October 2, 2013

Click around a bit, and you’ll find all manner of allegations that CNN helps to lead a liberal-media vanguard to assist establishment Democrats in their routine fights on matters financial, social and constitutional. The tete-a-tete that unfolded today between CNN chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid counters such wisdom.

In a press conference with Senate leaders, Bash pressed Reid on why he and his Democratic caucus wouldn’t sign off on an expected bill from the House that funds at least the National Institutes of Health, which, as Bash noted, does clinical trials for cancer. “Given what you said, will you at least pass that, and if not, aren’t you playing the same political games that Republicans are?” Then things got interesting:

REID: What right do they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded? It’s obvious what’s going on here. You talk about reckless and irresponsible. Wow! What this is all about is Obamacare. They are obsessed. I don’t know what other word I can use. I don’t know what other word I can use. They are obsessed with this Obamacare thing. It’s working now and it will continue to work and people will love it more than they do now by far. So they have no right to pick and choose.

BASH: But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Why pit one against the other?

REID: Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force Base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own. This is — to have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing maybe means you’re irresponsible and reckless.

BASH: I’m just asking a question.

In a post-game chat with CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, Bash later said she was playing the devil’s advocate. As if she had to issue such a clarification: The journalistic spirit in her inquiry was clear to any unbiased observer, if such a soul exists. As the Erik Wemple Blog noted the other day, there is such a thing as an irresponsible question. It’s one that’s steeped in false premises and suppositions, like when Fox’s White House correspondent Ed Henry asked White House spokesman Jay Carney if he’d “enroll in Obamacare,” presumably referencing the exchanges established by the Affordable Care Act. It was a legitimately bad and irresponsible question, since the act never foresaw that people would abandon their employer-provided plans for the exchanges.

Bash’s inquiry was different and couldn’t have been more logical for a congressional reporter: A bill is expected to come before you. Will you vote to pass it? That is Capitol Hill Reporting 101. That Reid would get grumpy about it speaks to some dynamic that we’ll leave to the pundits.

In Reid’s response, the Erik Wemple Blog heard an echo from August 2011. In a press conference following that summer’s debt-limit fiasco, Reid and other Democratic leaders bashed the Capitol Hill press corps for not bashing the brash political tactics of tea party Republicans, as highlighted in this story from The Hill. At issue was a fight over funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, and Democrats were criticizing the Republicans for the same hostage-taking approaches that they’ve been alleging over the past couple of weeks. From The Hill:

“The fact is that you’ve got to dig a little bit behind the surface here of what this is really about,” said [Sen. Barbara] Boxer. “Whatever the issue is, this is about government by threats, government by one side making its demands …”

“And these folks falling for it,” Reid interjected, gesturing to the reporters in the Senate radio and television gallery.

Back then, Reid also cited the contention by Paul Krugman of the New York Times that the “cult of balance” in media coverage played an “important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster.” No fan of congressional media coverage, that Harry Reid.

(h/t Mediaite)

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.