Both Sides Now: Conservatives Play Defense on Debt Ceiling and Murdoch

07/17/2011 09:03 pm ET | Updated Jul 18, 2011

By Mark Green

Democrats had to lick their wounds after the 2010 mid-terms and regroup. With McConnell and Murdoch both seeming to wave their white flags last week, are conservatives sounding a strategic retreat? Were Cantor's failure and Murdoch's peripeteia inevitable? (Listen to show below.)

*On the debt ceiling debate. We listen to the President tell CBS's Scott Pelley that if there's no increase in the debt ceiling, he can't guarantee that all Social Security checks will be covered. Mary decries this as fear-mongering and politicking, concluding that payments to bondholders, seniors and soldiers would be paid in such a dire situation. The host asks who should the public believe -- Bachmann, Hannity and the Tea Party saying this will be no big deal -- or Obama, Bernanke, Geithner, Buffet, Wall Street and Moody's saying the opposite?

Ron tauntingly wonders how a political party could be so whiny after calling Obama a socialist and fascist -- and thinks that Obama's bully pulpit and sheer fiscal necessity mean that he will prevail "although it's unclear whether Eric Cantor and the Tea Party get that."

But Mary and McConnell do. She agrees that Congress can't do anything that mars our credit rating and McConnell in effect throws in the towel by telling Laura Ingraham that he won't help reelect a Democratic president and hurt the GOP "brand" by being played the way Clinton outmaneuvered Gingrich. Game, set...

*On the fall of the House of Murdoch. We listen to Carl Bernstein equate Murdoch and Nixon because both created a culture of corruption that they could not escape. Is this Murdoch's Watergate?

Mary argues that this is not a left-right issue since both Labour and Tories played up to Rupert. Ron thinks that News Corp is getting its just desserts because his personal experience with a Murdoch tabloid showed "their scummy ways. He thinks he's a journalist and newsman but he's not. He just cares about money and power."

Will his and News Corp's decline continue now that Brooks/Hanson have quit and a criminal investigation has been opened in the U.S. into the possible hacking of 9/11 families' phones? And how gutsy is Rep. Peter King, who cares about the New York Post and 9/11 families, to attack Murdoch's "yellow journalism"? Alot depends on whether the hacking of regular people occurred here, concludes Mary. But there's a consensus that it will be hard to stop the cancer from metastasizing. "They have no friends anymore to prop them up," says Ms. Matalin; "he was never loved, only feared," says Mr. Reagan -- and now he is neither.

*On 2012 -- will Perry enter and can Bachmann finish? Mary thinks that Perry has a real opening because the current f-ield hasn't set the world on fire and because of "his good record on jobs and good skills set - and he can unite various factions of the party." What about his comment about Texas and secession? "Didn't we settle this 150 years ago?" wonders Ron, tongue-in-cheek. "He may be this year's Fred Thompson."

Bachmann too scores well on candidate skills but our panelists sharply disagree on whether she and her husband "hate homosexuals." Mary questions these "pejorative attacks" while Ron cites Marcus Bachmann's reference to gays as "barbarians" and their clinic's promise of "reparative therapy" to convert gays to straight. They agree that the nomination fight and general election will turn on economic issues rather than "family values" but Ron adds, "She's dishonest. When she's asked whether their clinic engages in reparative therapy, she won't say. The answer is -- yes they do!"

*Quick Takes: Terrorists. Justices. Women Drivers. Betty Ford. The two worry about suicide-bombers who might surgically implant bombs in their bodies, with Ron joking that this could lead either to rubber gloves at airports or the train, while Mary urges more Israeli-like behaviorial profiling. They concur that the Supreme Court should not have made distinctions between violent videos aimed at children (ok) and pornography aimed at children (not ok). They both laugh off a study showing higher rates of woman-on-woman accidents ("maybe you can show a correlation with tall people" Ron muses; maybe the Nanny State could ban female drivers so "men have to run all the errands" wonders Mary).

But they agree that Betty Ford had a "humanity" and candor that enabled others to benefit from her example and life.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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