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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Anatomy of a Right Wing Media Narrative- UPDATED

George Stephanopoulos spoke to Robert Gibbs this  morning and the result is a perfect example of what I’ve been talking about vis-a-vi the media.  

Steph’s headline is “Robert Gibbs Signals Temporary Extension of Tax Cuts”

Listen closely to Robert Gibbs on “GMA” this morning and it’s pretty clear that the only outstanding question on those tax cuts expiring on December 31st isn’t whether they will all be extended but for how long.

President Obama’s only “line in the sand”, according to Gibbs, is opposition to “permanent” extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy.

“The president’s principals are clear, and that is for the middle class their taxes can’t go up at the end of the year when a series of tax cuts expire. His other line in the sand, quite frankly George, is that many Republicans would like to see the tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires extended permanently,” he told me.

Everything else is on the table.  So I asked Gibbs about a possible trade. Would the President swap a temporary extension of the tax cuts for passage of the START Treaty and extending unemployment benefits?

“Well, I want to put these two issues aside George, because I think that we have a responsibility, Democrats and Republicans, to figure out this tax issue by the end of the year when tax cuts are said to expire,” he said.

So Gibbs didn’t bite, but I’ll bet the final compromise looks so…

You read right. Gibbs gives a pretty good defense of the President’s positions and attacked Republicans on their position, which is to extend tax cuts permanently, and the result is Stephanopoulos parsing his words, not reporting his words, then giving his own opinion as to what they mean “I’ll bet” after he couldn’t get Gibbs to talk about compromise. Gibbs used the term “permanently” because that’s what the Republican party is proposing…a PERMANENT extension. They’re not proposing a temporary one. That’s not even being discussed, but Steph made sure to point out that it could be discussed, and that he’ll “bet” the White House is open to it.

This comes the morning after this

At an undisclosed White House meeting yesterday with Senate Democratic leaders, President Obama pushed back on a controversial, but politically potent tax cut plan that has knocked Republicans off message in recent days.

Pushing hardest for the new approach was Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the third ranking Democrat in the Senate and the Dems’ new point man for combining message and policy. He proposes to create a new tax bracket above the $1 million income threshold, and let Republicans decide whether to fight to the death to give those people a tax cut. It’s the one compromise that polls well and wrongfoots the GOP at the same time.

“Republicans are worried about this proposal because it would expose that they are fighting for millionaires instead of the middle class,” said Schumer’s spokesman Brian Fallon in a statement to me.

Just today, Republicans were forced off their usual tax cut talking points to blast Schumer’s plan not because it will raise taxes on millionaires, but because it focus groups well.


For that reason, it’s won some support from Democratic members, particularly moderates and conservatives like Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), as well as others who represent states with large numbers of affluent voters.

But Democratic leaders (other than Schumer) and Obama himself oppose the plan for a few reasons. At the meeting yesterday, according to a source familiar with the discussions, “the concerns expressed were about the cost [to the deficit] and the risk of redefining the middle class as those making over one million.”


So on one hand, the White House slapped down a compromise (one that isn’t terrible IMO), and according to ABC, he’s still open to a compromise because Gibbs said the word “permanent.”

What this does is put the White House in a position where the media has already said they want to compromise, even if they didn’t actually say that, thus eventually forcing them to because that’s the narrative they created. When the Republicans propose a temporary extension, the White House will look unreasonable for not accepting it after Steph “bet” the WH was open to it.

There is a few goals here;

First is to knock the White House off message by purposely making erroneous assumptions about what was said, forcing Gibbs to “clarify” and “restate.”

Second is to give fresh meat for the left to pounce on to prevent them from united behind a popular message

Third is to put the Republicans in a stronger position by presenting their position as a legitimate one.

How much do you want to make a bet Steph’s piece gets more play in the blogsphere than the TPM one?

UPDATED (12-1-10 2:16 PM)- John Edwards’ base takes the bait…

If you’re not paying close attention, Gibbs’ rhetoric sounds principled, but what he’s really doing is creating a justification for continuing current tax policy — which is a complete and total cave to the GOP position and represents an utter defeat of President Obama’s tax policy.

Jed even goes so far as drawing a line in the sand for what is a good compromise…essentially “anything but this”

It would be one thing if we had a deal that extended middle-class tax cuts permanently, but only extended the high-income tax cuts for two years. But a three-year continuation of all the tax cuts doesn’t change a single thing about current tax policy and effectively is no different than making current tax policy permanent.

because a two-year extension WOULD change a single thing about current tax policy?


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