CNN's Soledad O'Brien did something which is extremely rare in television news these days: she actually did her job. And it was the best example of truly awesome journalism I've seen since Katie Couric so deftly gave Sarah Palin the opportunity in 2008 to destroy herself. Perhaps, given the unprecedented polarization and partisan vitriol in politics today, coupled with the right-wing's propaganda campaign of lies and distortion, we just might see a return of the mainstream media as a potent force in this heated election.
The action took place Tuesday afternoon, as O'Brien was interviewing former New Hampshire governor and George W. Bush Chief of Staff John Sununu. With the actual documents in hand, O'Brien pointed out the striking similarities between the Medicare plans of Mitt Romney and his controversial vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, who seeks to change the government guaranteed health care program into a voucher system.
"But it's very different," Sununu insisted. "For example, when Obama gutted Medicare by taking $717 billion out of it, the Romney plan does not do that. The Ryan plan mimicked part of the Obama package there, the Romney plan does not. That's a big difference."
O'Brien essentially accused him of lying:
"I understand that this is a Republican talking point because I've heard it repeated over and over again. These numbers have been debunked, as you know, by the Congressional Budget Office. ... I can tell you what it says. It (Obama's Medicare plan) cuts a reduction in the expected rate of growth, which you know, not cutting budgets to the elderly. Benefits will be improved."
At this point Sununu, clearly agitated, became nasty and indignant, angered by O'Brien's insistence on fact over fiction:
"Soledad, stop this!" Sununu replied, raising his voice. "All you're doing is mimicking the stuff that comes out of the White House and gets repeated on the Democratic blog boards out there."
O'Brien continued reading from the Romney and Obama plans verbatim, and cited Factcheck.org, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and CNN's own independent analysis in refuting Sununu's deceptive rhetoric.
"Put an Obama bumper sticker on your forehead when you do this!" Sununu barked.
And here's where O'Brien, following a heated exchange where she demanded "Let me finish...let me finish!," demonstrated that she has more balls than anyone in television news right now:
"You know, let me tell you something. There is independent analysis that details what this is about. ... And name calling to me and somehow acting as if by you repeating a number of $716 billion, that you can make that stick with that figure as being 'stolen' from Medicare, that's not true. You can't just repeat it and make it true, sir."
In punctuating this incredible interview, O'Brien closed by reminding Sununu of how Romney has called Ryan's plan "brilliant."
Imagine an America where the political discourse is not shaped solely by lying, duplicitous surrogates like Sununu but by honorable journalists who serve as a beacon of truth in holding politicians to a higher standard.
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