As if to say ‘cut the crap,’ Ifill shot back: “Well we’re talking about cuts,” somewhere in the range of $4 trillion. Still, Roskam babbled on. Ifill challenged him. Then that word “trajectory” came up again. Roskam told viewers that Republicans had taken on Medicare. “For example,” said Roskam, “we said let’s deal with folks who are basically in my age group. I’m fifty years old. Take ages fifty-four and below and you come up with a different trajectory on Medicare. So House Republicans have taken those tough votes and I think are prepared to stand by them.” Ifill moved on to the topic of tough votes, leaving viewers figure out what the heck the “trajectory” was, as well as the rest of the congressman’s Medicare gobbledygook.
Speaking of gobbledygook, Ifill’s next guest showed that he had mastered it. Yet Ifill didn’t untangle much of it for her viewers, allowing Illinois senior senator Dick Durbin to make some rather ambiguous points. He harkened back to the Simpson-Bowles deficit commission that laid everything on the table in the way of cuts and revenue. “That’s the only thing that’s going to work here,” the senator said, and then moved to his main message: “We’re not going to attack the basic benefit structure of these programs,” meaning entitlements, of course. At another point, he said: “We can make these changes in entitlements and do it in a fashion that still preserves the basic benefits.” Still at another point, the senator said people on Medicare “want us to make sure at the end of the day, whatever changes we make, we preserve the basic benefit promises of those programs.”
You’d think that a three-time mention would prompt a question about what exactly he was talking about. What is the basic benefit structure Durbin said was sacrosanct? And what is the “real reform” he said his fellow Dems must accept? Those were things Ifill needed to pounce on. Adjustments, changes, trajectory, basic benefits, real reform—the empty words of carefully crafted political-speak, designed to make the public think one thing when those uttering them really mean another! Journos, especially those on the NewsHour, which likes to promote itself as an outlet that digs behind the news, need to try even harder to pierce their meaning. Given the importance of their news show, Woodruff and Ifill must keep pressing.
For more from Trudy Lieberman on entitlement reform, click here.