Boehner Has It Right In Response To Gregory’s Anti-Birther Badgering

We’re very aware that most of our readers have a distinct lack of interest in watching Meet The Press. It’s OK – we’ve got your back on that one.

For example, you didn’t have to watch David Gregory hector John Boehner about the birther issue yesterday. Here’s a clip…

And via, here’s a transcript and a bit of commentary…

Meet the Press host David Gregory used footage of a Fox News focus group with Frank Luntz where a chunk of the group raised their hands when asked if they thought Obama was a Muslim. If NBC were fair and balanced, surely four years ago, Tim Russert pressed the Democrats to tell their own liberal base to stop spreading lies about George W. Bush on the Internet — that he was a fascist, that he was a theocrat, that his family was tight with the bin Ladens (thanks, Michael Moore), or that his grandfather helped finance Hitler’s rise to power. Well, no: Russert pressed Boehner to denounce conservatives who were mocking Nancy Pelosi’s demands for a bigger cross-country plane. Here was Gregory’s outrage yesterday:

GREGORY: Mr.  Speaker, I want to pick up on something that my colleague Brian Williams asked you about last–this January, last month.  He asked if you were willing to take on some members of your caucus who don’t believe that the president was actually born in the United States.  And this was a portion of your answer, I want to play it.

BOEHNER [January 6]:  We’re nothing more than a slice of America.  And then people come with, regardless of party labels, they come with all kinds of beliefs and ideas.  It’s, it’s the, the melting pot of America.  It’s not up to me to tell them what to think.

GREGORY:  And, indeed, members of Congress speak publicly and are outspoken and will say what their views are.  And sometimes they have an effect on what people believe around the country.  And there was a–something that caught my eye this week that was on Fox News on the Hannity program, a focus group with voters in Iowa led by Frank Luntz, the Republican strategist, and he had this exchange with them.  I want to show it to you.

WOMAN IN FOCUS GROUP:  I believe that Barack Obama’s religious beliefs do govern his foreign policy.

MR. FRANK LUNTZ:  And what are his religious beliefs?

WOMAN:  I believe that he is a Muslim.

Luntz asked his group how many thought Obama was a Muslim, and about eight hands went up, which clearly angered Gregory:

GREGORY:  As the speaker of the House, as a leader, do you not think it’s your responsibility to stand up to that kind of ignorance?

BOEHNER:  David, it’s not my job to tell the American people what to think.  Our job in Washington is to listen to the American people.  Having said that, the state of Hawaii has said that he was born there.  That’s good enough for me.  The president says he’s a Christian.  I accept him at his word.

GREGORY:  But isn’t that a little bit fast and loose? I mean, you are the leader in Congress and you’re not standing up to obvious facts and saying, “These are facts.  If you don’t believe that, it’s nonsense.”

BOEHNER:  I just outlined the facts as I understand them.  I believe that the president is a citizen.  I believe the president is a Christian. I’ll take him at his word.  But, but…

GREGORY:  But that kind of ignorance about whether he’s a Muslim doesn’t concern you?

BOEHNER:  Listen, the American people have the right to think what they want to think.  I can’t–it’s not my job to tell them.

GREGORY:  Why isn’t it your job to stand up and say, “No, the facts are these”?


GREGORY:  Didn’t John McCain do that…

BOEHNER:  I, I, I just did.

Gregory, in his sputtering outrage, doesn’t consider that it’s quite polite to take Obama “at his word” that he is a Christian, since he goes to church about twice a year. (Liberals were just as angry at Hillary “taking his word for it.”) It’s not as simple as saying “the facts are these” when it comes to Obama’s Christianity. He has publicly declared he was not a religious believer until Rev. Jeremiah Wright converted him…which is not a fact Gregory would like to dwell on. It continued:

GREGORY:  What you’re saying, “It’s good enough for me,” is that really standing up and saying, for those who believe that or who would talk about that–you had a member of Congress, you had a new tea party freshman who was out just yesterday speaking to conservatives, and he said, “I’m fortunate enough to be an American citizen by birth, and I do have a birth certificate to prove it.” That was Raul Labrador, a new–a congressman from Idaho.  Is that an appropriate way for your members to speak?

Gregory didn’t seem to have any room for context: Labrador was born in Puerto Rico, so he was making a joke about being born in U.S. territory. He was doing self-deprecating “birther” humor. But nothing is funny to NBC when Obama is being discussed:

BOEHNER:  The gentleman was, was trying to be funny, I would imagine. But remember something, it’s not–it really is not our job to tell the American people what to believe and what to think.  There’s a lot of information out there, people read a lot of things…

GREGORY:  You shouldn’t stand up to misinformation or stereotypes?

BOEHNER:  …but, but, but, but, but I’ve made clear what I believe the facts are.

GREGORY:  But is, is it, is it because it weakens the president politically, it seeks to delegitimize him that you sort of want to let it stay out there?

BOEHNER:  No.  What I’m trying to do is to do my job.  Our job is to focus on spending.  We’re spending too much money here in Washington.  The president’s going to outline this new budget tomorrow, that I outlined earlier, spends too much, borrows too much, and taxes too much.  And the president wants to talk about winning the future.  This isn’t winning the future, it’s spending the future.

Gregory is clearly attempting to bully the Speaker here, and it’s ridiculous. Boehner is exactly right in pointing out that it’s not his job to tell the American people what to think; in making that declaration he happens to also be doing us a favor by pointing out a key difference between conservatives and left-wingers whose jawboning on issues from race to recycling has gone on for more years than we’d care to recall.

But it’s the naked partisanship of a supposedly objective reporter which really stands out. Gregory’s badgering, though typical of what you’ll see on NBC News, has a few layers to it.

He’s obviously currying favor with his pals in the Obama administration and the Beltway media elite, who look upon Luntz’ Iowa focus group as a bunch of deranged hayseeds and can’t give the time of day to what seem to be legitimate questions – perhaps not about the president’s birth certificate or religious affiliation per se, but about his cultural ties to mainstream America. There is a segment of the country which isn’t comfortable with Obama, and it’s not because he’s half black. There is more opacity and secrecy behind Obama’s background than any president any of us can remember. Where’s his birth certificate? Was he a naturalized Indonesian citizen at some point? What’s the story behind his 1981 trip to Pakistan? Where are his academic records from Occidental, Columbia and Harvard Law School? Why are so few of his college classmates able to recall much about his time at those institutions? How did he sit in Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years and emerge a centrist? And on, and on.

The fact that Luntz’ group in Iowa thinks Obama is a Muslim, and the fact that so many people around the country are birthers, isn’t a testament to American ignorance and stupidity. Sure, folks who hold those opinions are probably wrong. But something clearly stinks about Obama’s background, and when questions like the ones above aren’t being answered it’s only natural that people would think the worst.

And Gregory might want to look in the mirror if he wants an answer for why so many people think these crazy, stupid things he can’t abide. Because the legacy media he’s a happy member of refused to vet this president even in the Democrat primaries. They refused to do their job in that regard, and because of that fact a man with virtually no resume and a peculiar – to say the least – perspective was elected. Perhaps Obama would have won in 2008 anyway; certainly, John McCain was capable of losing under almost any circumstances. But when the media runs interference for a candidate rather than properly vetting him, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the questions he won’t answer will continue to linger.

And that makes the exchange between Gregory and Boehner even more pathetic. Why is it Boehner’s responsibility to defend Obama against questions people like Gregory didn’t examine when it was time to do so?



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