The Republican Party seems to have a new strategy for the Sunday shows: Use them to float the week's big political lie. Last Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell used his slot on CNN's "State of the Union" to claim the Democratic bank reform bill would commit the federal government to future "bailouts" of toxic banks, when in fact the bill outlines a new process to place such banks in bankruptcy, not bail them out. The proposed $50 billion fund to restructure such banks was called "a bailout fund," when in fact it is funded by fees on big banks, not the government. On CNN's "Reliable Sources" this week, there was broad agreement that this false storyline didn't work with the media.
This Sunday, GOP leaders tried again. Today's message: Democrats are playing politics by proposing comprehensive immigration reform in the wake of Arizona's likely unconstitutional racial profiling law. Sen. Lindsay Graham got the storyline rolling with a histrionic letter to John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, pulling out of a press conference where they were set to announce bipartisan climate change legislation, because Sen. Harry Reid announced the Senate will take up immigration reform as well. “Moving forward on immigration — in this hurried, panicked manner — is nothing more than a cynical political ploy,” Graham wrote.
Other Republicans picked up the storyline on the Sunday shows. Candy Crowley opened CNN's "State of the Union" by quoting Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama suggesting Democrats are pushing reform "because it serves a specific political purpose in a tough election year." And when Crowley asked Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss if he saw politics behind the Democrats' plans: “Oh sure, I mean it’s pretty clear that’s what this is all about," Chambliss told Crowley.
This is silly. First of all, it's the Republican leadership in Arizona that made the issue front-burner with its over-reaching legislation. And if we take those leaders at their word, they were forced to act because of the federal government's failure to act on comprehensive immigration reform. So either Arizona Republicans are cynically playing politics with immigration, or they're sincerely stepping into the breach left by federal government inaction. Either way, it's Republicans who have made this a front-burner issue in the last two weeks, not Democrats.
On "Reliable Sources" we also sparred over this week's big topic (for me, anyway): Whether the right and left are equally guilty of demonizing opponents and fomenting violence. Sigh.