Everyone’s been talking about Grand Nagus Drumpf’s meltdown in front of Lesley Stahl on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” and I’m sure we’ve all seen it by now, but we haven’t heard much about Norah O’Donnell’s interviews with the Democratic ticket, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, that followed.
I’m watching the first segment now and it seems to me — and please correct me if I’m wrong or if I’m missing something — that every question being put to Biden and Harris, and every voiceover narration in-between, is a Republican talking point. O’Donnell is just throwing Republican/Fox framing at both candidates; either asking them to respond to Trump’s or his allies’ accusations or just telling us what those accusations are.
The dead giveaway was a question about Democratic priorities; the old standard, which only Democrats ever get asked: “Howyagonnapayforit?”
Another giveaway: Harris talking about Drumpf’s racist statements and open appeals to white supremacy. The follow-up narration: “President Trump has said that he denounces white supremacy.”
Maybe I’m being paranoid, but this seems like a hit job so far. Anyone else watching?
I just went back and watched it again. Here are the questions, and transitional voiceover narrations, that struck me, with emphasis placed on words that O’Donnell emphasized:
[To Biden:] “Do you think there are a lot of people who are going to vote for you, simply because you’re not Donald Trump?”
Biden is asked about major systemic changes that need to be made; one of the things he talks about is his tax plan to help pay for public college tuition. Voiceover narration:
“The non-partisan Tax Policy Center and others have questioned whether Joe Biden’s corporate minimum tax plan would raise as much money as he estimates. After our interview, Mr. Biden’s staff told us he misspoke, and that the cost of free public college could be twice as much as he said.”
“The President made the case at the Republican convention that your administration would be a Trojan horse for liberals, that AOC, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren would actually be controlling policy. That this would become the most liberal adminstration in U.S. history.”
Biden says Trump would love to run against them but is running against Joe Biden, who has his own long and clear record. Voiceover narration:
“But Joe Biden’s running mate’s record is less widely known.”
Listen to the way O’Donnell says the word “record” in the sound bite above. Then listen to it again. And again.
[To Harris:] “You’re very different, in the policies that you’ve supported in the past. You’re considered the most liberal United States Senator.”
Harris says that’s what Mike Pence said on the debate stage, and laughs.
“Well, actually, the non-partisan GovTrack has rated you, as the most liberal Senator. You’ve supported the Green New Deal, you’ve supported Medicare For All, you’ve supported legalizing marijuana. Joe Biden doesn’t support those things. So are you going to bring those policies … into a Biden Administration.”
I deliberately ended that quote with a period instead of a question mark, because O’Donnell’s inflection at the end was affirmative rather than interrogative. Harris replies that she will share her “lived experience” with Biden, on any issue, and that she promised Biden she would do that and always be honest with him.
“And is that a socialist, or progressive perspective?”
O’Donnell did not ask this as an either-or (note no comma after “progressive”); she asked it as an in-other-words. Harris laughs out loud, talks about her biography and seems to find the whole idea rather ridiculous. Next question:
“I want to give you the opportunity to address this because, at the Republican National Convention, President Trump made a case that Joe Biden is going to be nothing more than a Trojan horse for socialist policies, for the left wing of the Democratic Party. Are you going to push those policies, when you’re Vice President of the United States.”
Again with “Trump made a case.” Trump did not “make a case” for anything at the RNC; spewing bullshit you made up is not “making a case.” And again with the non-interrogative inflection at the end of a “question.”
Note that I haven’t skipped anything yet. And listening to O’Donnell chew the words “left” and “wing” here, is not helping me get over the way she said “record” when introducing Harris.
Harris says that she’s not going to be confined to Donald Trump’s definition of who she, or anyone else, is. But O’Donnell won’t let it go and puts hypothetical words in Harris’s mouth:
“So just, just to button that up, because you have fought for Medicare for all, that’s not something that Joe Biden supports. If you become Vice President would you say, to a President Biden, ‘You know what? We should really be pushing for Medicare For All, not a public option; that’s just not going to do it, that’s not my value.’”
Harris says she wouldn’t have joined the ticket if she didn’t support what Biden was proposing.
O’Donnell then goes back to Biden on the topic of COVID. I can skip a bit here, before O’Donnell gets back to the Trump/Republican framing:
“But how do you not lock down the economy?”
O’Donnell then changes the subject from COVID to “the economy.”
“You are proposing several trillion dollars in new spending over the next decade for, economic relief, education, health care … How are you going to pay for that?”
There it is. The old chestnut that only Democrats ever get asked. And listen to O’Donnell rattle off the things Biden supposedly wants to spend money on, all of which are longstanding, traditional Democratic priorities. The dismissive tone is not as bad as the “left” and “wing” thing above, and not nearly as bad (and I still can’t get over this) as the way she said “record” when introducing Harris.
OK, now, this next one is a pet peeve of mine, so I’m going to go easy on it, but it still bugs the hell out of me because it’s still Republican framing:
“He’d also raise taxes on people making more than $400,000 a year, and the top rate would be 39.6%.”
Ugh. The way our tax system works, we don’t tax people; we tax income. Yes, there is a difference.
“And you think it’s a good idea to raise taxes when the economy’s in dire straits?”
Again, listen to the tone of this question, especially at the end, as well as the language. At least there was some interrogative inflection here.
“The President says that’s going to end up sending jobs overseas.”
Look, I get it that candidates for office ought to be able to respond to what their opponents are saying about them, and that giving them an opportunity to do that can be very helpful and enlightening. But it’s getting ridiculous at this point. And you know what, there’s a difference between “asking tough questions” and just throwing the other side’s bullshit out there, as if there were actually any legitimacy or substance to any of it. This is lazy journalism, in my opinion.
Anyhoo, Biden says our trade deficit with China is greater now than it was during the Obama administration. Voiceover narration:
“Actually, that depends on how you calculate it. The overall trade deficit with China was slightly lower in 2019 than it was during the last three years of the Obama administration.”
This is stated over a graphic of what appears to be a giant Excel spreadsheet, zooming in on the numbers from 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2019, but not explaining what they mean. The implication is that Biden is simply wrong, not that it “depends on how you calculate it.” Of course, nothing more is shown or explained.
I’d really like to stop and publish now. But there’s more. Voiceover:
“Mr. Biden is under pressure from his own party to consider increasing the number of justices if elected. It’s called court-packing.”
No, it’s not “called court-packing.” Republicans call it ”court-packing.”
Next, the Hunter Biden stuff comes up and O’Donnell is relatively even-handed about it, which is to say she tells us what Guiliani and Trump and their allies have said, and that it hasn’t been substantiated. Biden responds.
[To Biden:] “Donald Trump says you have dementia, and it’s getting worse.”
OK, nothing to see here. Let’s move on. A discussion of Biden’s age leads us back to Harris, and what it means to be the first woman, and first woman of color, to be Vice President. Of course, the voiceover narration takes us to:
“From the moment Joe Biden selected her as his running mate, Senator Harris has become one of President Trump’s favorite targets.”
[clip of Trump:] “…and she’s not competent, she’s not competent.”
[To Harris:] “…he’s called you a monster, he’s said you’re nasty and would be an insult to our country if you became the first female president. Do you see this as just the rough-and-tumble of politics, or do you view those attacks against you as racist?”
And here’s where we get to the bit that I mentioned above the fold; Harris is careful, although she answers “Yes I do” to the blunt question of whether she thinks the President “is racist.” She talks about his pattern going back to Birtherism, through Charlottesville, the Mexican remarks, &c., and says “it all speaks for itself.” Of course, the voiceover reminds us:
President Trump has said he denounces racism and white supremacy.
And, I think that’s enough. But go back and listen, one more time, to the way CBS correspondent Norah O’Donnell said the word “record” when introducing the first woman of color ever to be nominated for Vice President of the United States.