CBS's Week-Long Pressure on Republicans to Support Dem Financial Reform Bill
On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared that when it comes to financial reform legislation, "Democrats have all the leverage right now." Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer appeared on the show and observed that "They think this is the time to picture Republicans as trying to protect fat cat bankers, as it were."
In her first question to Schieffer, Rodriguez wondered: "Do Democrats have anything to lose by going for a vote on Monday even though the Republicans have said they'd like a little bit more time to work on a compromise?" Schieffer replied: "No, they have absolutely nothing to lose. They want to get this out and get it on the table as quickly as possible."
Following his comment about the image of Republicans supporting "fat cat bankers," Schieffer added: "it's one thing to oppose health care reform, but on this case, I think most people would agree that doctors are more popular than bankers, especially at this particular time when you've had this lawsuit filed against Goldman Sachs." The headline on screen throughout the segment read: "Financial Reform Face-Off; Obama Takes on Wall Street, GOP."
Rodriguez later pointed out that Senator John McCain "said he doesn't understand why the Senate is ...talking about Wall Street reform, when so many people are in danger of losing their home." She asked Schieffer: "Do you think that a lot of people will buy into that argument?" As part of his response, Schieffer dismissed McCain's objection as politically motivated: "McCain, we also have to remember, is involved in a very difficult primary campaign against a candidate backed by the tea party out there in Arizona. So that may have something to do with what he said."
After Rodriguez finished talking to Schieffer, co-host Harry Smith sarcastically picked up on McCain's primary fight: "The election couldn't have had anything to do with it, right?" Rodriguez replied: "No, of course not."
On Thursday's CBS Evening News, White House correspondent Chip Reid portrayed Republicans as standing in the way of inevitable passage of the bill: "On Capitol Hill, some angry Republicans said the President's plan is not what the American people want....In the Senate, where just yesterday bipartisanship seemed to be breaking out all over, today saw a return to gridlock and finger pointing....A crucial Senate vote is scheduled for Monday. The White House says they are confident they'll get a bipartisan majority."
Earlier in the report, when discussing President Obama's Wall Street speech that afternoon, Reid remarked: "the President argued there's no legitimate reason to oppose financial reform." Reid added: "He criticized bankers for sending a battalion of lobbyists to Congress and poked fun at Wall Street's instinctive opposition to regulation, reading a quote from Time magazine....He then revealed it was from 1933, opposing the FDIC, the government agency that, to this day, insures bank deposits."
On Thursday's Early Show, co-host Harry Smith interviewed Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and wondered: "This looks like it's going to happen, this financial reform....You're confident of it?" Geithner replied: "Oh, very confident. If you just listen to the - just the tone of the last couple days, it's changed. And I spent a huge amount of time with the Republicans over the last few weeks...I think they really want to be for this."
Smith cited that quote from Geithner to Maggie Rodriguez following the interview: "The Treasury Secretary told me that he has spent an awful lot of time with Republicans-" Rodriguez interjected: "Good." Smith continued: "-trying to make sure that they're getting on the same page with the Democrats."
On Wednesday's CBS Evening News, when it seemed like a bipartisan deal was more likely, congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes happily proclaimed: "It appears that bipartisanship is back from the dead here on Capitol Hill....Just last week, Republicans were expressing universal opposition to the financial reform bill....But now they are back at the bargaining table." Cordes quickly found the reason for the resurrection: "The change in tone comes after Democrats accused the GOP of siding with big banks."
On Wednesday's Early Show, Rodriguez cheered: "encouraging news out of Washington, that after a week or so of attacking this financial bill that the Democrats are proposing to regulate Wall Street, Republicans are changing their tone and they seem to be wanting to come on board."
On Tuesday, the Early Show went so far as to have on disgraced ex-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer to discuss the bill, who thought it didn't offer enough government control over the financial industry: "It will happen, but it's not fundamental enough. The critical issue is what should the investment banks do with all the money we've given them. They're not investing it where we need it to go, into the guts of our economy. They're playing games like this."
As for criticism of the proposed legislation, neither the Wednesday or Thursday Evening News broadcasts, nor the Thursday or Friday editions of the Early Show, made any mention of the fact that government-backed mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were left out of the reform bill.
The suspicious timing of the Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit against Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs was mentioned on Wednesday's Evening News, when anchor Katie Couric asked Cordes: "A lot of people have questioned the timing of that SEC case against Goldman Sachs. And the President addressed that today, didn't he?" Cordes recited Obama's denial of any White House involvement: "In that CNBC interview that you saw, he categorically denied that the White House had anything to do with the substance or the timing of that suit....he said any indications that he might have tried to influence that suit are categorically false."
During his interview with Spitzer on Tuesday's Early Show, Harry Smith wondered if the lawsuit "was politically motivated?" Spitzer argued: "Well, I don't want to say politically motivated. The SEC is trying very hard to say 'we're being tough, we're protecting the consumer'....I wouldn't say politics. I would say they're flexing their muscles."
Smith asked one question to Secretary Geithner about a possible $50 billion bank slush fund in the legislation: "having a kind of fund that would be paid for by the banks, but almost like a slush fund to help with that dismantling. Some people would say all that really does is send a signal to the banks, go ahead and gamble."
The rest of the coverage largely repeated Democratic talking points on the plan and promoted it as genuine reform.
-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.