Mark Halperin's Man Crush on Mitt Romney

By now, everyone knows Mark Halperin of Time scored an interview with Mitt Romney. Reading the transcript, though, it was difficult to say whether it was a sit-down interview or a kiss-up. Not that I expect a whole heck of a lot from today's "journalists" - but if these 'journalists' are unwilling to challenge people running for the highest office in the land about obvious lies and falsehoods, why in the world are they there?

Where to begin. Well, let's start at the beginning.

Halperin: ... what would the United States look like at the end of 2013 in terms of jobs, unemployment, and economic growth, if you were President?

Romney: Well you’d see a very dramatic change in the perspective of small businesses, entrepreneurs, middle-size businesses, and perhaps even some large multinationals.  They’d say, you know what, America looks like a good place to invest again, a good place to take risk, a good place to hire again.  That the policies – from energy to labor policies, trade policies, government policies relating to debt and deficits are all aligning in such a way that America, far from being one of the places people are running from, is a place people are going to come to and add jobs.  This is all about creating good jobs for middle income Americans, and it’s a place where the President, frankly, has failed.  His effort to put in place a series of liberal proposals he thought were historic kept his eye off the ball of getting the economy going again.  It is the economy, and the American people aren’t stupid.  They want someone who can get this economy going again.
Does Halperin point out that this president brought us out of the worst recession in the memory of most living Americans? Does he even think about challenging Romney's assertion that the President has failed to create jobs with clear data showing that the US economy has added private sector jobs for 26 months in a row and in that time, created a total of 4.25 million private sector jobs, 827,000 of them thus far this year alone? Does he care to challenge Mitt Romney that the President saved the American auto industry, saving a million jobs there alone - and retooling it into a lean, mean, 21st century fuel efficient industry? Does he challenge Mr. Romney on the fact that GM is once again the largest auto manufacturer in the world, and that Romney's accusations that the president's policies have failed are, in fact, counterfactual?

Does he remind Mr. Romney it was Mr. Romney that opposed public money for the American auto industry, and demanded that US auto manufacturers go bankrupt? Does he tell Mr. Romney of the data that the President's much-maligned American Recovery Act has, under objective analysis, saved or created more than 3 million jobs?

Of course not. He lets that go unchallenged. But that's only the beginning. Here's another - perhaps easier - lie that Mitt Romney gets away with:
Romney: The median income in America is down 10% in just the last four years.
According to Census Bureau data - of which most recent data is available for 2010 - this is patently false. From 2009 to 2010, the real median income (adjusted for inflation), declined by 1.3%. From 2007 to 2008 - i.e. the beginning of the Republican recession - median income declined by 4.1% in just one year. Where does Mitt Romney get his 10% number over 4 years? He pulls part of it from his behind, and the rest of it by attributing to President Obama the results of economic policies put in place by President Bush - almost the same exact policies Romney is now advocating.

Just how long would it have taken Mark Halperin to direct a staffer to get these numbers so that he could verify Mr. Romney's claim? Apparently, days. Because he still hasn't taken responsibility to correct the record.

That median income was declining in 2010, albeit at a much slower rate, is no cause for celebration. But this wage depression is provably a result of right wing economic policies. After stagnating wages for a decade during a supposed economic expansion, the bottom fell out of the economy, thanks to financial deregulation and tax cuts pushed by Republicans, creating a further downward pressure on the economy. After President Obama came into office, the Republicans in Congress kept the president from infusing cash to fill in the demand gap, causing wages to remain low. And since the Republicans have taken power in the House in the 2010 elections, they and Republican governors have blocked aid to the states to keep teachers, public safety officers and firefighters on the job.

Maybe Halperin didn't have time to go into all that detail. How about this - Mitt Romney is claiming wages would rise under him through his policies of being more corporate friendly, and harsher on labor. Just what is Mitt Romney's record on wages? Buying companies, laying off their entire workforce, and forcing them to re-apply for their jobs at a lower wage and zero benefits? How does Romney get away with talking about wages in this country without being reminded that it is his business model and his policy positions that are in favor of slave-level wages with less worker protections so that people like him can make out like bandits?

The economy isn't the only area Romney is allowed to get away with hypocrisy and breathtaking dishonesty. Here comes energy.
Halperin: ... What would make you qualify to be President – again, specific things you’ve learned, things you know, policies that grow out of your experience at Bain Capital that would lead toward job creation.

Romney: Well, Mark, let’s be a little more specific as to the area you’d like to suggest.  Trade policies?  Labor policies?  Energy policies?  Let’s take energy, for instance.  I understand that in some industries, the input cost of energy is a major factor in whether an industry is going to locate in the United States or go elsewhere.  So, when, at Bain Capital, we started a new steel company called Steel Dynamics in Indiana, the cost of energy was a very important factor to the success of that enterprise.
Ah. So why isn't Saudi Arabia the manufacturing capital of the world, Mr. Romney? Where was Halperin's question for Mr. Romney about why American manufacturing saw a dramatic decline under two oilmen in the White House and is resurgent now under President Obama - you know, the President Mitt Romney says is personally pushing up the price of gas? And so long as we're talking about the cost of energy being a factor in businesses, will "journlists" like Halperin ever grow enough intestinal fortitude to point out the reduced cost of operating business vehicles thanks to the retooling of the American auto industry and thanks to President Obama's single-handed work in doubling vehicle fuel efficiency standards in a decade? Will "journalists" like Halperin ever ask Mitt Romney about investing in clean sources of fuel so that we can make solar and wind energy cheaper?

Even if he couldn't talk about anything other than oil and coal, Halperin neglects the fact that domestic oil production is at the highest point in a decade and our dependence on foreign oil has dropped every single year Obama has been in office. He stays away from challenging Romney with data that shows US coal production also growing. Oh, and maybe Halperin could have pointed out something in response to Romney's claim that he will make the US the world's largest energy producer: it already is. The United States is also the third largest oil producer in the world.

This goes on and on. Halperin barely pressed Romney on specific cuts he would make to the budget and to programs like social security and Medicare, or the specifics of his tax policy, at the center of which is more tax giveaways for the extraordinarily wealthy. In fact, Halperin utterly fails to catch Mitt Romney in a straight-out lie:
Romney: ...You know I look at Simpson-Bowles for instance, and they laid out a plan that shows that you could lower rates just like I suggested and you can do so by limiting certain deductions and exemptions. For me the ground rules of these, that we want to bring our rates down, that we want to keep the progressivity of the code. I’m not looking to lower the tax burden paid by the highest-income Americans. That’s a fundamental principle. I’m looking, if there’s any break at all, the break will go to middle-income Americans 
Mitt Romney is absolutely looking to lower the tax burden paid by the highest-income Americans. Romney advocates eliminating the estate tax, which currently applies only to inheritances of over $3.5 million. Only the children of the super rich generally pay this tax, and eliminating is a huge shift of the tax burden from silver-spooned trust fund babies to the average American. In fact, Stephen Gandel, Halperin's colleague at Time Magazine, pointed out this January that Romney's tax plan would save him and people like him millions of dollars in taxes. Where do you think that money will come from, Mr. Halperin? Who makes up the difference? Ever think to ask Mr. Romney that?

For some time now, Mark Halperin has been taking potshots at President Obama and the White House, and since his interview with Mr. Romney, his TV appearances have showered the presumptive GOP nominee with praise. Romney is composed, Romney is calm, etc. etc. Yet, what should be clear from a factual standpoint to anyone reading the transcript of the interview is that Mr. Romney is a liar, and Mark Halperin agreed to be his uncritical, unchallenging media sidekick.

What's the deal? Is Halperin simply inept at conducting face-to-face interviews? Is he really that slow on his feet? Or is he trying to protect access to a presidential campaign that he knows will shut down access if their candidate is forced to answer real questions? Or does he simply have a man crush on Mitt Romney?

Do I need to agree with every question every journalist asks of a candidate? No. Does a journalist always have time to ask all the needed follow ups? Of course not. But if journalism is no longer about the facts, if it's no longer about candidates for president having to answer tough questions about their claims and their records, then frankly, it's time to close down the magazine. If "journalists" who are interviewing candidates for office are not prepared with the facts and ready to confront their interviewee with them, then perhaps it's time to pick different people to conduct the face-to-face interviews.

We are coming up on an election under the rules of Citizens United where big money is already obscuring and hiding the facts. We don't need Time to turn into Glamour and do the same.

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