For reasons known only to the producers, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Cal.), target of an ongoing House ethics investigation, inveterate race-baiter and general embarrassment to representative democracy, was included in the “Meet the Press” panel on the jobs crisis. Waters was, appropriately, asked by host David Gregory about her inflammatory and uncivil rhetoric during the policy debate, specifically her infamous comment last week that the “Tea Party can go straight to Hell.” Is this kind of comment appropriate and helpful, he asked?
Rep. Waters responded that her constituency was frustrated and needed help, but instead the nation was bailing out banks. That was it. No justification from Maxine of her incendiary rhetoric, no explanation, in fact nothing with any relevance to the Tea Party or the comment in question at all. The Tea Party is also opposed to bailing out banks, by the way. Waters simply delivered pre-determined talking points that were a complete non sequitur to the question Gregory asked. If she had launched into a recipe for meatloaf or a rant about how George Harrison never got a fair chance to develop his song-writing talents with the Beatles, it would not have been more evasive or inappropriate.
Did Gregory then respond, as he is obligated to do as a fair journalist and out of respect for viewers like me, who were screaming at the TV, “Answer the damn question!”, by requiring Waters to address his actual question? After all, this is the same host who badgered House Speaker John Boehner repeatedly after the Speaker did answer his question about why Republicans were not aggressively condemning those who questioned the President’s place of birth. This is the hard-hitting host of “Meet the Press,” after all, where bullshit doesn’t fly, and where they get to the truth!
No. Gregory accepted Waters’ unrelated babble as if it settled any questions about the wisdom of a House member consigning those with differing political views to Hell. He then went on to the next topic.
- He is lazy. Gregory will ask a Democrat a tough question, but will not require her to answer it
- He is unfair. Gregory applies different standards to different guests.
- He is cowardly. Gregory was afraid of criticism if he made Waters look foolish, which is very easy, just as Chris Wallace on Fox was pilloried for asking Michele Bachmann is she was indeed “a flake.”
- He’s having a stroke. He really thought Waters answered the question, which means he needs to be hospitalized, and quick.
- He’s a bigot. He was applying “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”
- He’s biased. He also wants to send the Tea Party to Hell.
I have no idea which of these are true; I suspect several of them are. Nonetheless, the result was that his handling of the matter was unprofessional and incompetent. Waters needs to answer that question, and she needs to be held accountable for the kind of hateful rhetoric that her party claimed was the practice of Republicans. Indeed, Gregory should have followed up with a question about her views on the comments of Rep. Carson, her Congressional Black Caucus colleague, claiming that Republicans wanted to lynch African-Americans. Would Gregory’s predecessor, Tim Russert, have stood still for a completely unresponsive answer like hers and allowed a politician to duck his question, regardless of his or her party, race, position, or prior history of cognitive deficits? Never.
And this is how journalistic standards decline.