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An Unfair and Unbalanced Look at Howard Dean

Reported by Ellen - February 14, 2005

Today's Big Story took a look at Howard Dean's upcoming chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee. That was 'balanced' by an interview, twice as long, with Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee. Guess who got the hard questions?

The first segment, about Dean, was with Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks from New York. This segment lasted three minutes, from 5:25-5:28 pm ET. Gibson started by questioning Howard Dean's abilities on National Security. It was a theme he hammered throughout this segment, not allowing Meeks to discuss anything else, yet the topic was never raised during Mehlman's segment.

Gibson brought up Syria - the bombing in Lebanon today that he asserted was thought to be carried out by Syria, that Syria has its "hands all over" the insurgency in Iraq, Syria may have taken the WMD's from Saddam. He asked this loaded question: "Is Howard Dean the kind of guy to lead the party at a time when we might have to confront Syria when he was SO anti-war he couldn't even say that was a good Iraqi election?"

Meeks answered that he didn't think there were any weapons of mass destruction and that some of the things Dean talked about are now turning out to be true. He said that Dean's a fiscal conservatives, which is "important given the record budget deficit put in by this president. Howard Dean understands balancing budgets."

Gibson interrupted. "Let me get past this subject. This is a guy who is so anti-war and in an election where the president won because the people felt protected by him in the War on Terror. He couldn't even say that was a good election you managed to pull off in Iraq. Is HE the national security guy to lead this party?"

Meeks: As we see as time goes by, we see that a lot of the things the president told us - I hate to use the word "lies," calling the president of the US - but he had bad information..."

JG interrupts again. "But Congressman, do the Dems need to have somebody running the party that is at least perceived to be that far left?"

Shortly thereafter, it was time for "RNC Response" with Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee. This segment ran from 5:34 - 5:40 PM ET, six minutes - twice as long as Meeks got.

No tough questions here, not even any questions on foreign policy such as, say, the persistent insurgency in Iraq, the 52 pre-9/11 warnings about Al Qaeda hijacking airlines that Condi Rice thought were not specific enough, or Iran and North Korea's nuclear programs. Instead, Gibson threw such softballs at Mehlman that I began to suspect Gibson must have studied political reporting at the Jeff Gannon School of Journalism.

Here's a selection of Gibson's questions to Mehlman: Do you think Dean's a red state guy? "You scared or not (of Dean as DNC chair)?" "What about them borrowing Republican tactics? In a way, you have explained to the world what you guys did so well in the last election in terms of organizing. Didn't you just give away the playbook?"

Notice how Gibson seems to have forgotten all about national security. Whereas he interrupted Meeks when he brought up Bush's fiscal policy, it's OK for Mehlman to say whatever he wants about it, even an untruth.

Gibson: "You just heard Congressman Meeks... say 'We can do red state. You want red state? We can do red state. We're all about values. We're all about fiscal conservatism. We're all about protecting the country."

Mehlman: "If they are in fact red all over... let's see 'em support the president's budget which reduces spending and cuts the deficit in half over five years. If they are truly fiscally conservative, let's see 'em support the president's plan on Social Security and make sure that... folks under 30 today have a Social Security plan for when they retire... Are they going to walk their talk?"

Did Gibson mention that the budget only cuts the deficit in half if you believe in voodoo economics? According to an article in today's Washington Post,

If Congress were to pass Bush's Social Security plan and permanently extend his tax cuts, the budget deficit would bottom out at $251 billion in 2008, then climb steadily to $335 billion by 2015, according to an analysis by The Washington Post and the House Budget Committee's Democratic staff. Those figures assume, however, that Bush will secure all of his proposed spending cuts, that he will need no more emergency war spending and that there will be no changes to the alternative minimum tax, which Bush and other politicians want to rewrite to keep it from affecting more middle-class families in coming years... With a fix to the AMT, deficits in a decade would likely reach $650 billion to $700 billion, said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).

No, Gibson sat silently, with a straight face as Mehlman told viewers that Bush's Social Security plan is "fiscally conservative." The same Washington Post article says Bush's plan would add "$79.5 billion in the last two budgets that Bush will propose as president and an additional $675 billion in the five years that follow."

Instead of addressing that glaring discrepancy, Gibson turned the conversation to that sine qua non of a FOX News discussion of presidential politics - Hillary Clinton.

"Suppose they walk their talk in high heels?" Gibson asked snidely, meaning what if Hillary starts acting more like a red state politician?

"I'm not going to complain... because the country will be better off," Mehlman said magnanimously.

But Gibson wasn't ready to give up. "If they run Hillary Clinton, do you run with Condi Rice?"

"We'll have to see."

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