ABC and CBS Butt Heads Over GOP 'Pledge to America'
All three broadcast evening newscasts on Thursday covered the formal unveiling of the Republican 'Pledge to America,' a campaign document calling for the repeal of ObamaCare, no tax hikes and balanced budgets. CBS's Nancy Cordes cast it as pro-Tea Party, "littered with references to the Constitution and promises to reduce the federal debt," and Tea Party members as "grateful" for its policy prescriptions.
But ABC's Jonathan Karl said the Pledge was "hardly a Tea Party manifesto. The 45-page document includes more photographs than specifics on spending cuts. No mention of controlling Social Security or Medicare. No mention of eliminating any federal departments. Not even a promise to eliminate earmarks or pork barrel spending."
Karl even hit GOP Representative Mike Pence from the right: "There aren't enough cuts in this thing that I see to get anywhere near a balanced budget."
In contrast, both CBS and NBC chose to amplify Democrats' canned complaints about the pledge. CBS ran a soundbite from Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz: "The American people deserve to hear a real plan for moving America forward, not an election-year gimmick filled with hyperbole and tired old failed ideas."
NBC, which shoe-horned in their coverage of the Pledge into a story about President Obama's trip to the United Nations, ran a clip from Representative James Clyburn: "If this is implemented, what we are going to see is the infliction of a plague on America."
None of the three newscasts rated the Republican Pledge as very high on the news agenda. ABC led with Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's rant before the United Nations; CBS led with yet another story about the benefits of ObamaCare; while NBC did not get to the Pledge until after items about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's gift of $100 million to the Newark, New Jersey school system and a congressional hearing about school-aged girls suffering concussions.
Here are the relevant excerpts from the three evening newscasts from September 23 (thanks to MRC's Brad Wilmouth for the ABC transcript).
# ABC's World News:
DIANE SAWYER: And six weeks before the November election, Republicans, including those who want to repeal health care reform, have pulled a page from their old playbook, hoping to repeat their insurgent victory at the polls in 1994. Their midterm manifesto is dubbed the "Pledge to America," and Jon Karl has been digging through it. Jon?
JONATHAN KARL: Outside the lumberyard, a group of Tea Partiers presented would-be Speaker of the House John Boehner with a tea kettle. Inside, the Republicans presented their plan.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Our Pledge to America is that the Republicans stand ready to get it done and beginning today.
KARL: It's an echo of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, unveiled on the Capitol steps in September 1994, just before Republicans won control of Congress. The biggest difference? Clothing: no ties this time around. And venue: a lumberyard, not the Capitol steps. The Republicans made a point of getting outside the Capital Beltway to unveil their new pledge. But they didn't get that far outside. In fact, the Capitol building itself is just about 20 miles away in that direction. The agenda includes a litany of things Republicans have been talking about for a long time: from extending the Bush tax cuts, to repealing the health care law, to slashing government spending, including the roughly $250 billion in unspent stimulus funds.
BOEHNER: Government is out of control in Washington.
KARL: But this is hardly a Tea Party manifesto. The 45-page document includes more photographs than specifics on spending cuts. No mention of controlling Social Security or Medicare. No mention of eliminating any federal departments. Not even a promise to eliminate earmarks or pork barrel spending. There aren't enough cuts in this thing that I see to get anywhere near a balanced budget.
REP. MIKE PENCE: I think people that are evaluating the Pledge to America understand that it's designed to be a good start.
KARL: And Republicans hope a good campaign tool, too. Jonathan Karl, ABC News, Sterling, Virginia.
# CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: The vow to repeal health care reform is just one part of the Republicans' new pledge to America. We told you about it last night; today, they rolled it out. Nancy Cordes is our congressional correspondent. Nancy, I guess the simple question is, why now?
NANCY CORDES: Well, Katie, because they want to battle the perception that they're just the party of no before the midterm elections. But Democrats argue that the new ideas look a lot like the old ideas. Republicans unveiled their pledge at a hardware store in northern Virginia.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER: We're here today to put forth a new governing agenda.
CORDES: Among the top priorities: repealing the Obama health care law, rolling back government spending to 2008 levels, and extending the Bush tax cuts....It's a clear homage to the Contract with America which Republicans released in 1994, the last time they took over Congress. In a nod to the Tea Party, a growing force on the right, the pledge is littered with references to the Constitution and promises to reduce the federal debt. Grateful Tea Party members even presented the Minority Leader with a tea pot today. But Democrats slammed the pledge, calling it recycled rhetoric from the Bush years.
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: The American people deserve to hear a real plan for moving America forward, not an election- year gimmick filled with hyperbole and tired old failed ideas.
CORDES: Even if Republicans take control of the House enacting any part of this agenda will be difficult because Democrats will still control the White House and most likely the Senate. Katie.
# NBC Nightly News:
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: At the very moment the President was laying out his foreign policy goals, his political opponents were rolling out their domestic agenda.
REP. KEVIN McCARTHY: Americans across this country are outraged and so are we.
GUTHRIE: At a hardware store in Sterling, Virginia, just outside Washington, House Republicans unveiled their plan to change Washington.
REP. JEB HENSARLING: Stop, stop out of control spending and actually reduce the size of our government.
GUTHRIE: Borrowing the concept from the 1994 Contract with America that helped sweep them to power, the Republicans' Pledge to America promises to repeal the new health care law and replace it with a smaller plan, make the Bush tax cuts permanent for all taxpayers, cut Congress' operating budget and freeze spending at 2008 levels, cutting $100 billion per year. But Republicans were forced to acknowledge today when they actually had power they didn't always live up to their own ideals.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Listen, when Republicans were in charge of Congress, we made our fair share of mistakes. I think we've demonstrated over the last 20 months that Republicans have heard the American people.
GUTHRIE: Democrats ripped the Pledge to America as nothing more than barely warmed over ideas from the Bush years.
REP. JAMES CLYBURN: If this is implemented, what we are going to see is the infliction of a plague on America.