Schumer replied like a pleased teacher to his student: "That's exactly right, Matt. You've hit the nail on the head! ... They're saying no, not because they care about the deficit, but they have an ideology just to get rid of all government."
Of course Schumer would agree. These are his talking points! But look at that labeling. Fact: Far more people in American identify themselves with the tea party than they do either party. But Lauer sees them as "far right."
No wonder Lauer failed to confront Schumer with the leaked tape where the senator instructed fellow Democrats on the talking points. "I always use the word extreme," he said. "That is what the caucus instructed me to use this week." Apparently, the Democratic caucus also instructs supposedly nonpartisan journalists.
3. Parading victims in advance. It's fair for journalists to wonder which government employees or services would be affected in a government shutdown. But just like 1995 and 1996, reporters sure can shovel a thick layer of hype on it. Take ABC's Jake Tapper, who warned, "The shutdown will stop new funding for medical research and hope for desperate patients," including a trial for a new cancer drug that could help children.
Then there were sixth-graders from a school in Massachusetts who'd traveled to Washington to see museums. A girl complained, "The government is mean." A boy added, "It's not really fair they get to choose how and when stuff doesn't open and stuff."
At least during the Clinton years, the media waited until the government actually shut down before the parade of victims really began, with uninspected Christmas toys and federal employees who suddenly couldn't afford a Christmas tree.
Network reporters think these are just "facts" and emotional reactions to facts. But the fact in 2011 is no shutdown happened. What's left is the lingering notion that the "victims" are just dramatic players in a political narrative, helpful in threatening Republicans with what spin they'll see if they don't compromise.
As the fiscal debate turns to extending the debt limit and Paul Ryan's budget proposal, media consumers should have a sinking feeling that more of these emotion-laden pleas are being manufactured on an assembly line to keep anything, anything from being cut.