the work of "a laptop-wielding ninja whose PowerPoint could rescue the planet from the forces of greed and indifference."  But Newt Gingrich was the "pompous thug of late-night cable." Last December, Tumulty was clearly in a "gotcha" mode with former Sen. Rick Santorum, describing him as a "notorious" fire-breather on social issues:

Santorum was notorious for his moral pronouncements. He contended, for instance, that Boston's liberal culture was partly to blame for the sex-abuse scandal in the Catholic Church there, and suggested that lifting antiquated state sodomy laws would sanction bestiality -- or as he put it, "man on dog."

Santorum still breathes fire. In his evolving stump speech, he frames the prospect of Obama's reelection in near-apocalyptic terms: "Democracy and freedom will disappear." His agenda consists of stopping pretty much everything that has been set in motion in the past two years, starting with the overhaul of the nation's health-care system.

Then there are these biased lowlights from our Notable Quotables:

Nope, No Partisanship Here

"Whereas other candidates like to throw red meat before their audiences, [Senator Barack] Obama is developing a penchant for hurling cold water at them....Conspicuous candor has been part of Obama’s campaign since his announcement tour in February."
— Time’s Karen Tumulty in an article on Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, June 11, 2007 issue.

Al Gore, Planet-Saving Superhero

"Rather than retire...Gore has stayed in the game by continuing to fight for the environment....The lecture on global warming that he has been giving for decades...has been turned into the indie documentary An Inconvenient Truth. The movie got raves at the Sundance Film Festival....In Los Angeles theaters, the trailers have been getting ovations.... 2008 is still a long way away. And in the meantime, Gore has decided, there’s a planet to save."
— Time’s Karen Tumulty profiling former Vice President Al Gore, whom the magazine chose as one of the "Time 100: The People Who Shape Our World," May 8, 2006 issue.

[She also wrote: "Then again, Gore's new movie has something of a mutant-action-hero plotline of its own. It's the tale of a scorned, washed-up politician transformed into a laptop-wielding ninja whose PowerPoint could rescue the planet from the forces of greed and indifference." In that year, she also touted the Clintons as "the most fascinating tango act in politics."]


No Arms or Legs for Poor People

Bob Schieffer: “I was just in California where they’re telling me that not only are they facing these huge deficits, but for every five jobs that are lost in America, one of those jobs is in California. The governor out there – his approval rating is down to 20 percent. We’re seeing other governors with these low approval ratings. Is that because the states are just so starved for money?”
Time’s Karen Tumulty: “That’s right. And while these arguments we’re having here in Washington over tax cuts may look sort of abstract to most people in America, it is not abstract when your kid’s teacher gets laid off....Libraries are closing, teachers are getting laid off. Gray Davis is in the position of having to decide whether he should deny prosthetic limbs to poor people.”
– Exchange on CBS’s Face the Nation, May 11, 2003. According to the Cato Institute, California’s state spending grew from 39.5 billion in fiscal year 1994 to 78.1 billion in fiscal year 2001, an increase of 98 percent.

Linking Bush with Mass Murderer

“Gun-rights advocates have been emboldened by an administration that is sympathetic to their cause. The closeness was underscored by the fact that the military-style gun used in the sniper attacks – named, unfortunately for the White House, Bushmaster XM15 – was manufactured by a company owned by Richard Dyke, a Bush fundraiser.”
– Time’s Karen Tumulty and Viveca Novak, November 4, 2002 issue.

Newt, the Thuggish Grenade Thrower

"Under pressure he reverted to the pompous thug of late-night cable, the backbencher lobbing grenades on C-SPAN about sick Democrats who were enemies of normal Americans....[Voters have] learned how far he is willing to go to achieve his larger goals: shut the government down to make a point with the President; invite lobbyists not just to lobby, but to draft the laws themselves; and give a huge tax break to his party's allies at the expense of services for the poor, with the explanation that this is what it takes to keep his Republican coalition together."
-- Time Senior Editor Nancy Gibbs and Washington reporter Karen Tumulty, December 25, 1995/January 1, 1996 Man of the Year cover story on House Speaker Newt Gingrich.


PS: Tumulty called MRC in 2003 to complain that her "denying prosethetic limbs" remarks were taken out of context. Here's how Brent Bozell laid out our double-checking at the time:

As for denying arms and legs to the poor, Tumulty was even harsher in her own magazine than she was on TV: "Governors are not just raising taxes but also releasing prisoners and shutting down libraries. Among options that Davis has had to consider: denying prosthetics to amputees who can't afford them and eliminating adult diapers for prostate-cancer patients."

Tumulty’s source for these claims, most likely, is a Los Angeles Times report on May 4, in which reporter Gregg Jones gave readers an inside-the-room account of how Gov. Davis deliberated with staff about whether to propose cutting Medi-Cal subsidies (the state version of Medicaid) for prosthetic limbs and adult diapers. But Tumulty doesn’t ask the obvious question: just how politically crass is it to detail for reporters how Davis might have to propose cutting prosthetic-limb subsidies?

What was called for was an expose on the Democrats and their shameless propensity to threaten dire-sounding phony spending cuts so voters will support raising taxes. The MRC’s judges responded because quotes like these falsely signal to voters that there is no budgetary fat to be found and eliminated. There is only this false choice: you favor tax hikes, or you favor prostate-cancer patients wetting themselves.

Tumulty says her quotation is "out of context," but it’s national media budget reporting that’s too often out of context. The liberal mindset looks for scary specifics, but it has no big picture. For example, the Cato Institute found that California’s state spending grew from $39.5 billion in fiscal year 1994 to $78.1 billion in fiscal year 2001, a 98 percent increase. That ought to leave money for prosthetics for the poor. Either Tumulty was unaware of that fact – in which case she is unqualified to cover this issue – or she ignored it, and ought to be disqualified from covering the issue.

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