I’ll begin with a disclaimer before we get to the Schieffer-Santorum business. As I’ve told you before, I’m a regular viewer of all the Sunday morning political shows. They have top priority on my DVR and serve as my political jump-start for the week and typically help me gauge what the MSM and the Left will be selling and/or pushing in the coming days. Pure entertainment value aside, I also believe they provide candidates like Rick Santorum an opportunity to reach American voters – and level the playing field with candidates like Mitt Romney who have far greater means for reaching said voters in other forums. That said, the free air time does not come without a downside. Bob Schieffer, David Gregory, and George Stephanopoulos are anything but impartial. Their respective views very much shape the interviews they conduct with Republican politicians. Because of that, any GOP’er that isn’t aware of that reality beforehand, hardly deserves the benefit of a defense when he or she has voluntarily assumed position before the firing squad.
I share that not to blame, ridicule, or even whine about Meet the Press, Face the Nation, or This Week. They are what they are. I know it; you know it; we all know it.
But what I witnessed on Face the Nation Sunday morning, was anything but acceptable and should warrant an immediate apology from the program’s host and his network. It was nothing short of despicable.
Just in case you’ve never watched Mr. Schieffer conduct an interview, you should probably know that questions like these are pretty much the norm when a Republican is on the receiving end.
- What in the world were you talking about?
- Don’t you know – or do you wonder – that could lead some people to suggest that you were questioning the president’s Faith?
- Are you saying that we shouldn’t have public schools?
- Are you against public education?
Those were just a few thrown Senator Santorum’s direction. As you can see, every question has an inference and/or an assumption. These questions – and the answers that followed – spanned the entirety of the interview prompting Schieffer to close by saying,
“I’d hoped to ask you questions about the economy, but quite frankly, you made so much news out there on the campaign trail yesterday, I felt compelled to ask you about that.”
I’ll leave to your better judgment whether any of that was worthy of being labeled compelling “news”; but I suppose that’s neither here nor there. The portion of the interview I found absolutely despicable arose around the 4:35 mark. Schieffer is inquiring about remarks made by Senator Santorum regarding “prenatal testing” – which Schieffer casually lumped in with “prenatal care” for the purpose of asking one of his typically broad and overreaching questions.
I have to ask you to give some explanation of that. You sound like you’re saying that the purpose of prenatal care is to cause people to have abortions – to get more abortions in this country. I think any number of people would say that’s not the purpose at all?
Senator Santorum offered a response to that inquiry and then something completely revolting and offensive ensued. Here’s the back and forth. I’d encourage you to watch and listen as the words hardly shed light on the offense and the manner in which it was delivered.
Santorum: I have a child that was born with Trisomy 18. Almost 100% of Trisomy 18 children are encouraged to be aborted. So, I know what I’m talking about here.
Schieffer: I know you know what you’re talking about. I know that well. I know you also had another child that was stillborn.
Santorum: No he was not stillborn. Hold on.
Schieffer: Now wait just a minute. Just hold on.
Santorum: My child was not stillborn. My child was born alive.
Santorum: He lived two hours.
Then Senator Santorum goes on to remind all-knowing Schieffer that doctors encouraged aborting his child (children) after prenatal testing. Eventually, Schieffer decides its time for a concession, of sorts.
Schieffer: I stand corrected on the stillborn. You’re absolutely right. I simply misspoke.
He then returned to anther ridiculous round of questions… as if he hadn’t just debated the circumstances of the life and death of another man’s child…
Schieffer: You’re not saying; let me just ask you; you’re not saying the cause of this; that the president looks down on disabled people are you. You’re not accusing him of that?
And the interview moved on…
I have yet to search the usual sources to see if the Santorum camp offered a reaction to the interview; or if Schieffer or CBS have offered an apology. I haven’t checked, because it wouldn’t have mattered. I still would have written this post.
I’ve spent more time than I’d like to admit thinking about that interview today. For some reason it really stuck with me. While Schieffer’s conduct was disgusting, I have been more inclined to focus on the manner in which Senator Santorum reacted to it – with class and dignity. Who among us would have that kind of grace and composure? I’m not certain I would have been up to the challenge. You?
Many say that all presidential elections boil down to moments. While I do not typically subscribe to that sort of thing, I must admit that I had my first Santorum moment of this campaign Sunday. I can also admit that I have firmly found myself in that camp that worries Santorum’s rigidity on social issues may ultimately provide the MSM and the Left the ammunition to turn this election into anything but a referendum on President Obama’s failed economic policies. That has and continues to worry me.
That said, Sunday’s interview on Face the Nation has given me a sense of optimism that said tactics of distraction could actually work in a candidate like Santorum’s favor. I often tell people that the worst thing one can do in a political discussion or debate is to get angry. Anger clouds the senses and turns civilized disagreements into personal matters. It is my belief that Mr. Schieffer was doing just that Sunday morning. He disagreed with Senator Santorum’s positions on the “issues” he felt compelled to discuss and turned the political debate into a personal discussion. To make the matter worse, he attempted to shame the former senator for his stated positions while simultaneously accusing Santorum of doing just that to President Obama.
But Santorum rose above it. He showed the poise, humility, and calm that this American wants in a president. Instead of reacting to a ridiculous and offensive line of questions and comments with anger, he responded with reason and a cooler head. He checked his ego – and what had to be burning fit of rage brought on by the “slip of the tongue” – at the door, and continued to make his case. I respect that.
What I do not respect is Schieffer passing his offense off as a slip of the tongue and then moving on another loaded garbage question about the president “looking down on disabled people.” Schieffer and his network owe Senator Santorum, his wife, and his family an apology. The fact that he had the audacity to take that kind of tone with a man about the circumstances of the life and death of one of his children reflects poorly on the program, its host, and the network which pays the bills for both. Beyond that, it speaks volumes for the type of people CBS has in its employ.