I fear I may become increasingly useless, not-to-say repetitive, as a blogger the more I try to apply modest standards of critical thinking to what some politicians and some TV pundits say on the air. But before they cart me off, a couple of items from Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” which I still persist in watching.
NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell was in Iowa covering an event at which former Florida governor and undeclared presidential candidate Jeb Bush was attempting to woo support. “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd debriefed her on camera, thus:
Todd: “Brass tacks, what did you learn from yesterday’s cattle call?”
O’Donnell: “When I talk to Republicans here, they say Jeb Bush’s biggest problem is trying to appear new. [Me: What could that possibly mean, and how might a 62-year-old man who first ran for office in 1992 go about “appearing new.”]
O’Donnell: “So I think what he tries to do is to bring his Florida resume here, to talk about what [he] says are conservative accomplishments…” [Makes perfect sense for Bush to talk about what he accomplished as governor, the only office he’s ever held. But considering he left office eight years ago, what could this have to do with “appearing new?”]
Then, as old hands at the folkways of Iowa Republicans, Kelly and Chuck shared a laugh at Bush’s utter cluelessness, thus:
O’Donnell: “He came to the Pizza Ranch [and] said he ‘came here for the pizza.’ But, as you know, Chuck, when you come to the Pizza Ranch you really order the chicken. So Jeb Bush has some work to do here.”
Maybe Bush knew that candidates always order the chicken but he was attempting to appear new.
Later, Todd interviewed Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC.
Graham, who is mostly known for hawkish views on foreign and military policy, spent most of the segment describing Iran as our enemy. (“Iran is our enemy…They’re the enemy of us. They’re an evil regime… I fear Iran more than I fear ISIL… Absolutely, it’s not even close.”)
But because Graham has confessed to also exploring a presidential candidacy, Todd followed a line of questioning that I appreciated, on the recent good economic news. As part of Obama Derangement Syndrome, most Republicans find it difficult to say that anything positive might’ve occurred under the current incumbent. So Todd put Graham on the spot. The latest unemployment rate, 5.5 percent, is the lowest in seven years. The most recent report showed that unemployment had come down in every state in the union, which last happened in 1984.
Asked Todd: “You and other Republicans put out a lot of doom and gloom about Obama’s policies in 2009 and 2010. I understand that we’ve still got some wage issues to go. But do you now acknowledge that some of this rhetoric was wrong and that there has been some progress?”
Replied Graham, whom I used to rate as a relatively straight talker: “I think that we have stagnant middle-class wage growth. And I think the labor participation is at an all-time low. So if your argument is that we’re on the road to recovery, that we have a sound economy under President Obama, no I don’t agree with that at all.”
Todd: “So you don’t believe any of these improvements are good?”
Graham: “I believe it’s always good to have lower unemployment. But it’s never good to be underemployed. It’s never good to have the greatest number of people in the history of America not looking for work anymore. And I think the structural problems created by Obamacare are yet to come.”
Todd let it go. He didn’t mention that the recession of the past seven years began under President George W. Bush and was the worst in the United States since the Great Depression. It’s a little silly, although quite normal, to assume that everything that happens to the economy is the fairly direct result of the policies of the current occupant of the Oval Office. But if Obama is responsible for the slow recovery, how does Graham or other derangement sufferers deal with the fact that the economy went off the cliff under Republican presidential leadership?