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Schieffer Treats NYT Attack as Shaming Instead of Badge of Honor --1/28/2008


1. Schieffer Treats NYT Attack as Shaming Instead of Badge of Honor
On Sunday, for the second time in days, a network journalist presumed Rudy Giuliani should be ashamed and defensive about a Friday New York Times editorial which denigrated his character, instead of seeing it, as any conservative would, as a badge of honor. On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer reminded Giuliani how his "home town newspaper....really took after you. They said your 'arrogance,' your 'vindictiveness' were, I think, are 'breathtaking,' in their phrase. What do you say about that when people ask you about that?" Giuliani explained how "most of my ideology that I put into place in New York City they opposed, including the one we've talked about most this morning, which is, you know, large tax cuts." Indeed, Schieffer had echoed New York Times-like thinking on tax cuts as irresponsible when, earlier in the interview segment, he pressed Giuliani: "You talk about cutting taxes as the way to turn a government around. You said that's what you did in New York. But isn't that going to be kind of difficult with a war that's costing $220,000 a minute?"

2. On GMA, Roberts Gushes to Hillary About Crying; Wants More
Good Morning America host Robin Roberts conducted a gushing interview with Hillary Clinton on Friday's show in which she essentially wondered if the Democrat plans on crying again. Roberts also blithely accepted the New York Senator's claim to be focusing her campaign what can be done for America. She extolled: "I'm sure your tone will be well received this morning." Overall, Roberts failed to challenge Clinton on pressing issues such as the economy or Iraq. Instead, after stating that the ex-First Lady's campaign has been centered around experience, the GMA host offered this extraordinary softball: "Do you believe that your strategy of emphasizing your experience is paying off?" On the subject of the New York Times endorsing Clinton, Roberts seemed to accept the '08 contender's contention that she can "restore America and our leadership." To that comment, the ABC journalist replied: "And that's what you are saying was part of it. It was a ringing endorsement." But, Robert's query about Clinton's emotional state was the most over-the-top question: "It has been a grueling campaign thus far, another hard week. Turning point for you, one of the turning points in New Hampshire when you just really let your emotion, really come through. Have you felt that similar emotion since that time?"

3. ABC's Moran: 'Brilliant' Bill Clinton 'Implores You to Believe'
While spending the day in South Carolina, Nightline co-host Terry Moran could barely contain his awe over Bill Clinton and his political skills. The reporter lauded the former President as "the man often called the most gifted politician of his generation." While describing the ex-commander in chief's campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Saturday's primary, Moran rhapsodized: "He lectures and jokes around and feels your pain and implores you to believe." Although on Thursday night's program the ABC journalist offered a few token questions about whether or not Bill Clinton is overshadowing his wife's run for the White House, Moran repeatedly slipped into the sort of fawning coverage that one would expect on Access Hollywood. While inter-cutting clips of the impeached ex-President's stump speech, Moran asserted: "If you close your eyes while he talks, you could almost imagine it's 1992 all over again and a brilliant young Governor is charming his way to the White House."

4. WashPost Reporter Frets Taxes Off Table, 'No Matter How Sensible'
"In Heat of Battle, Darman Put Taxes Back on the Table," read the Saturday "Business" section headline over the "appreciation" piece, by veteran Washington Post reporter Steven Mufson, on the legacy of Richard Darman, the budget director who in 1990 arranged the deal which undermined President George Bush's "read my lips: no new taxes" pledge. Darman passed away Friday, at age 64, after battling leukemia. Mufson hailed how Darman's deal, "along with the first Clinton budget...balanced the federal government's books for a decade," and empathized with how Darman had confronted "the dilemma of contemporary U.S. politics: Republicans have taken taxes off the fiscal table, no matter how sensible they might be."

5. Belzer Ties Reagan to Iraq 'Heist,' Calls Giuliani 'Fascist Thug'
The right wing's "big heist" in Iraq led by bankers who "are screwing everyone" all "started with Ronald Reagan crushing the poor, crushing the unions," actor/comedian Richard Belzer bizarrely claimed Friday night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher before proceeding to smear Rudy Giuliani as a "fascist thug with a comb-over trying to suppress his speech impediment."


Schieffer Treats NYT Attack as Shaming
Instead of Badge of Honor

On Sunday, for the second time in days, a network journalist presumed Rudy Giuliani should be ashamed and defensive about a Friday New York Times editorial which denigrated his character, instead of seeing it, as any conservative would, as a badge of honor. On Face the Nation, Bob Schieffer reminded Giuliani how his "home town newspaper....really took after you. They said your 'arrogance,' your 'vindictiveness' were, I think, are 'breathtaking,' in their phrase. What do you say about that when people ask you about that?"

Giuliani explained how "most of my ideology that I put into place in New York City they opposed, including the one we've talked about most this morning, which is, you know, large tax cuts." Indeed, Schieffer had echoed New York Times-like thinking on tax cuts as irresponsible when, earlier in the interview segment, he pressed Giuliani: "You talk about cutting taxes as the way to turn a government around. You said that's what you did in New York. But isn't that going to be kind of difficult with a war that's costing $220,000 a minute?"

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Monday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The Friday CyberAlert item, "As NYT Hails McCain, Williams Makes Rudy Answer Its Denigration," recounted:

Instead of pressing John McCain to defend himself to Republican primary voters in the wake of a New York Times editorial endorsing him which praised McCain for his more liberal views on global warming, campaign finance and illegal immigration, during Thursday night's GOP presidential debate on MSNBC, Brian Williams demanded Rudy Giuliani respond to the denigration of him by the left-wing newspaper -- which Williams called "your home town paper" -- as a "vindictive man" with a "breathtaking" level of "arrogance and bad judgment." To audience applause, Giuliani pointed out that if he ever "did anything the New York Times suggested...I wouldn't be considered a conservative Republican."

Concluding the 97-minute debate from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Williams promised questions about "how you counter the attacks against you from your opponents," presumably those on stage, and Williams did hit Mitt Romney on his flip-flops and McCain on his age. But leading off with Giuliani shortly before 10:30pm EST, Williams pursued: "In tomorrow morning's editions of the New York Times they are out with their endorsements in the New York primary. Senator Clinton on the Democratic side, Senator McCain on the Republican side. In tonight's lead editorial, they say, quote: 'The real Mr. Giuliani, who many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive vindictive man. His arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking.' How can you defend against that in your home town paper? How have you changed as a man since this portrait?"

For the CyberAlert article in full, with an excerpt from the editorial: www.mrc.org

The January 25 New York Times editorial endorsing McCain and trashing Giuliani: www.nytimes.com

Tangentially, in his "Best of the Web Today" compilation Friday for the Wall Street Journal's online editorial page, James Taranto noticed "Two Editorial Pages in One!" in contrasting the January 25 editorial denigrating Giuliani with one from when Giuliani left office at the end of 2001 which hailed how Giuliani "more than did the job."

From Friday's editorial:
"The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power. Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square. Mr. Giuliani's arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking. When he claims fiscal prudence, we remember how he ran through surpluses without a thought to the inevitable downturn and bequeathed huge deficits to his successor. He fired Police Commissioner William Bratton, the architect of the drop in crime, because he couldn't share the limelight. He later gave the job to Bernard Kerik, who has now been indicted on fraud and corruption charges."

From a December 30, 2001 editorial:
"It would be easy to go on about the things Mr. Giuliani failed to do -- New York City has so many problems and crises and needs that all mayors leave office with far more losses than wins. The most its residents can expect of a mayor is that he -- or someday she -- accomplish one big thing, as Mayor Koch did in restoring the city's financial health. If that one achievement is important enough, it will come to stand for everything. When measured in that way, Mr. Giuliani more than did the job. He restored New Yorkers' confidence in their ability to control the city's destiny. The long years he spent fighting crime and disorder became the platform from which he showed us how to fight terrorism and Osama bin Laden."

Taranto's January 25 compilation: www.opinionjournal.com

Back now to Sunday, from the January 27 Face the Nation, the exchange about endorsements and the New York Times attack, with Schieffer in Washington, DC and Giuliani in Boca Raton, Florida:

BOB SCHIEFFER: You know, Mr. Mayor, yesterday was not a very good day for Senator Clinton, that's for sure, but it also really wasn't a very good for you, because the governor of Florida, who has 70 percent approval ratings, announced that he was going to endorse John McCain. I think the day before, the state's Republican Senator, Mel Martinez, a former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, surprised a lot of people, especially Mitt Romney, who thought he was going to get his endorsement, and he endorsed Senator McCain. And that comes on the heels of your hometown newspaper, the New York Times, also endorsing Senator McCain. That puts you in a pretty tough spot, doesn't it?
RUDY GIULIANI: The reality is, I was surprised by the governor's endorsement, but everybody endorses. The attorney general, Bill McCollum, a long-time Congressman here, now attorney general, endorses me, is my campaign chairman. We have a lot of support here in -- here in Florida, mayors and people up and down the state. The reality is, I think the people of Florida are going to make this decision, and I think the people of Florida see in me a proven tax cutter, someone who's actually turned an economy around, actually done what they would like to see done on a federal level; I already did that in New York. And of all the candidates that are running in the race, I'm the one who's actually lowered taxes in the past and turned around an economy. And I have a significant amount of experience with handling the safety and security of millions of people. I think if people of Florida hear that, that's going to be the thing that decides this election. We all have endorsements--governor, senator, attorney general, mayor -- we all have different endorsements, but in the long run it's getting your message to the people of Florida that's the most important thing.
SCHIEFFER: I want to give you a chance to respond to that endorsement by the New York Times, because they really took after you. They said your "arrogance," your "vindictiveness" were, I think, are "breathtaking," in their phrase. What do you say about that when people ask you about that?
GIULIANI: I was a Mayor of New York City that I think brought about the biggest turnaround in the history of the city. Crime, welfare, the economy of the city, unemployment went from 10.5 percent to 5 percent, 600,000 people removed from welfare. I changed some of the rules, some of the social norms, some of the ways in which people look at things. The Times opposed most of my initiatives; they saw them differently than I did. So I was not at all surprised by their lack of an endorsement or their endorsement. I didn't expect it to go any other way. Most of, most of my ideology that I put into place in New York City they opposed, including the one we've talked about most this morning, which is, you know, large tax cuts. But I truly believe that if you cut taxes correctly, you actually gain revenues and you gain revenues in a healthy way. You gain revenues by putting more people to work, by building businesses, building jobs, and it's a healthy way for an economy to grow rather than heavy taxes to transfer wealth, which I think puts a lid on an economy.

On GMA, Roberts Gushes to Hillary About
Crying; Wants More

Good Morning America host Robin Roberts conducted a gushing interview with Hillary Clinton on Friday's show in which she essentially wondered if the Democrat plans on crying again. Roberts also blithely accepted the New York Senator's claim to be focusing her campaign what can be done for America. She extolled: "I'm sure your tone will be well received this morning."

Overall, Roberts failed to challenge Clinton on pressing issues such as the economy or Iraq. Instead, after stating that the ex-First Lady's campaign has been centered around experience, the GMA host offered this extraordinary softball: "Do you believe that your strategy of emphasizing your experience is paying off?" On the subject of the New York Times endorsing Clinton, Roberts seemed to accept the '08 contender's contention that she can "restore America and our leadership." To that comment, the ABC journalist replied: "And that's what you are saying was part of it. It was a ringing endorsement." But, Robert's query about Clinton's emotional state was the most over-the-top question: "It has been a grueling campaign thus far, another hard week. Turning point for you, one of the turning points in New Hampshire when you just really let your emotion, really come through. Have you felt that similar emotion since that time?"
[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Friday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Roberts did reference a tough remark made by Mitt Romney during Thursday's GOP debate. The Republican candidate, to applause and cheers, stated that "the idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House with nothing to do is something I just can't imagine." But even this, failed to materialize into a combative question. After playing the clip, Roberts mildly offered: "We all remember when your husband ran, he said two for the price of one. Is that what is happening again here?" More indicative of the interview's tone was Robert's sympathetic close to the segment: "Well, Senator Clinton, I know it's another long day for you, a big day tomorrow."

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:05am on January 25:

ROBIN ROBERTS: Now, to the next battleground in the race to '08. Tomorrow, voters go to the polls in South Carolina's hotly contested Democratic primary. Just moments ago, I talked to Senator Hillary Clinton about the looming showdown. Senator Clinton, thank you so much for joining us this morning. And you received good news overnight, receiving the endorsement of the New York Times. And they said, in part they endorsed you because they feel you are more qualified to be president. Do you believe that your strategy of emphasizing your experience is paying off?
SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: You know, the New York Times editorial endorsement is a great honor for me. But there was also a comment that was made in the editorial that I am very much in agreement with. And that is, that, you know, I want to set the tone for the kind of campaign we're having. I really want this to be about the future, about what is going to happen to the people watching us this morning, what's going to happen to our kids and, really, how we're going to restore America and our leadership here at home and around the world. And that's what I've been talking about, that's what I'm going to focus on for the next days and weeks of this campaign.
ROBERTS: And that's what you are saying was part of it. It was a ringing endorsement. But, part of it was asking you to step forward and to change the tone. They said, in part, "Bill Clinton's overheated comments are feeding those resentments and could do long-term damage to her candidacy if he continues this way. Do you believe that could happen?"
CLINTON: He, obviously, is a passionate advocate for my cause as are the wives of my two major opponents. But I think all of us just need to just take a deep breath here, because, obviously, we know we'll have a united Democratic Party once this nomination is determined. We'll go united into the fall election and take on whomever the Republicans decide to nominate. But I think for someone who has worked for 35 years starting out, you know, on behalf of children, and civil rights and human rights and women's rights, this election is both an extraordinary opportunity, and really a celebration of how far we've come as a nation. And it's also a great chance for each of us individually to represent our views, to draw the contrasts and comparisons that are totally fair, but to be really focused on the differences the Democrats will make, compared to what we've had for the last seven years. And I think that's what Americans want to hear about.
ROBERTS: I'm sure your tone will be well received this morning. Last night, the Republicans, of course, held their debate and your name came up repeatedly. In fact, it was, you were the only Democratic candidate's name that came up on more than on one occasion. And again, the suggestion that you and your husband are running as a team. I want to get your response to what Mitt Romney said when he was asked how he would run against you and the former president.
MITT ROMNEY: I frankly can't wait. Because the idea of Bill Clinton back in the White House with nothing to do is something I just can't imagine. I can't imagine the American people can imagine. I just think do we want to have a president, not a whole -- a team of husband and wife thinking they're going to run the country.
ROBERTS: We all remember when your husband ran, he said two for the price of one. Is that what is happening again here?
CLINTON: No. Obviously, just as then and now, I'm running. I am running to be the president. I will have responsibility for the decisions. But also, you know, bringing the country together in a way that sets goals and gives us the feeling that we're acting like Americans again. There's nothing we can't do together. Once we put our minds to it. And that kind of can-do spirit has really been missing the last seven years. I don't hear it from anybody on the Republican side. I hear a lot of more of the same, supporting the policies, that frankly haven't worked very well for our country. So I'm going to take a very different message into the general election if I'm so fortunate as to be the nominee and I'm looking forward to standing on the stage with any Republicans talking about what we can do together to solve our problems.
ROBERTS: It has been a grueling campaign thus far, another hard week. Turning point for you, one of the turning points in New Hampshire when you just really let your emotion, really come through. Have you felt that similar emotion since that time?
CLINTON: You know, I do, often. And it's usually in response to something that somebody says to me, some problem that they have, some, you know, great need for whatever it might be, health care, their home is being foreclosed on, or they, you know, are just overwhelmed by everything going on or they feel passionately about ending the war in Iraq. And, you know, they get emotion and of course that triggers emotions in me as well. I could just feel that everybody is so much holding their breath, and that is -- a responsibility I take very seriously. You know, I want people to know that I will get up every single day in the White House and think about them, think about their families. You know, really talk to the people who are watching us today about what we can do together. And that brings out a lot of emotion in me and I see it reflected in the people I talk to around the campaign trail.
ROBERTS: Well, Senator Clinton, I know it's another long day for you, a big day tomorrow. We certainly appreciate you getting up and joining us this morning. Thank you.
CLINTON: Thank you. It's great to talk to you.

ABC's Moran: 'Brilliant' Bill Clinton
'Implores You to Believe'

While spending the day in South Carolina, Nightline co-host Terry Moran could barely contain his awe over Bill Clinton and his political skills. The reporter lauded the former President as "the man often called the most gifted politician of his generation." While describing the ex-commander in chief's campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Saturday's primary, Moran rhapsodized: "He lectures and jokes around and feels your pain and implores you to believe."

Although on Thursday night's program the ABC journalist offered a few token questions about whether or not Bill Clinton is overshadowing his wife's run for the White House, Moran repeatedly slipped into the sort of fawning coverage that one would expect on Access Hollywood. While inter-cutting clips of the impeached ex-President's stump speech, Moran asserted: "If you close your eyes while he talks... you could almost imagine it's 1992 all over again and a brilliant young Governor is charming his way to the White House."

Perhaps this was Moran's way of offering "balance" to the Clinton camp. In 2006, Moran provided famously over-the-top coverage of Senator Barack Obama, the "American political phenomenon." See the November 8, 2006 CyberAlert for more: www.mrc.org

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Friday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Moran's segment indicated someone who views Bill Clinton as a kind of lovable rascal. After mentioning how the former President was mostly sidelined during the early part of his wife's campaign, he happily noted: "But then Barack Obama surged, Hillary let the big dog out..."

In his summation of the segment, Moran made very clear just how amazed he is by the Clintons. Lapsing into something akin to a press release, he asserted: "It is so unprecedented, this personal and political partnership, so fraught with history and baby boomer melodrama. They have already made history, and they are out to do it again, together, through it all."

Despite Moran's insistence (and many others in the media), that Bill Clinton is "brilliant," it's worth noting that he never got 50 percent of the vote in 1992 or 1996, lost both houses of Congress during his tenure and was impeached.

A partial transcript of the segment on the January 24 Nightline:

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Let's head to presidential politics now. It's just two days until the Democratic primary in South Carolina, where polls suggest Senator Barack Obama is in the lead. And where Senator Hillary Clinton has largely left her campaigning to her number one surrogate, Bill Clinton. That has created quite a ruckus, as my co-anchor Terry Moran saw up close. Terry joins us now from South Carolina. Terry?
TERRY MORAN: Well, Cynthia, it sure has created a ruckus. This is another chapter in this fascinating Democratic race this year. And it's almost unprecedented. Almost. Think about it for a moment. When George W. Bush ran for president back in 2000, how much do you remember President George Herbert Walker Bush, his father, campaigning for him? The Bushes were ver careful about that. Now, that was a father/son relationship. The husband and wife team of Bill and Hillary Clinton, well, they're taking a very different approach. There he goes again. The man often called the most gifted politician of his generation is once again at the center of American politics, taking over the 2008 Democratic campaign. And he's clearly loving every minute of it.
BILL CLINTON: I'd just like to talk to people. Good morning. Good morning.
MORAN: He sure does. Hour after hour after hour, in the past few days here in South Carolina, the former president has been conducting a schedule as ambitious as any candidate who's running here. He talks and talks and talks. He lectures and jokes around and feels your pain and implores you to believe.
BILL CLINTON: You have to believe me on this. I do this all around the world. We are leaving millions of jobs on the table that we can get to change America. And her plan will do it.
MORAN: Of course, she is Hillary, Senator Clinton, the Clinton who's actually running for president this year.
SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: And I want to rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class.
MORAN: But with Bill, it's a little hard to tell as he makes the case for another Clinton administration, there's an awful lot of boasting about his own.
BILL CLINTON: We paid down the debt three years in a row for first time in70 years and you didn't have a lot of these problems. When I was president, we moved almost eight million people from poverty into the middle class.
MORAN: It is truly audacious, making the case for Hillary by making his own case and it all seems to throw Barack Obama on the defensive.
HILLARY CLINTON: I did not mention his name.
BARACK OBAMA: Your husband did.
HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I'm here. He's not.
OBAMA: Okay, well, I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes.
MORAN: Today, Michelle Obama, the candidate's wife, joined the fray in a fund-raising e-mail declaring, "We knew getting into this race that Barack would be competing with Senator Clinton and President Clinton at the same time. What we didn't expect, at least not from our fellow Democrats, are the win it all cost tactics." A radio ad that ran briefly here drove that point home.
OBAMA RADIO AD: It's what's wrong with politics today. Hillary Clinton will say anything to get elected.
MORAN: Sound familiar? It should. That's what the Clintons' opponents always say, like Senator Paul Tsongas, steam rolled by Bill Clinton way back in 1992.
PAUL TSONGAS AD: Some people will say anything to be elected president. Now, Bill Clinton is distorting Paul Tsongas' record on Social Security, trying to scare people.
BILL CLINTON: But for your future, this is important.
MORAN: There is a sense of deja vu watching Bill Clinton today. If you close your eyes while he talks-
BILL CLINTON: I'm most concerned about the economic problems because if we go into a recession, it will complicate our ability to do everything else.
MORAN: And listen to him talk about how it's the economy that matters, the middle class-
BILL CLINTON: That's our program, rebuild the middle class, reclaim the future with green jobs, restore America's standing in the world.
MORAN: -you could almost imagine it's 1992 all over again-
BILL CLINTON [from 1992]: And we will put them to work, making America strong and great here at home.
MORAN: -and a brilliant young governor is charming his way to the White House. It was a legendary campaign, part soap opera, part policy seminar, so compelling, Hollywood turned it into a movie.
JOHN TRAVOLTA IN A CLIP FROM "PRIMARY COLORS": And I don't have to tell you how hard it is to be looking for work. Hey, I don't have to tell you anything about hard times.

....

MORAN: It's so unprecedented, this personal and political partnership, so fraught with history and baby boomer melodrama. They have already made history, and they are out to do it again, together, through it all.

WashPost Reporter Frets Taxes Off Table,
'No Matter How Sensible'

"In Heat of Battle, Darman Put Taxes Back on the Table," read the Saturday "Business" section headline over the "appreciation" piece, by veteran Washington Post reporter Steven Mufson, on the legacy of Richard Darman, the budget director who in 1990 arranged the deal which undermined President George Bush's "read my lips: no new taxes" pledge. Darman passed away Friday, at age 64, after battling leukemia. Mufson hailed how Darman's deal, "along with the first Clinton budget...balanced the federal government's books for a decade," and empathized with how Darman had confronted "the dilemma of contemporary U.S. politics: Republicans have taken taxes off the fiscal table, no matter how sensible they might be."

Mufson, who currently covers energy for the Post but back in 1990 covered economic policy, presumed the Reagan tax cuts of nine years earlier caused a "budget mess" which had to be fixed in 1990, asserting that "many people thought it was fitting that Darman was at the center of these talks because of his role in drafting the big 1981 Reagan tax cuts." Mufson quoted David Stockman, the infamous Reagan back-stabber, as quoting Darman: "I don't know which is worse, winning now and fixing up the budget mess later, or losing now and facing a political mess immediately." But the "fixing" didn't occur for a decade, leading Mufson to postulate:
"That summed up not only the Darman dilemma but also the dilemma of contemporary U.S. politics: Republicans have taken taxes off the fiscal table, no matter how sensible they might be. That makes compromise difficult and it could be bad policy, too. In addition to raising revenue, the small gasoline tax increase that conservative Republicans were able to purge from the final 1990 deal 'might have been good energy and environmental policy,' Darman said in a talk last March."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Sunday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

An excerpt from Mufson's January 26 article on the former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, "In Heat of Battle, Darman Put Taxes Back on the Table," which carried this headline on the jump page: "Darman's Budget Legacy Rests in Balancing Tax, Spending Cuts."

From his spacious quarters in the Old Executive Office Building in 1990, White House budget director Richard G. Darman ran one of the most skillful -- and fateful -- budget battles in modern political and economic history. For a year, the battle commanded Washington's attention and briefly shut down the federal government.

The deal negotiated that year by Darman, who died of leukemia yesterday at age 64, is his most notable legacy. Along with the first Clinton budget, it balanced the federal government's books for a decade and established the rules popularly known as "pay-go" still quoted to justify balancing tax and spending cuts.

But Darman's deal also backtracked from President George H.W. Bush's "Read my lips: No new taxes" 1988 campaign pledge. Blamed by many conservative Republicans, including the current President Bush, for contributing to Bill Clinton's victory over Bush senior in 1992, it has become a warning to some partisans of the dangers of the sort of compromise that Darman believed in....

Darman talked about the idea of an "immaculate conception" for tax increases and program cuts. Seeking to gain distance from the partisan rhetoric of Washington, he moved talks with top Democrats to the officers' club at Andrews Air Force Base, where reporters wouldn't see the deal being born. It didn't work.

Many people thought it was fitting that Darman was at the center of these talks because of his role in drafting the big 1981 Reagan tax cuts. "I don't know which is worse," President Ronald Reagan's budget director, David A. Stockman, later quoted Darman as saying at the time, "winning now and fixing up the budget mess later, or losing now and facing a political mess immediately." Stockman later recalled that Darman said, "We'll win it now, we fix it later."

When I asked Darman about that in 1990, he didn't deny saying it. But he said "the thought never crossed my mind, and I don't think the thought ever crossed Stockman's mind, that we would wait a decade."

That summed up not only the Darman dilemma but also the dilemma of contemporary U.S. politics: Republicans have taken taxes off the fiscal table, no matter how sensible they might be. That makes compromise difficult and it could be bad policy, too. In addition to raising revenue, the small gasoline tax increase that conservative Republicans were able to purge from the final 1990 deal "might have been good energy and environmental policy," Darman said in a talk last March.

Even after making those sorts of adjustments, he earned the lasting enmity of conservative Republicans who, led by then-Rep. Newt Gingrich, voted against the deal, nearly sinking it, and who then launched an ultimately successful campaign to overthrow GOP moderates.

Darman was never a favorite of the Republican ideologues. Even during the Reagan administration, Darman later wrote, many GOP partisans used ideology "as a litmus test by which to separate the black hats from the white hats. And their version of the purity test was one I could not pass."...

END of Excerpt

For the entire article: www.washingtonpost.com

A list stories by Mufson: projects.washingtonpost.com

Belzer Ties Reagan to Iraq 'Heist,' Calls
Giuliani 'Fascist Thug'

The right wing's "big heist" in Iraq led by bankers who "are screwing everyone" all "started with Ronald Reagan crushing the poor, crushing the unions," actor/comedian Richard Belzer bizarrely claimed Friday night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher before proceeding to smear Rudy Giuliani as a "fascist thug with a comb-over trying to suppress his speech impediment." [This item includes an accurate quotation of a vulgarity.]

Belzer, who plays "Detective John Munch" on NBC's Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, appeared on the show's panel with musician Herbie Hancock and ABC News reporter Martha Raddatz. When Hancock asserted $80 billion is unaccounted for in Iraq, Belzer launched into this tirade:
"This is a big heist, this is a big heist. The right wing is in power, the bankers are screwing everyone -- the oil companies, Halliburton -- this is no fucking mystery. These people have been after this. It started with Reagan crushing the poor, crushing the unions, rewarding people, putting them into heads of certain departments of the government and then disassembling those departments because they have contempt for the government."

What government department was ever disassembled in the Reagan years?

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Friday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

About 25 minutes later on the January 25 show, the topic turned to Giuliani's plummet in Republican presidential candidate polls, and Belzer took advantage of the opportunity to malign him with personal insults:
"He has run the most unconscionable campaign, mentioning 9/11 every other second, trying to instill fear in us. Americans are tough. We don't need this fascist thug with a comb-over trying to suppress his speech impediment and change his entire personality. I mean, what you see on TV, that's not really Rudy Giuliani. Before 9/11 his approval rating was 32 percent in New York. He was detested in New York."

HBO's page for Maher's weekly show: www.hbo.com

NBC's bio page for Belzer: www.nbc.com

-- Brent Baker