Before the votes had even been cast in the midterm election, on ABC's November 2 Good Morning America , former Bill Clinton advisor and co-host George Stephanopoulos worried: "[Republicans] have to make a choice, as well. Do they choose to cooperate with President Obama or stand firm on principle, which is going to guarantee gridlock?"
The next day on CBS's Early Show , co-host Harry Smith asked newly reelected Nevada Senator Harry Reid about GOP stubbornness: "...the Republicans say over and over and over again for the last two months, no compromise, no compromise, no compromise." That same day on NBC's Today , co-host Matt Lauer asked former Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw what presumptive Republican House Speaker John Boehner would do "when that hand [of compromise] comes out from President Obama." Brokaw advised that Boehner would have to "deal with his own party...with the Tea Party folks who are coming in and saying, 'We draw the line here, we're not interested in compromise.'"
As the lame-duck session of Congress continued after Thanksgiving, news hosts became more frantic in their demands for Republican compromise. On the November 30 Today , Lauer pleaded with incoming Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor: "So no compromise there at all? I mean could you not see possibly raising taxes just a little bit on the people who make $250,000 a year....what you're telling me is no compromise whatsoever on the Bush-era tax cuts?" At the top of the December 1 Early Show , co-host Erica Hill decreed a "gridlock alert," proclaiming that "GOP leaders may now put a halt on cooperating with Democrats on Capitol Hill" and possibly leave the nation's capital in a "standstill."
Given the degree of media apprehension over the potential for congressional gridlock, one would think that President Obama's announcement Monday evening of a deal on taxes would have been welcome news. However, on Sunday's ABC World News , before the deal was even official, Washington editor Rick Klein lamented: "President Obama has been clear this was a critical position and he is caving on it, in allowing all the tax cuts to be extended." Appearing on MSNBC's Jansing & Co. on Tuesday, former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather expounded : "This is a political nightmare for Barack Obama as president. The more left portion of his party hates this, it hates it with a passion....he's almost guaranteed, if this goes through, to have a serious challenge in a Democratic primary for president in 2012."
On Wednesday's Today , co-host Meredith Vieira grilled White House advisor David Axelrod on the deal: "[Democrats are] furious about what's happened. They say this is not a compromise this deal, it is the President caving in. One senator went so far as to call it 'borderline immoral.'" The headline on screen at the time read: "Tax Cut Compromise, Did President Go Too Far In Agreeing With GOP?"
Reporting on the deal for Tuesday's Evening News, senior CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante explained: "Many Democrats are telling the President that the compromise deal comes at too high a price, rewarding Republicans for having constantly obstructed him." In a report for Wednesday's Early Show, Plante described how Democrats feared "the President gave away the store."
Apparently those in news media are in favor of compromise when they are pushing Republicans to abandon conservative principles but chagrined when Democrats put aside liberal orthodoxy in order to pass legislation.
- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.