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Reliable Sources

President Obama Makes Pitch for Tighter Financial Regulations; Does Punditry Incite Violence?

Aired April 25, 2010 - 11:00   ET



HOWARD KURTZ, HOST (voice-over): War on Wall Street. As President Obama makes his pitch for tighter financial regulation, have the media cut through the partisan rhetoric about bailing out banks?

Hot talk. Rush Limbaugh and Bill Clinton arguing again, 15 years after Oklahoma City, about punditry that might incite violence.

And why did MSNBC pull the plug on Donny Deutsch for saying there is anger on the cable networks, including his own?

Losing it all. What happens to an editor when her magazine folds? Dominique Browning on how her life turned into a nightmare.

Plus, Sunday fact check. Are the politicians getting away with untruths? We scrutinize the talk shows, all of them.


KURTZ: Unless you are intimately familiar with such concepts as synthetic collateralized debt obligations, which happen to be at the heart of the Goldman Sachs scandal, financial regulation can be pretty arcane stuff. But there's nothing subtle about the collapse of the big investment banks that nearly wrecked the global economy.

So media outlets are facing a stiff challenge in covering the legislation aimed at limiting the fallout in any future financial meltdown. Democrats say their bill would prevent taxpayers from bailing out banks. Republicans, some of them, say it would do just the opposite.

The coverage heated up this week as President Obama took his case to Wall Street and the pundits unleashed their partisan ammunition.


DIANE SAWYER, ABC: President Obama traveled to New York today to tell the titans of finance and industry it is time to change the anything goes culture on Wall Street.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In other words, a vote for reform is a vote to put a stop to taxpayer-funded bailouts. That's the truth. End of story. MICHELLE MALKIN, CONSERVATIVE COMMENTATOR: And if you actually look at the fine print of this so-called reform, what it would do is institutionalize and make permanent financial bailouts.

ED SCHULTZ, MSNBC: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 40 other brain wizards in the Senate, the party of no, they're trying to dupe you into thinking that they're opposing the finance reform bill because it would lead to more Wall Street bailouts.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think most Americans are tired of Wall Street fleecing hard-working people.

BILL O'REILLY, FOX NEWS: But there's no other choice. Washington is the only place that can regulate and supervise the U.S. financial system.


KURTZ: So, are the media helping to referee these competing claims or just reveling in political maneuvering?

Joining us now in San Francisco, Joan Walsh, editor-in-chief of In New York, Chrystia Freeland, global editor-at-large for Reuters. And here in the studio, Amy Holmes, co-host of talk radio's "America's Morning News."

Chrystia Freeland, most media reports I've seen are along the following lines: Obama says the bill would end bailouts, Republicans say the $50 billion fund in that legislation would also lead to more bank bailouts.

Have most of the press fallen short in explaining this?

CHRYSTIA FREELAND, GLOBAL EDITOR-AT-LARGE, REUTERS: Well, you know, Howie, I actually was of that view a week ago, and I have changed my mind. And I think that in the past week, the coverage has been pretty good with the one exception that you highlight.

I think if you see the financial reform as a question of perpetual bailouts or ending bailouts, I don't think that's really the core issue. For me, the most important issue in the financial reform debate is regulation of the credit derivatives market and whether credit derivatives should be centrally cleared and traded on an exchange rather than traded under the counter, as they mostly are now.

KURTZ: You stole my second question. And let's just take a half second to explain, derivatives are essentially a bet on the future direction of something, whether it's the weather or the price of soybean futures.

And there you would be a little more critical?

FREELAND: No. Actually, there I was going to be a little more positive and say I think that, thanks to the gentlemen at Goldman Sachs, and thanks to the particularly vivid case which the SEC has focused on, I actually think the overall debate about derivatives has been much clearer, much more focused than I had anticipated.

Now, granted, it's something that you need to have a little bit of a specialist interest in, but I've seen a lot of great charts in newspapers, a huge amount of information online. I spent yesterday online for most of yesterday morning because Carl Levin had disclosed some Goldman e-mails, and anyone who has an Internet connection could read those e-mails. So I think actually there's been a lot of information out there.

KURTZ: Yes, those e-mails showing yesterday that Goldman executives basically celebrating that they could make more money as the housing market collapsed. Really quite an eye-opener.

Joan Walsh, the liberal view, coming back to this question about the bank bailouts in the Democratic legislation, is that the Republicans are lying about this. But journalists are reluctant to accuse politicians of lying, aren't they?

JOAN WALSH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, SALON.COM: They are, but the truth is they are lying, Howie, because there is a bill. It has language.

It prohibits bailouts. It throws these companies, should this happen again, into bankruptcy. And I think the Democrats kind of got a break because journalists are doing their job and saying, wait, Mitch McConnell, you can use bailout all you want. Frank Luntz provided the word; it's a lovely word. It simply isn't true.

So, I'm with Chrystia. I'm actually impressed by the job that journalists have done, apart from ideology, just saying, you know what? It isn't a bailout. And you can say it all you want, but I think they have come through.

KURTZ: I think that's less clear in the television coverage.

But, Amy Holmes, is the press giving short shrift to legitimate arguments being made by the Republicans? You worked on the Hill.

AMY HOLMES, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think that there's been this back and forth, and it's really hard to sort of tease out what is the truth of it. I would be -- I would hesitate to say that Republicans are lying about the questions of moral hazard. But I think you raise a really interesting and important point in the coverage, which is print versus television.

And television is where you get the food fights, and that's where you get the partisanship. And in print, yes, you get these arcane terms -- collateralized debt and derivatives -- and that the average person maybe doesn't know a whole lot about. But on TV --

KURTZ: But you have more space to explain in print.

HOLMES: Yes. And I think that the press actually was thrown a big break on this, that it did become political, it did become a question about Capitol Hill, and you could talk about the timing. The timing, say, of the SEC Filing the lawsuit with Goldman Sachs and was it political, while President Obama is trying to push financial reform -- financial regulation reform. And so for that inside-the-beltway crowd that doesn't necessarily know all of these business terms, they were able to approach this story from a political angle.

KURTZ: Let me go back --

FREELAND: I agree.

KURTZ: Go ahead, Chrystia.

FREELAND: Could I just jump in quickly?

KURTZ: Please.

FREELAND: I agree with Amy. And for me, that was the one big flaw in the coverage.

I think that there is a real temptation, if you find the actual issues at stake to be overly complicated, to not bother to try to understand them and to cover this stuff purely as a political horse race. And insofar as I would have a critique of the coverage, it would be too much horse race, not enough effort to really explain issues which, sure, are complicated, but actually have real bearing on everyone's lives, as 2008 illustrated. Right?

KURTZ: Go ahead, Amy.

HOLMES: Sure. And I would point out, too, that conservatives looking at this coverage say what about Freddie and Fannie, and what about their role in all of this? That while it may be sort of a discrete story about financial regulation and these particular banking firms, there is a larger context.

KURTZ: Joan Walsh, when Mitch McConnell gets 41 Republican senators, which is to say all the Republican senators, to sign a letter objecting to the bill, why shouldn't the press say they're being partisan?

WALSH: Well, they were being partisan. I mean, the facts were pretty clear here. There was no bailout. There is no bailout in this bill.

And Mitch McConnell pulled his people together for this letter, but then they started peeling off. I mean, I think this whole strategy blew up in Mitch McConnell's face.

But you're right. I think that especially television is very geared towards treating this as a horse race, covering the politics, doing he said/she said kind of coverage. And that's problematic. But I really do think that this week, it blew up in Mitch McConnell's face, and that the coverage ultimately had to get to the bottom of, are there bailouts in the bill or not? And if not, why are they saying this?

KURTZ: And Amy Holmes --

Go ahead. Go ahead, Chrystia. FREELAND: I was just going to say I agree with Joan. One thing that I would wish to see more of that I don't think we've seen much of is an international perspective. And that's really important for two reasons.

One is that finance is global right now. And ultimately, regulation is going to be global. I haven't seen very much of that reflected in the debate.

The other thing is there are some countries that didn't have a financial crisis. Notably, Canada, my own country, just north of the border. And looking at some of those lessons I think would help us judge the truth or falsehood about this bill.

KURTZ: That's a good point.

Let me come back to Amy.

When Chris Dodd, the Senate banking chairman, spends months negotiating with Republicans like Richard Shelby and Bob Corker, and then the Republicans say they need more time, how are we supposed to cover that? I mean, are they stalling, do they not wanting to make a deal? You can't say in this case -- that maybe you could have made the argument on health care -- that the Democrats are not attempting to get Republican input.

HOLMES: Well, I think you just have to cover what's happening. And precisely what you said, that Chris Dodd did try to work with these Republican senators, Corker from Tennessee, and tried to get this bill passed. But I think we can also cover Chris Dodd and his interests in trying to get this passed before his imminent retirement because he was going to be, it looked like, facing a loss in Connecticut if he was going to run. So there are politics on his side too.

KURTZ: Let me push back a little bit with you, Chrystia, this question of covering the politics. We went through this exact same sort of hammering on health care, where I think there was a lot of horse race journalism rather than delving into the substance.

But we are at the point now where politics is going to determine whether or not this bill clears the Senate. The Democrats need to pick off one or more Republican senators. And so you can't just say, well, we're going to stay on this high-minded path of telling you more about derivatives when the horse trading and the negotiating and the posturing is going on, on Capitol Hill.

FREELAND: No. Look, I absolutely agree with you about that, and I'm not saying at all that counting votes is something that we shouldn't do. It's a really important part of what we should do.

And actually, I would like the political coverage to go a little bit deeper. I would be interested in people looking more closely at some of the debates on the Democratic side, because I think, for example, we have seen what some of Blanche Lincoln's proposals go further than the Treasury really wanted her to go. The other thing that I think we've started to look at but maybe as journalists should be doing more of is the connection between politics and money.


FREELAND: So, I think we should be a little bit tougher on saying, OK, what exactly does Wall Street want and why does Wall Street want it?

KURTZ: And especially --

FREELAND: And Jamie Dimon gave us -- you know, he gave us a big giveaway because he said, look, if this credit derivatives reform goes through, I will lose at least $700 million. So he said that.

HOLMES: And why is that, right?


KURTZ: Money is the story, especially when you're talking about Wall Street regulation.

I need to get a break here.

When we come back, anger on the airwaves. Rush Limbaugh and Bill Clinton renewing their bitter battle over whether there's a link between inflammatory talk and actual violence.


KURTZ: It's a debate that began amid the wreckage of the federal building in Oklahoma City 15 years ago this week and has continued in some form ever since. President Clinton tied that devastating bombing to what he called the purveyors of hate on the airwaves, and Rush Limbaugh was his chief target.

Now they, along with other political figures and talk show hosts, are at it again.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Any future acts of violence are on your shoulders, Mr. Clinton. You just gave the kooks in this country an excuse to go be violent. Nobody on the right is doing this. Nobody on talk radio is advocating anything of the sort that you are predicting.

WILLIAM JEFFERSON CLINTON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't make sense. We shouldn't demonize the government or its public employees or its elected officials. We can disagree with them, we can harshly criticize them, but when we turn them into an object of demonization, you increase the number of threats.

LIMBAUGH: The template was established, the narrative was there. Bill Clinton and Obama blaming the Tea Parties for a future Oklahoma City-type bombing which hasn't happened.


KURTZ: Joan Walsh, is it fair 15 years ago or now for Bill Clinton to blame the likes of Rush Limbaugh and other talk show hosts for, in effect, inciting violence?

WALSH: Yes, I think it is fair, Howie. And, you know, I think this whole debate about whether media figures are responsible or whether the debate is inflamed, it's an interesting discussion and debate to have.

But the thing it obscures is right now, there is a climate of violence on the right. There are threats being made to Democratic lawmakers. I mean, Congressman Raul Grijalva had to close his office on Thursday because he was getting death threats. Patty Murray, senator from Washington -- I mean, there have been a pattern --

KURTZ: But what is the link between that and people who make their living behind a microphone?

WALSH: I think the link is that liberals are demonized in the most personal way. I mean, Rush comes out and has this wonderful op- ed piece in "The Wall Street Journal" at the end of the week, and saying, you know, conservatives are protesting because we love our country. And unfortunately, the rhetoric of the right has all too often been they love their country and we on the left do not.

We are traitors. We are un-American. We are unpatriotic. Obama is weakening our national defense on purpose. A Congress member said that.

KURTZ: All right. Let me get Amy Holmes in

HOLMES: I have to disagree violently.

WALSH: Don't be violent, Amy.

HOLMES: The political rhetoric across the spectrum can be so ugly. I think anyone in public life has been the target of it.

I mean, I've been called the N-word on many multiple Web sites. When Tony Snow was stricken with cancer, I saw on left-wing Web sites people saying that they hoped that he died.

WALSH: Commentators said that, not --

HOLMES: There are kooks and there are nuts. And I think with Bill Clinton, it reminds us what we don't like about him, and that was the demagoguery. And I don't believe that Rush Limbaugh or any right- wing talk radio person is responsible for this any more than an environmentalist is responsible for the Unabomber.

KURTZ: Chrystia Freeland, there's a certain surreal quality to this argument, because no major act of violence, other than that nut job who flew the plane into the IRS office in Austin, has taken place yet. It's almost like a preemptive debate.

FREELAND: Yes, I agree. And I have to say, on this one I'm on Rush Limbaugh's side as well.

I think that it's incredibly easy for politicians, for businesspeople to criticize the media. In those Goldman e-mails I was telling you about that I enjoyed so much on Saturday there's a great line where Lucas van Praag, the Goldman spokesman, is sending an e- mail to his bosses, and he says, "This story will have balance." And then he puts in brackets, "i.e., something we don't like."

I'm not accusing Rush Limbaugh of being guilty of too much balance, but I do think blaming the media is a very weak thing for politicians and businesspeople to do. And I think we in the media should really be pretty, pretty careful before we agree with the criticism.

Obviously, to call -- openly call for violence openly is illegal. People shouldn't be doing that. But to just use heated language, I think you hear that on both sides of the debate. And on the left you're hearing that a lot directed towards Goldman Sachs right now.

KURTZ: Joan?

WALSH: I'm not hearing death threats against people at Goldman Sachs, Chrystia. And I really object to this idea --

FREELAND: People at AIG felt like they were really, really under threat during the bailouts at AIG. I mean, there were people who said that they had to get guards for their homes and so forth.

HOLMES: And Congressman Eric Cantor from Virginia, he testified that he has gotten death threats as a Republican.

WALSH: Oh, come on. That crackpot --

HOLMES: Hold on though.

WALSH: That crackpot --

HOLMES: The person who went to the Pentagon, who drove across the country to go with a gun --


WALSH: You know what, Amy? Actually, Howie asked me the question. Howie asked me the question.

KURTZ: All right. One at a time.

Let Amy make her point.


And the person who went to the Pentagon, it turned out he was a pot activist. He was someone who grew pot on his balcony and wanted to legalize pot. But do we blame --


WALSH: He was an all-purpose nut. He was an all-purpose nut.

HOLMES: Exactly.

WALSH: No. He was an all-purpose nut. And the guy who threatened Eric Cantor also threatened President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the filmmakers who made the movie "Babe." OK?

HOLMES: My point exactly.

WALSH: So, look, there are nut jobs on both sides, and we all can condemn them. But I think that the right makes a practice of a certain kind of demonization.

Look, you guys, I went up trying to have a civil debate with Bill O'Reilly almost a year ago, where he told me I personally had blood on my hands. I got thousands, thousands -- literally thousands of e- mails from people wishing that my mother had aborted me, that I had aborted my daughter. I have personally experienced the demonization of the right, and I think it's just of an order of magnitude different.

You can go on comment boards on Salon or "The Huffington Post." People love to do that. There's somebody anonymous saying something awful. But the fact is, the right makes a business out of incendiary rhetoric that personally demonizes Democratic lawmakers and pundits. And it doesn't happen that way on the left.

KURTZ: A brief response from Amy and I need to move on.

HOLMES: I would say that it does happen that way on the left. I read plenty of it about myself, about other people in public life. And unfortunately, when people get to be anonymous they get to say very ugly things.

FREELAND: Can I jump in really quickly, Howard? The difference is in power right now. The Democrats are in charge. And I think you always have more passionate rhetoric from the guys who are in the opposition.


WALSH: You have militias, too. And you have militias when Democrats are in power.

KURTZ: All right. I think we've established there's a lot of ugliness out there. Both Joan and Amy seem to have been recipients of it.

This debate continued this week for at least a time on MSNBC. Commentator Donny Deutsch was brought on to do a weeklong series, "Anger in America." Well, MSNBC pulled the plug after a few days. He didn't get to complete that series because of what we are about to show you.

And what he begins with is playing clips of different people who he portrays as being inflammatory. And one of them works for MSNBC.


LIMBAUGH: Barack Obama is president of the United States today because of stupid, ignorant people who think like do you.

KEITH OLBERMANN, MSNBC: Embarrassed your district, embarrassed your state, embarrassed your party, embarrassed your nation, shouted at the president like he was a referee at a ball game and you were a drunk in the stands. And you are wrong.

HUGH HEWITT, RADIO HOST: When you guys get rid of Ed Schultz and Keith, then I'll start to think that you're actually serious here, because they are the biggest hate mongers in television.

DONNY DEUTSCH: But I'm not taking the side of either one.


KURTZ: Amy Holmes, Keith Olbermann has said he did not complain about that show, but it does seem that criticizing Olbermann on MSNBC can be hazardous to your professional health.

HOLMES: Apparently. And Donny Deutsch doesn't get to be a guest co-host on that show. But it's pretty tough, I would say, just professionally to go on the air and criticize your boss on the air. And that's kind of a dilemma that an honest journalist has.

KURTZ: Joan Walsh, maybe it was an unfair shot at Olbermann, who has occasionally apologized for being over the top, I think, after that clip. But why can't that be openly debated at a place like MSNBC?

WALSH: You know, maybe it can be. But MSNBC, let's be honest, there was a time where there was way too much carping at various hosts taking shots at other hosts. It wasn't pretty, it wasn't professional, and they decided to say let's take a break from that stuff. And I think that's within their rights to do.

Have a debate on the issues. And if people want to debate within MSNBC the issues -- and they do -- that's one thing. But I think they decided to have a different culture. And maybe Donny Deutsch got caught in the middle.

I also thought that it was a weird kind of show. Again, are we hyping there's anger in America? Are we going to get ratings around --

KURTZ: Well, I mean, they're talking about -- well, maybe they are trying to get ratings.

Chrystia, I've got half a minute. We don't get much of this on CNN because CNN doesn't have very opinionated partisans hosting shows, but --

FREELAND: I'm not about to criticize any of your fellow anchors, Howie. Let's see how --

KURTZ: I have done it. I had Glenn Beck on this program when he was an anchor. I have taken on Lou Dobbs when he worked for CNN.

But my questions is -- you know, we do that on this program -- is it realistic to expect most news organizations to engage in self- criticism?

FREELAND: I think self-criticism is one thing. If you are the editor, you can be self-critical of something that your organization has done because you choose it. What I think is really hard is to have your children publicly quarreling with one another.

KURTZ: OK. Well, I think people at MSNBC take hard shots at a lot of other folks, and I don't think they should put their own people completely off limits.

Amy Holmes, Joan Walsh, Chrystia Freeland, thanks very much for joining us this Sunday morning.

Coming up in the second half of RELIABLE SOURCES, Jon Stewart versus Bernie Goldberg. We'll give you a scorecard on that.

Just the facts. It's a hot topic in the world of Sunday morning TV, but how easy is it to fact-check politicians well schooled in the art of evasion? We'll turn our critical lens on all of the shows.

And later, turning the page. Former "House & Garden" editor Dominique Browning on how she lost her balance after her magazine was suddenly shut down.


KURTZ: You watch them on Sunday mornings, here and on the other networks, the politicians armed with their talking points that don't always reflect the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. There's been a lot of chatter lately about whether the programs should fact-check their guests after the interviews, an idea that began with NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen.

Jake Tapper, the interim host of ABC's "This Week," has arranged for the Web site PolitiFact to check up on his program and talked about it with Stephen Colbert.


JAKE TAPPER, ABC: The truth of the matter is that when do you a show, as you know, you don't have research in front of you, and fact- checking can be a little bit more complicated. Senators don't --

STEPHEN COLBERT, "THE COLBERT REPORT": Listen, I don't care about facts. I gut-check my show. I say -- I say, gut --


COLBERT: I say, gut, does that feel true to you? And gut says, yes, it does, Stephen. Let's get a grilled cheese sandwich.


KURTZ: I think this is a terrific idea, the actual fact- checking, not the part about Colbert's gut. And today we're stepping up to fact-check all five Sunday programs. Were the politicians saying things that were true, partially true, or just plain not true?

The Democrats' financial regulation bill has been the hot issue this past week. And on NBC's "Meet the Press," David Gregory sat down with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.


DAVID GREGORY, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": There are some on Wall Street who have worked with this administration, then some who are critical who say the view from you, from the president, and others in the administration, largely driven by politics, is it's open season on the banks, it's beat up on the banks time.

Is that the smart thing to do politically or for the economy?

TIMOTHY GEITHNER, TREASURY SECRETARY: There's no politics in this. This is not a partisan thing. This is a basic proposition.

GREGORY: It's not good politics to beat up on the banks?

GEITHNER: I don't know if it's good politics or not.


KURTZ: That's partially true. The administration is undoubtedly doing what it thinks is right with this legislation, but of course there is politics involved. President Obama has repeatedly criticized huge Wall Street bonuses and blamed the big investment banks for resisting reform. And everyone knows they are fat targets because of public anger over the last banking bailout.


OBAMA: So, if these folks want a fight, it's a fight I'm ready to have. And my resolve is only strengthened when I see a return to old practices of some of the very firms fighting reform. And when I see soaring profits and obscene bonuses at some of the very firms claiming that they can't lend more to small businesses --


KURTZ: So, for Geithner to say he doesn't know whether the bill is good politics or not really stretches the bounds of credibility.

On CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION," Candy Crowley asked Mitch McConnell to respond to the president's criticism that the Senate minority leader isn't being factual when he says the Democratic legislation provides an incentive for future bank bailouts.


CANDY CROWLEY, HOST, "STATE OF THE UNION": Right off the bat, the president says you are being deceptive in describing this bill.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), MINORITY LEADER: Well, Candy, he ought to talk to his own Treasury secretary who agrees with me, as well as "The Washington Post" and "The Wall Street Journal," that there is a bailout fund in the bill that was reported out of the Banking Committee, the partisan bill that came out of committee on a party- line vote.

CROWLEY: But that bailout doesn't --

MCCONNELL: I don't think that's in dispute.

CROWLEY: But that bailout is funded by the banks themselves, is it not? It's not a taxpayer bailout.

MCCONNELL: Well, Robert Reich, who was Bill Clinton's secretary of Labor, says it's a bailout fund.


KURTZ: That last part is not true. Robert Reich said the bill preserves the possibility that the Fed could launch another bank bailout, but that, he says on his blog, has nothing to do with the liquidation fund.

Reich now writes, "When Mitch McConnell has to misquote me to find evidence he's telling the truth, he is desperate. No, Senator, I never said Dodd's finance reform bill contains a bailout fund."

McConnell's other points are true. "A "Washington Post" editorial said McConnell is partially right about the fund for failing banks. It wouldn't be taxpayer money, but, "Of course the big banks would find some way to pass that cost along." And McConnell is right that Geithner himself warned months ago that such a fund would create an expectation that the government would rescue insolvent banks.

Sometimes politicians make sweeping statements that sound good on TV but crumble upon closer inspection. That's what the newest senator, Scott Brown, did with Bob Schieffer on CBS' "Face the Nation."


SEN. SCOTT BROWN (R), MASSACHUSETTS: Since I've been here I've heard zero talk about jobs.


KURTZ: Zero talk? That is not true. What about the jobs bill that Congress passed two months ago and Obama signed into law? You remember, Senator Brown, the one you voted for. Brown also threw out a very specific statistic about the financial regulation bill.


BROWN: It's going to cost potentially 25,000 to 35,000 jobs.

BOB SCHIEFFER, HOST, "FACE THE NATION": Well, now, wait a minute, Senator. How can you say that?

BROWN: Well, I can say it very clearly because the regulations that they're trying to reel in with some of the risky hedging that bets are doing also affects companies like I just described in Massachusetts. It's very clear.


KURTZ: There is no evidence to support that figure, and Brown's office refused to provide any despite repeated requests for comment. So, that is untrue until proven otherwise.

Another Senator also tossed out an important economic figure involving the Obama administration. That would be John McCain when Chris Wallace asked him on "Fox News Sunday" about Obama saying the Tea Party protesters need to realize that he has cut taxes.


CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": The president says Tea Partiers should say thank you.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, that's probably one of the more motivating statements for the Tea Partiers. The fact is that taxes have gone up. They're going to go up. And they are going to violate the president's pledge as far as single people making $250,000 and $200,000.

The taxes are going up. We all know that.


KURTZ: That is not true. Federal taxes have not gone up. Obama is right when he says he has cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans.

As for the future, Obama said during the campaign he would end the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 a year. He now wants to raise capital gains taxes, but, again, for folks earning over $250,000.

Now, the health care bill does contain provisions such as a fee on those who refuse to get insurance. That could be described as a tax on those earning under $250,000. But that won't take effect until 2014.

And finally, Bill Clinton sat down with Tapper on "This Week," and the 42nd president was asked about his successor's decision on a Supreme Court nominee.


TAPPER: What advice would you give President Obama? Because Republicans are saying he's not including them in this.

CLINTON: I think it will be very difficult to just outright block a Supreme Court nominee that's otherwise qualified, especially after the Democrats confirmed -- or allowed a vote on Clarence Thomas and Justice Scalia, and a lot of other people who were -- Justice Roberts -- Chief Justice Roberts.


KURTZ: That's true. Senate Democrats did allow a vote on John Roberts, but only after publicly weighing the idea of filibustering President Bush's nominee.

As for a nominee that's otherwise qualified, as Clinton put it, Senator Barack Obama said that both John Roberts and Sam Alito were clearly qualified and voted against them.

Now, this sort of fact-checking takes time and sometimes gets bogged down in details. I bet this isn't the most exciting television segment you have ever watched. But we all ought to do more of it, especially online, as a way of holding politicians accountable. Maybe that will make them more cautious about what they say on Sunday morning.

Up next, life after layoff. One of Conde Nast's top editors talks about how the demise of her magazine shattered her life. Dominique Browning joins us straight ahead.


KURTZ: What happens when you're a magazine editor and you lose your magazine? That's not such a rare occurrence in this age of media downsizing. What happens to your stature, your sense of self, to your life?

Dominique Browning had the misfortune to find out. She was the editor of "House & Garden" for 12 years until "Conde Nast" abruptly closed it. She recounts what happens in her book "Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness."

And Dominique Browning joins me now from New York.

And you're not wearing pajamas.

DOMINIQUE BROWNING, FMR. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "HOUSE & GARDEN": I'm not wearing pajamas. Those days are over.

KURTZ: Describe the impact three years ago when you first got the news that "House & Garden" was closing.

BROWNING: You know, I was reeling. I don't think it's just about having lost a magazine. Anybody who loses a job that they were committed to and that they loved has that job as a part of who they are and how they move through the world. And to lose it just topples you.

KURTZ: Is it a loss of stature? I mean, you're a big deal in your world. You're busy. Everybody wants a piece of you. And then, suddenly, ,you're home alone.

BROWNING: Sure, it's a loss of stature. It's a loss of feeling needed, a loss of feeling wanted. But it's a loss of structure more than anything else.

Work gives your day structure. And I talk about this in my book, "Slow Love." It gives you a sense of purpose in the morning. It gives you a schedule through the day. And in a way, it gives you a way to avoid thinking about a lot of things that might be bothering you.

KURTZ: You also talked about stealing breadsticks from restaurants. You had a little economic uncertainty?

BROWNING: I wasn't quite stealing them, but I was --

KURTZ: You thought about it.

BROWNING: -- definitely fantasizing about it. It's terrifying to go from having had a paycheck for 30 years to not knowing where your paycheck is going to come from next.

KURTZ: Now, you had spent, as I said, a dozen years at "House & Garden." Before that you were a top editor at "Newsweek."

Why didn't you throw yourself into finding a new job?

BROWNING: I did throw myself into finding a new job. And, in fact, I got consulting jobs. And I just had the misfortune in terms of timing to be looking for a job when the entire industry started to fall apart. Just, the wheels were falling off the wagons.

KURTZ: Right. I know so many people who have been through some version of that, losing jobs. Not necessarily people who ran magazines.

Now, you describe yourself in the book -- I mean, you don't mince words. You were a zombie, you were plunged into a nightmare. You were really struggling during this period that you now write about.

BROWNING: I was zombie and it was a nightmare. And I feel it's important for people to talk about what they're going through.

The unemployment numbers are frightening and they don't seem to be getting better fast. And a lot of us are out there suffering. And a lot of people need to be able to share what they're going through.

It isn't just about not having a paycheck. It's also psychologically what it does to you. A lot of the response I've gotten to the book has been, "Thanks for talking about what it's like to go through this, and thanks for explaining to me what my spouse is going through, or my friend."

KURTZ: Right. The irony is that journalists write all the time about the impact of unemployment. More of us are starting to experience it.

But was writing the book and recalling the depths of your depression -- and you use that word as well -- wasn't it painful?

BROWNING: It was very painful. It was painful to go through. It was actually painful to write about for a while.

But it was also cathartic. It really helped me to talk about what I was going through, to be honest about it, to share it with friends and family, which is what do you when you write a book. You start sending chapters to people you know and you love, and getting feedback.

KURTZ: Right.

BROWNING: And now it's very, very helpful to have other people say to me, "Thank you. I understand. I understand what you went through, and it's what I'm going through. And thank you for putting words to it."

KURTZ: But you pulled back the curtain on a time in your life that you probably weren't proud of some of the things you did and what you were going through.

Did you have any hesitation of sharing that with the world?

BROWNING: You know, it's not a question of being proud. It's a question of why you write.

And you write to be honest. There's no point in writing if you don't dig deep and find things to say that can reach out and touch somebody else's life. And "Slow Love" is about making connections to other people through writing.

KURTZ: You dug pretty deep. When you were working -- and a lot of busy professionals go through this -- you felt guilty about neglecting your family. You were overscheduled, I'm sure. So, then, suddenly, you're not working. And then what happens?

BROWNING: I'm not working. I'm not overscheduled. And suddenly, my inbox isn't full. And my children have grown up and left home, and they are busy with their lives, and they don't need me every day.

And I'm in a relationship that is really fractured. That person doesn't need me all the time. And so I have to rebuild my entire support structure.

Even my friends who are busy working don't have time to take care of me all the time. Nor would I want them to. KURTZ: Right.

BROWNING: So it was a question of remaking a life from the beginning, really.

KURTZ: You sold your house, you left the New York area, and you moved to a small town in Rhode Island where you had a house. And you, of course, now, doing freelance writer and blogging.

So how's your mental health these days?

BROWNING: My mental health is great. I really feel on top of things again. Being productive and writing has been fantastic, but also, I have been digging into the online world.

That has been a revelation to me. It's a whole different way of publishing.

It's a different way of thinking about what you do when you make a magazine. It's not about the paper and the ink, it's about what you have to say and how you can reach people. So I've had a great time with that.

KURTZ: Interesting transition after spending your whole life in print.

The other thing about online is, you can always be on deadline at any moment. You have a thought, you can throw it up there.

BROWNING: That's exactly right.

KURTZ: Dominique Browning, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

BROWNING: Thank you.

KURTZ: Before we go to break, you may have heard that ABC and Fox rejected a Lane Bryant commercial featuring plus-size models as unsuitable for the 8:00 p.m. hour. But, boy, that produced a bonanza of free air time as the cable channels and the morning shows kept showing the lingerie ad under the guise of news.


BROOKE ANDERSON, HLN: Lane Bryant claims the ad was shot down, rejected, because the women are too big. It is a boob-gate controversy of epic proportion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Here's the thing -- with plus-sized models, you're going to get more cleavage.

O'REILLY: You get plus size.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're plus size. OK? So that's what's going to happen.

O'REILLY: OK. So it's a matter of skin.

HODA KOTB, NBC: There was too much cleavage going on. And they were -- they -- here's the ad.

Right now we know one thing. Lane Bryant is getting all the publicity in the world for not having their ad have aired. So that's very smart.


KURTZ: You can say that again. Nothing like showing racy pictures while you debate the propriety of racy pictures.

Well, after the break, we've done our truth-squadding on the Sunday shows. Now let's see what the politicians are peddling this morning. Candy Crowley joins us next.


KURTZ: Time now for our weekly look at "THE SOUND OF SUNDAY."

And Candy Crowley, the administration's financial reform legislation, the debate has really been heating up, the vote getting closer. And so, just like last week, this is a hot topic this morning.

CROWLEY: It is. They have a vote coming up tomorrow afternoon.

KURTZ: That's kind of a test vote?

CROWLEY: Well, it's a test vote. It's a vote to see if they can actually put the bill on the floor. And they need 60. It's pretty apparent from reading the not-so-great tea leaves this morning that the two people trying to put together a compromise, Senator Dodd and Senator Shelby, don't have one yet.


SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: I think in the next few days, weeks, we'll get it together. Maybe even by tomorrow, a possibility, to get this done. We need to get on with this.

SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Tomorrow, if nothing happens between now and tomorrow, the Democrats will not get closer, but we'll continue to work. That's the first vote. We don't know when there will be another vote and so forth. But if Senator Dodd and I and our staff continue to work, we can get a bill.


CROWLEY: I'm always curious about these sorts of things simply because one of two things happen. When they say, oh, we're close, we're close, they're either pushing the people they're trying to bring on board to say, oh, we just need -- you know, come on, come on. Or it's all about to fall apart. One of the two things.

KURTZ: Right. I would be equally unsurprised if either one happened.

CROWLEY: Exactly.

KURTZ: It completely fell apart.

But now Wall Street reform not the only issue. A new issue has kind of surged to the surface here, politically, and that's immigration.

CROWLEY: It has. And what is interesting to me is that the Democratic leadership sort of signaled, oh, by the way, we decided to kind of switch things up.

Instead of doing global warming and climate change as the next issue after financial reform, we're going to go to immigration. And, immediately, it set off this firestorm with the Republicans saying, well, they're doing this for political reasons, it appeals to their base --

KURTZ: They get the Hispanic vote.

CROWLEY: -- get the Hispanic vote. And so I expected this morning that the Republicans would be out there sort of pounding on this, but they did not.

Listen to this kind of muted response.


SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Here's the problem with trying to deal with an immigration reform bill now, Candy. From a realistic standpoint, and from a legislative standpoint, we know, because of what we tried to do back in 2007, that trying to deal with the immigration issue, particularly those that are here illegally today, is not practical because we still haven't sealed the border. And until you secure the border, trying to really have an overall reform package on immigration just simply can't be done.

MCCONNELL: I think it's an important issue. We have an enormous number of people who are in this country illegally. The important question of what to do with them, a guest worker issue, but of course now we have a very high unemployment rate. I just don't think this is the right time to take up this issue.


CROWLEY: So, as we had this kind of, well, very calm, and it wasn't like they're playing politics. And I was also interested because Senator Robert Menendez, who heads up the committee trying to elect Democratic senators, also wasn't all that interested in playing politics on it.


SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: I think what Harry Reid simply said is that we're going to get to both issues in this session. CROWLEY: Is that possible, Senator?

MENENDEZ: And he actually -- I think it is. And he actually noted that, in fact, more work had been done on climate change than on immigration. So whichever is ready to go up would likely come up after we get through Wall Street reform.


CROWLEY: Let me just add, for the record, I will be stunned if they could get through a climate change bill and an immigration reform bill this year. It just -- it's just not how it works.

KURTZ: When politicians don't come out swinging, that tells you something also.

CROWLEY: I know, exactly. It tells us it's a very hot issue.

KURTZ: Thanks, Candy.

Still to come, Fox and the funny man. Jon Stewart takes a shot at Fox News. Bernie Goldberg fires back. And the sniping continues.

Is this more about humor or hypocrisy?


KURTZ: It's a seismic smackdown, a trash-talking tiff. It's a Comedy Central guy and a Fox News guy dissing each other.

Jon Stewart started it, suggesting that Bernie Goldberg was being less than consistent when he accused liberals of making generalizations about the much ballyhooed Tea Party.


BERNIE GOLDBERG, BERNIEGOLDBERG.COM: They're tarring the entire Tea Party --

O'REILLY: Sure. Blowing it up and --

GOLDBERG: -- movement and the Republican Party.

JON STEWART, "THE DAILY SHOW": Bernie Goldberg is -- right? Oh, my God! Bernie Goldberg is right!

KURTZ (voice-over): Then Stewart went to the videotape.

GOLDBERG: This idea that that whole middle of the country is made up of sort of jerks, you know, that's a Democratic thing. That's a liberal thing.

STEWART: Yes, exactly! Bernie Goldberg is right. Democrats and liberals all believe the whole middle of the country is made up of jerks. See, that's what we call a fair generalization.

KURTZ: Well, Bernie wouldn't cop to that, would he?

GOLDBERG: I am pleading guilty, and that's a sincere plea of guilty.


KURTZ: But then he issued a challenge to his Comedy Central critic.

GOLDBERG: If you just want to be a funny man who talks to an audience that will laugh at anything you say, that's OK with me. No problem. But if, clearly, you want to be a social commentator, more than just a comedian, and if you want to be a good one, you'd better find some guts.

When you had Frank Rich on your show, who generalizes all the time about conservatives and Republicans being bigots, you didn't ask him a single tough question. You gave him a lap dance.

KURTZ: Now it was Stewart's turn to play defense, and he noted Frank Rich hadn't been on his program for four years.

STEWART: To say that comedians have to decide whether they're comedians or social commentators, comedians do social commentary through comedy. That's how it's worked for thousands of years. I have not moved out of the comedian's box into the news box.

Here's the point. You can't criticize me for not being fair and balanced. That's your slogan, which, by the way, you never follow.


KURTZ: My scorecard? Stewart in a TKO, though Goldberg did land some blows. But they both won because the slugfest got both of them plenty of media attention, which is why it went so many rounds.

We're out of time here at RELIABLE SOURCES.

Thank you for watching.

Here's "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley.