Helen Ferre Versus Debbie Wasserman Schultz
As the newspaper industry dies, there's been some talk of how the government should subsidize investigative reporting. When I hear that, I tell people to watch PBS' show Issues on WPBT 2 before endorsing the idea.
Watch that show enough and you'll realize it's probably best for the free market to take care of our journalistic needs. If enough people watched it, Issues would put Ambien out of business. What few people know, however, is that the show's host, Helen Ferre, is a raging standard-bearer of the conservative Cuban cuckoo crowd. She's the opinion-page editor of the right-wing Diario Las Américas. She was one of the Cuban journalists who took money from the U.S. government to appear on TV Marti, the anti-Castro propaganda outlet. Charlie Crist, the state's top Republican, short-listed Ferre for the position of lieutenant governor.
Her political bent does come out in general tone, but it's usually pretty subtle, and Ferre is usually a cream-puff interviewer. Ferre's right-wing political bent came out in full force this week, though, when Ferre interviewed Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for this week's show. Ferre took every question from the playbook of Sean Hannity and Jim Greer. She went even further to declare that America wasn't ready for health-care reform, and that furthered Greer's crackpot idea that Obama's school address scheduled for Tuesday was meant to "indoctrinate" our children to socialism.
Here's an abridged transcript (the video comes after the jump):
FERRE: Let's start with the health-care debate. It really has awakened so many passions on multiple sides of the issue... but I think it really all points to people feeling insecure and afraid of the change.
(That's Helen Ferre; she's got her finger on the pulse of what people think. And she's figured out they're afraid of Democratic reform.)
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We're going to make some major important changes like... making [insurance] portable and tying the insurance coverage to you instead of to your job... I had 1,210 health-care-related bankruptcies in my district alone last year. We've got to do something. We've got to cover the 47 million that don't have health insurance, and we have to make sure that the people who do have insurance don't get priced out of being able to keep it.
FERRE: As much as people would say that the current system is unsustainable, they're not willing to make any of those changes. They sound wonderful, but they are afraid because the Obama administration pushed it in so quickly before anybody really had time to look at it -- like the stimulus bill. So what is the rush?
(Well, there you have it. Shut it down, Obama. People aren't willing to fix the health-care mess. Helen said it.)
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: There isn't a rush. We've been waiting all the way back to 1912, when Teddy Roosevelt first starting talking about covering everyone.
FERRE: I wasn't there.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I wasn't
there either, but we've been trying for a long time to finally cover everyone and make health care a right, not a privilege.
FERRE: A lot of people would say, "You know what? That's not my biggest focus right now. My biggest focus right now is unemployment, I or my husband doesn't have a job. My biggest concern right now is that the economy is so unsecure, foreclosures, property values going down but taxes going up on local and state levels." So health care just doesn't seem to be the paramount issue.
(Notice that Ferre employs that ubiquitous and always politically astute source "a lot of people.")
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: We can't afford to put it on the backburner and deal with one thing at a time, Helen. We have multiple causes of the economic problems we're going through right now. We can walk and chew gum at the same time, like the president said.
FERRE: You chose to have a teleconference instead of going face to face. Why did you make that choice?
(Tea Bagger Alert!)
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: I had 4,000 people on my teletown hall compared to a couple of hundred that I get -- which is a huge turnout -- at an in-person town hall.
FERRE: Some people would say she just probably is afraid to have an angry mob show up at her town hall as they have at others.
(Hmmm, "a lot of people" has transformed into "some people." Way to change it up, Helen. Wasserman Schultz basically said again that the tele-conference allows about 40 times more people to participate than regular town halls. This set up Ferre's next query).
FERRE: President Obama is scheduled to have a televised conference that he's going to address the schoolchildren of the United States. I believe it's on Tuesday, the first day after Labor Day. Some people have said that they are afraid the president is going to be indoctrinating the children.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: (Laughs)
FERRE: The Department of Education came out with lesson plans for teachers to follow where they would talk about how the children can help the president achieve his goals. Given everything else that is going on, given the controversy behind "cap and trade" and so many other issues, do you see that at all as being an issue? Do you understand why people are worried about the president overreaching when it comes -- or the Department of Education overreaching -- when it comes to this?
("Some people," in this case, boils down to Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer, who made national headlines with his statement that Obama planned to "indoctrinate America's children to his socialist agenda." It's extremist right-wing rubbish but mainstream fare for Ferre.)
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Only in America could we have outrage over the president of the United States giving an address on values and the importance of education to schoolchildren in the United States. I think the fear is ludicrous... This is overwrought right-wing conservatives who don't want to hear anything from President Obama who are getting worked up over the president of the United States, everyone's president, talking to schoolchildren.
FERRE: No question he's everyone's president, but polls are also indicating that President Obama's popularity level has dropped significantly, that he's actually lost the middle and the independents who are absolutely critical in winning most elections today, as you well know. And 2010 is a big election year. Why did he go down so quickly?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: He didn't go down any more quickly than any other president in their first year. It's typical... The degree that his numbers have dropped for independents is just below 50 percent. Nothing like the abysmal numbers that President Bush had. He was in the 20s and the 30s. So President Obama is still overwhelmingly popular; people overall in the country think he's doing a good job moving the country in the right direction.
FERRE: Uh, there's a sense that President Obama, his numbers have been sliding down because Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House, has been running things a certain way and Sen. Harry Reid has been running things in another direction. The Democrats have control of the executive-legislative branch. Why are the Democrats not successful in passing legislation that's so important to this president?
(Now Ferre has abandoned "a lot of people" and "some people" and is just going with a "sense." Apparently people aren't saying it, but Ferre, experienced journalist that she is, has caught the vibes.)
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: (Laughs) I don't know what you're talking about. We've had more legislation passed in the first year of a president than any president in history. We've passed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Economy Recovery Act, we helped the auto industry, we passed the "cash for clunkers" legislation, we exapanded child health insurance, we passed the alternative energy legislation, and now we're focused on health-care reform. This has been the most successful first year of any president in American history.
FERRE: Cap and trade is the next big issue on the president's plate. Do you think cap and trade is going to be a bigger debate in the end, other than health care?
(Ah, "cap and trade" again. For you political neophytes, that's what the GOP calls Obama's plan to cap carbon emissions by companies to help spur investment and growth in renewable energies. Rush Limbaugh is all worked up about it.)
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: It's not cap and trade. It's investment in renewable energy.
FERRE: But people understand it as cap and trade.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: People who are opposed to it call it cap and trade.
FERRE: The media calls it cap and trade. And I'm not sure... It's energy consumption reform, let's put it that way.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Yes.
FERRE: And when you look at it that way, do you think that's going to be even more controversial than health care reform, or equally, maybe?
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: No, I think that most Americans fervently believe that we need to make investments here in America so we're no longer dependent on our enemies for our energy needs.
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