Secretary Pete Buttigieg had great answers to daytime Fox anchors’ gotcha questions about President Biden’s infrastructure and jobs plan. But was it enough to counter the propagandistic disinformation?
On Friday, April 2, Bill Hemmer “asked” Buttigieg a question that came straight from Republican talking points, though he tried to camouflage that fact:
HEMMER: The Washington Post crunched the numbers. We crunched the numbers. We find that 5.5% of the $2 trillion – well, 5.6 of the $2 trillion proposal is only dedicated to roads and bridges. Why is that?
Given that Fox’s fact-checking department was hobbled and made more propagandistic, you have to wonder who “we” referred to.
REALITY CHECK: Hemmer’s “question” was disingenuous at best. Although it was not clear which Washington Post article he was referring to, nor what their crunched numbers showed, an April 5th analysis by WaPo called a similar claim “a lot of baloney.”
Different variations of this GOP claim have begun to surface since Biden unveiled his proposal last week. Vought, who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Donald Trump, pushes the criticism to misleading extremes by saying that only 5 to 7 percent “is actual roads and bridges and ports and things that you and I would say is real infrastructure.”
But Vought is not even counting items that Trump and his administration considered infrastructure, such as rail and water systems. Last we checked, commuters and travelers were still using railways, and pipes were still a necessity for running water.
Buttigieg did a great job arguing on behalf of Biden's infrastructure plan
I would have loved to have seen Buttigieg call out Hemmer’s disingenuousness, though maybe it was not appropriate for a cabinet secretary to do that. Buttigieg did the next best thing: he shredded the talking point. But as he spoke, a lower-third banner read: “LESS THAN 6% OF BIDEN PLAN GOES TO ROADS AND BRIDGES.”
BUTTIGIEG: Well, we’re talking about roads and bridges, we’re talking about rail and transit, we’re talking about airports and ports and, as you mentioned, we’re talking about things like the grid.
I don’t know why anybody would say it’s a mistake to invest in the grid after what we just witnessed in Texas. We saw U.S. citizens, living in Texas, melting snow in their bathtubs to be able to flush their toilets, in the United States of America. That is unacceptable.
So, yes, infrastructure includes energy infrastructure.
You know what else is part of infrastructure now? Broadband. I’m proud of the fact, even though it’s a little outside my lane on the transportation side. I’m proud of the fact that we’re finally gonna get broadband out to every American because we know, especially in rural areas, how much that’s cutting people off from opportunity.
Good infrastructure planning is always about looking to the future. You know, railroads weren’t always part of infrastructure until we built them. And you know, I’m sure in the Eisenhower era they weren’t thinking about things like broadband. They were still working on electrification, which would have sounded newfangled in its time. Now, it’s time to prepare for the future and the millions of jobs that will be created by this bill because this bill looks to the future.
Apparently, Hemmer had no good comeback. So co-anchor Dana Perino changed the subject to suggest Biden’s plan would cost jobs. In case anyone missed the point, a lower-third banner read, “GOP: BIDEN’S GREEN ENERGY PUSH WILL KILL COAL JOBS.”
Next, it was Hemmer’s turn to attack the cost: “When does the spending stop?” he asked.
BUTTIGIEG: Well, look, as a percentage of GDP, we’re kind of short of our competitors, in terms of what we invest. But one of the things I admire about the president’s plan is, it’s fully paid for. And I think that’s an important feature of the plan.
You know, right now, we’ve got to make sure we’re making smart investments for the future and what’s abundantly clear is that this policy we’ve had in the past, of short-changing our infrastructure? That’s catching up to us. Any time your car hits a hole in the road, you’re paying for that. Any time a bridge collapses in America, we’re all paying for that. We can invest now or we can pay the price later.
At that moment, a lower-third banner read: “BIDEN PREPS TAX HIKE TO FUEL NEXT SPENDING SPREE.”
But Fox News propaganda ignores the facts
Buttigieg is brilliant and always a treat to watch on Fox. But I don't believe that's enough for the Biden administration to overcome the right-wing messaging. This segment was probably flushed down the Fox memory hole the moment the network pinned a “See, we’re not all propaganda!” tag on it.
That same night, Tucker Carlson said about the infrastructure plan, “Only about 5% of that $2 trillion will actually go to roads and bridges. So, 5% on infrastructure, 95% on social engineering.” He suggested it was “another weird climate scheme/power grab/race-based redistribution plan” rather than a plan for “things we could actually use.” Despite Fox’s claim in court that nobody should believe what Carlson says, it was presented as unchallenged truth to viewers in a 16:21 commentary.
Similarly, a special “law and order” edition of Hannity that night found guest host Jason Chaffetz saying, “Democrats are eager to go on another reckless spending spree, this time under the guise of infrastructure with a price tag north of $2 trillion. But the details of the plan show that less than 10 percent of the spending actually goes to roads, bridges and highways.”
The big names on Fox are, essentially, right-wing trolls who know how to grab eyeballs and attention spans with gladiator-type, extremist tactics. It’s probably not Buttigieg’s place to go mano-a-mano with them but somebody has to.
I know conventional left-wing wisdom has been to avoid going on Fox for fear of legitimizing the network. The sad fact is, the network has plenty of anti-Biden, anti-Democrat legitimacy with its viewers as it is. Don't believe me? Despite the popularity of the provisions of Biden's bill, The Washington Post reported yesterday, "Interviews with dozens of voters in three swing congressional districts across the country revealed evidence that attacks on the spending push are beginning to take hold, and congressional Republicans said they are well positioned to capitalize on voter doubts and win back power in 2022."
Even more depressing? A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found "about half of Republicans believe the [January 6] siege was largely a non-violent protest or was the handiwork of left-wing activists 'trying to make Trump look bad;'" 60% of Republicans believe the election was "stolen" from Trump; only 30% think Trump bears some responsibility for the January 6 insurrection. Yet 59% of all Americans say Trump bears some responsibility for the attack, 80% of Democrats and 60% of independents "reject the false claims that the Capitol siege was 'mostly peaceful' or it was staged by left-wing protestors."
Where do you think Republicans got their misinformed views?
You can watch Buttigieg on the April 2, 2021 America’s Newsroom, below.
Of course not! Pete makes far too much sense for them to even try to understand what he says.
I particularly liked his comment on how infrastructure should be defined “Good infrastructure planning is always about looking to the future. You know, railroads weren’t always part of infrastructure until we built them. And you know, I’m sure in the Eisenhower era they weren’t thinking about things like broadband. They were still working on electrification, which would have sounded newfangled in its time.”