Just before I walked into the studio for “MediaBuzz” yesterday, I bumped into Ted Cruz, who wanted to make a point about the way he was being covered.
He loved being mocked by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, the senator said, and not just because he thought the sound bites were funny. It was because they played clips showing him attacking ObamaCare, and therefore got his message out to people who don’t watch “Meet the Press” or Fox News, which he was also on yesterday.
Cruz, who has done more than anyone else in Washington to take us to the brink in this budget impasse, says he doesn’t want to close down the federal government. Nearly everyone, Republican or Democrat, says the same thing. Yet we seem to be hurtling there at high speed.
So who might be rooting for a government shutdown?
The question sounds counterintuitive. Everybody is busy proclaiming that of course they want to avoid the train wreck that closing the federal government would become.
But the smart money in Washington, which is not always so smart, says that federal workers, except for those high-status “essential” personnel, will be sent home tomorrow. Since the brinkmanship could be settled in five minutes if both parties would compromise, it must be in someone’s interest to close the doors for the first time in 17 years.
- The media: Though journalists have covered one fiscal cliff too many, the sharp rhetoric, faux filibuster and countdown clocks make for a good story. If the White House and Congress strike a last-minute deal, the story is over -- well, until the debt ceiling showdown in two weeks.
If there’s no deal, the media will be awash in pieces about shuttered national parks, anxious seniors, angry tourists, furloughed workers, and frantic negotiations to re-open the doors.
I’m not saying the Fourth Estate is pining for a shutdown, just pointing out that ratings go up during disasters.
- President Obama: It’s not exactly the worst outcome for the Democrats if the government shuts down, especially if it’s only for a few days. Having hammered the Republicans as blackmailers for recklessly risking a shutdown, Obama would have a dramatic example to drive home the point. See? They actually pulled the trigger.
As the pain mounted, the Republicans would inevitably have to agree to a compromise that doesn’t defund ObamaCare, allowing the president to declare victory. Of course, both sides will look bad. But polls show that more people will blame a shutdown on the GOP.
- John Boehner Republicans: The House speaker very much wanted to cut a deal to avoid the shutdown drama, but was undercut by his Tea Party wing. Now he’s in a box, needing to maintain control of his caucus while knowing his party will bear the brunt of the political fallout.
But if the government is forced to close, it’s the conservative crusaders who will feel the heat to relent, without Boehner having to lift a finger. Once they start hearing from constituents back home, it may be easier for Boehner to cobble together a compromise.
- Ted Cruz Republicans: By forcing a shutdown, the Cruz contingent can show its strongest supporters that it was dead serious about stopping ObamaCare. The shutdown can serve as a safety valve of sorts, allowing the hard-liners to let off steam.
Once the inevitable compromise is made to turn the lights back on, Cruz and his compatriots can feel that they made their point. And if the Democrats have to throw them a couple of minor concessions to grease the deal, they can declare victory as well.
Here is a footnote. More than half of those questioned in a new survey say the media’s coverage of the ObamaCare shutdown has been focused on politics and controversies. The figure reaches 56 percent in the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, while only 6 percent say the coverage has been mainly about the law’s impact on people.
An unnerving nugget is that 53 percent of those questioned said there was not one media source they trusted on ObamaCare. Among the rest, 19 percent said they most trusted cable news. The breakdown there was 10 percent trust Fox News, 5 percent trust CNN and 2 percent trust MSNBC.
Bin Laden Fakery?
Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former New York Times-man, is downright dismissive of the media, especially their coverage of the killing of Usama bin Laden.
Hersh will tackle the subject as part of a forthcoming book, as the Guardian reports.
“Don’t even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends ‘so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would,’ or the death of Usama bin Laden,” the Guardian reports. "'Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true,’ he says of the dramatic U.S. Navy Seals raid in 2011.”
A big lie? Guess we’ll have to wait for the details.
Alex Wagner’s Telltale Picture
I’ll forego the predictable joke about journalists being in bed with the White House.
BuzzFeed has a report on an MSNBC host that blows up a picture of an unmistakable ring on her finger.
“It appears that MSNBC’s Alex Wagner, who had been quietly dating White House chef Sam Kass for about a year until the Washington Post blew their cover in August, is quietly announcing to her audience that she’s getting hitched,” the report says. “Below are a few screencaps from this week’s ‘Now’ broadcasts that feature Wagner’s fresh bling.”
Well, it’s not like Kass is sitting in on NBC meetings and can leak crucial details.
But if the report is true, Wagner should certainly have exclusive access to some gourmet meals.
Maligning Mario and Luigi
This may be my favorite New York Times correction ever.
“An obituary on Sept. 20 about Hiroshi Yamauchi, the longtime president of Nintendo, included a quotation from a 1988 New York Times article that inaccurately described the Nintendo video game Super Mario Bros. 2. The brothers Mario and Luigi, who appear in this and other Nintendo games, are plumbers, not janitors,” the correction reads.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.