By Paul Bremmer
Sometimes it’s convenient for a journalist to misinterpret someone else’s words in order to push his or her own narrative, and that was clearly what happened on Saturday’s edition of Weekends with Alex Witt on MSNBC. Alex Witt and various guests spent a good deal of time discussing Sen. Ted Cruz’s Friday appearance on The Tonight Show, and Witt seemed to take issue with this Cruz sound bite: [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
"I mean, I think the biggest divide we have is not between Republicans and Democrats. It is between entrenched politicians in both parties in Washington and the American people."
Witt asked Lauren Fox of U.S. News & World Report for her take on that comment. The sly Fox twisted the meaning of Cruz’s words: “Well, I think what's interesting here is he's saying the biggest problem in Washington are those who are dug in on both sides.”
That is almost certainly not what Cruz meant by “entrenched politicians.” He would never suggest that someone who is “dug in,” like himself, is the problem in Washington. Fortunately, the rest of the Tonight Show interview gives us clues about what Cruz meant. In a segment that Witt didn’t play, Cruz said this to Jay Leno: “Well look, what I'm entrenched about is fighting for 26 million Texans... And you've got too many career politicians in Washington that want to just keep going down this road of more and more spending and taxes and regulation.”
It seems apparent that Cruz was referring to career politicians when he referenced “entrenched politicians.” But if that’s not clear enough, here is another Cruz quote, as reported in a November 8 Bloomberg article: “The greatest divide we have in Washington is not between Republicans and Democrats. It’s between entrenched career politicians in both parties and the American people.”
That is almost identical to what he told Jay Leno, with one important difference: the reference to “entrenched career politicians” rather than simply “entrenched politicians.” The meaning is surely the same.
But Fox misconstrued Cruz’s comment in order to slam him, which is what MSNBC loves to do, after all. She complained, “But if we look what Ted Cruz has meant for the U.S. Senate even among his Republican colleagues who have tried to moderate him a little bit, he is one of those entrenched politicians. So I think it's hard for him to strike a populist tone.”
Given the true meaning of Cruz’s words, Fox’s analysis was reduced to a straw man argument.
Below is a transcript of the segment:
ALEX WITT: Well, let’s listen to a little more of what he did say on the show. Lauren, let’s take a listen.
TED CRUZ: I think Americans are deeply frustrated that Washington is broken. And I think it's a bipartisan problem. I mean, I think the biggest divide we have is not between Republicans and Democrats. It is between entrenched politicians in both parties in Washington and the American people.
WITT: Lauren, this is a man who is a champion of, the face of the Tea Party. He's trying to strike what sounds like a populist tone to me, an everyman tone. Does that resonate or fall flat?
LAUREN FOX: Well, I think what's interesting here is he's saying the biggest problem in Washington are those who are dug in on both sides. But if we look what Ted Cruz has meant for the U.S. Senate even among his Republican colleagues who have tried to moderate him a little bit, he is one of those entrenched politicians. So I think it's hard for him to strike a populist tone. I think that he's got an incredible story and he's got an incredible message that really resonates with some Tea Party folks but when we're talking about poor Americans and when we’re talking about striking a populist tone, I don't necessarily think that Ted Cruz is the guy to carry that message through. Although we'll see as we get closer to 2016. Maybe he'll be able to broaden his base and maybe this will be his message.
Video at linkhttp://newsbusters.org/blogs/paul-bremmer/2013/11/11/msnbc-contributor-fox-misinterprets-cruz-order-slam-him