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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
Paul Ryan's Searing Spotlight; Coverage of the Olympics
Aired August 12, 2012 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST: Good morning from Los Angeles, where the sun was barely up yesterday morning as Mitt Romney rolled out Paul Ryan as his running mate.
We'll look at how the story broke, how the media are framing the choice, and what journalists and pundits are saying about the Wisconsin congressman and his budget-slashing plan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R-WI), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We find ourselves in a nation facing debt, doubt and despair. This is the worst economic recovery in 70 years.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: Is this a game changer? No question about that. It does put both sides' vision for the future front and center in this campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: And was Romney trying to please conservative media outlets in picking Ryan?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: This is what "The Wall Street Journal" was urging. This is what the "Weekly Standard," Bill Kristol, the strong voice of conservatism, both were saying this week, this is the guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Plus, Lolo Jones lashes out at the press after failing to win an Olympic medal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOLO JONES, U.S. OLYMPIC TRACK AND FIELD TEAM: The fact that they just tore me apart, it was just heartbreaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Is the sports press building up female athletes just to tear them down?
I'm Howard Kurtz, and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: The tsunami of speculation known as the veepstakes was still going strong in the world as late as Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
JIM ACOSTA, CNN: Rob Portman.
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Bob McDonnell.
JOHN KING, CNN: Tim Pawlenty.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Paul Ryan.
CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS: And then there's Florida U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio.
BOB BECKEL, FOX NEWS: I think he will opt to take a safe choice, like a Portman or he will take Pawlenty.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: That came to a screeching halt Friday night when FOX's Carl Cameron reported that Mitt Romney would announce his running mate the next morning and that all signs pointed to the likelihood of Paul Ryan. That remained unconfirmed until NBC's Chuck Todd weighed in with this report shortly after midnight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC: NBC News has three sources, all telling us that Paul Ryan is Mitt Romney's choice for the pick. But what we also can tell you is the campaign itself will not confirm that it is definitely Ryan.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Clearly, it was a time when news organizations were being cautious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KING: (INAUDIBLE) don't have confirmation. Again, these things take funny twists sometimes.
COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN: Yes, they do. We try to read the smoke signals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Once the smoke cleared, all the networks went live as Romney introduced Ryan in front of a battleship in Norfolk. And there was no shortage of analysis about Mitt's pick.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: I think the choice of Paul Ryan clearly has injected new spirit into his base.
JAN CRAWFORD, CBS NEWS: Paul Ryan is someone the conservative base will embrace enthusiastically, jump up and down for, turn out in large numbers for.
BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Well, I have long thought, Bret, that this young man, this exceptionally impressive and able young man, Paul Ryan, represented the future of the Republican Party.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: Now, the media crush starts and Chuck just alluded to it, because the Obama team is ready and they're going to come at him very hard and it's a battle to define Ryan before Ryan can define himself.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC: He still acts that young ideologue that says every man and woman for themselves, we don't need all these social programs. That's basically what he is saying.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Joining us now to examine the coverage of Romney's choice: in New York, Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed.com; in Washington, Terence Smith, former media correspondent for the PBS NewsHour; and here in Los Angeles, Robin Abcarian, reporter for the "Los Angeles Times."
And, Ben Smith, what I heard most frequently about Romney's choice of Ryan was the word "bold." But as we have learned in previous election cycle, such snap judgments can look pretty different a week or a month later.
BEN SMITH, BUZZFEED.COM: I mean, you know, it was certainly a choice to change everything Romney was doing, not to just to keep doing it. The operating assumption until really now was that he was going to try to -- Romney himself would really remain a cipher and try to run a referendum on Obama which he never talked about himself, never really laid out a lot of details.
Ryan has come in and basically filled in a lot of those blanks for him, with this detailed policy that he comes carrying. And it's either now it's looking like a very clear choice between a set of policies for the president's articulated between -- and now a very clear ideological policy that Ryan brings.
B. SMITH: If anything, it's going to be a referendum on Paul Ryan for a while now.
KURTZ: Well, that's certainly the way it's playing in the media.
And, Terry Smith, looking back to a Sarah Palin four years ago, and I'm not comparing the two candidates, but is there a journalistic tendency to say something positive about a new running mate at the outset? "Washington Post" headline this morning caught my eye, describing Ryan as everyman with extraordinary charm.
TERENCE SMITH, FORMER PBS NEWSHOUR CORRESPONDENT: Well, there is. There's a very brief love affair. But I think the coverage was pretty good this time. I think not only did they get a little beat on the actual selection of Paul Ryan, but there was all that commentary that you talked about.
And, hey, if Rupert Murdoch and Paul (INAUDIBLE) and Bill Kristol, who are happy, who are the rest of us to complain?
KURTZ: I want to come back to that point, but, Robin, I'm hearing you spent yesterday putting together a profile with other reporters in the field of Paul Ryan.
ROBIN ABCARIAN, L.A. TIMES: Yes. Yes.
KURTZ: Does the pundit class tend to forget that most Americans, I bet most Californians, have no idea who this congressman is?
ABCARIAN: Oh, yes, absolutely. We do this with all of our political coverage, I think. We tend to think something is a well- known fact when it isn't, when we realize somebody like Paul Ryan gets picked who really most of us were not speculating about as much as we were speculating about Pawlenty or Portman, we do have to start from scratch. We dispatched a couple of reporters to Janesville, Wisconsin, his hometown, to beat the doors and bushes and figure out who is this guy.
KURTZ: And there will be a lot of who is this guy in the coming days and weeks, I suspect.
Ben Smith, coming back to the media coverage, what is striking to me is that nobody that I have seen in the press is questioning Paul Ryan's qualifications or his experience. He is a long-time Capitol Hill hand before he even became a member of Congress. It's all about his policies.
Is that a good thing?
B. SMITH: I mean, it is certainly the choice that Romney made. He's not a biography candidate. He's career Washington politician. He's a guy who spent his whole life working on policy and politics in Washington. There's no dishonor in that.
And it's certainly meaning --
KURTZ: Is that a good thing for -- is that -- get back to the media coverage, is that a good thing for the way -- for the idea that we might, that we in the news business might actually stumble into a substantive debate here as opposed to a personality-driven one?
B. SMITH: Yes, I think so. I mean, I think the fact that he's nominated somebody with a kind of -- where a lot of those threshold qualifications are obvious. One of the things with Sarah Palin, she may have had a lot of qualifications, nobody knew, including her staff. I was looking back at the e-mails I was sending them four years ago, all sorts of questions and they didn't know the answers.
And there was just -- here, he is just starting at a much higher base in terms of the knowledge that his people have of him and that we do.
KURTZ: This question for you, Terry Smith, are the sensation- seeking media really going to have a serious three-month debate about tax cuts and entitlement reform? Or is that just going to be the flavor of the week?
T. SMITH: Hard to believe, isn't it, Howie? I mean, going back on this, I think had Romney selected, you know, a boring white guy, a Rob Portman, a Tim Pawlenty, somebody like that, the media coverage would have been quite different and far more subdued.
This does throw meat to the conservatives. It also gives ammunition to the Obama campaign and it gives news organizations a lot more to focus on. And will it all be policy? No, of course not.
But a great deal of it will. After all, the most interesting thing about Paul Ryan is his budget plan and are his policies. So, I think that will be a focus.
KURTZ: I heard him tell Candy Crowley earlier that he likes Led Zeppelin. So, we'll hear more about the personality side as well. But you're right, what defines him in the public mind is the budget blueprint and the policies that he's pushed on Capitol Hill and Ryan --
T. SMITH: Right, because otherwise, Howie, note -- as you said earlier, no one knows Paul Ryan. They have no notion of him so there is no independent knowledge beyond this budget plan, and so forth.
KURTZ: That is about to change, I suspect.
Robin, from your perch out here in California, does it seem that Ryan benefits, has benefited and benefits, at least at this moment, from having a somewhat friendly relationship with reporters and pundits in Washington and New York?
ABCARIAN: You know, he is known as a likable guy and that's always a good first step when you're talking about cultivating relationship with the national press. I think that very quickly becomes meaningless in the context of a presidential campaign where the bubble descends. The messaging now is all coming from Romney headquarters. He will be constrained about what he can say.
You know, sure they like his personality. They want to turn him loose. But when you talk about, you know, the kinds of issues that are going to be coming up for Ryan, there's already grumbling that we are hearing among establishment Republicans that he doesn't have foreign policy experience, that he's lacking -- I mean, when you think of the heartbeat away stuff, that's what we will be looking at in the coming weeks.
KURTZ: That is a very interesting point, as we round out the portrait. And, by the way, Ryan was made available to reporters yesterday. He talked about how he kept the secrecy of the pick by sneaking out of his Wisconsin home, going through the woods and no reporters would see him, and both the Romney and Ryan doing a joint interview on "60 Minutes" tonight I have just been told, according to my BlackBerry.
Ben Smith, you know, look, let's talk about journalism for a minute. I'm competitive. You are competitive. We like to get the story first.
Why do the media spend so much energy every four years chasing veepstakes, tips and rumors when we are all going to find out anyway?
B. SMITH: Yes. I mean, I guess, I think it is because the kind of people who are in this business are people who are obsessed with new news and sometimes it's really important new news, and sometimes it's just -- this is like one of those little bright, shiny objects that gets us all chasing it very hard.
NBC, which broke the story, put immense resources into this. I'm glad they got it. I think a lot of news organizations made different choices about exactly how much resources, you know, whether you have somebody outside each of the contenders' houses 24 hours.
But, you know, it is the sort of people like us get excited about it, I suppose.
KURTZ: Terry Smith, OK, tip of the hat to Chuck Todd, getting the story in a very competitive environment and getting it late at night but why is it such a great scoop? I know that's how it's viewed by people in our business to get something, this piece of information, that a candidate is about to announce anyway? It is not like digging out some investigative report that would never come out except for your efforts.
T. SMITH: Right. Well, it isn't that much of a scoop, but, Howie, it's August. There's nothing going on. The campaign is flat and dull. They have to do something with themselves.
And remember this -- Romney was in trouble in this campaign. He was slipping slowly back in the numbers and so, there was --
KURTZ: Change the storyline.
T. SMITH: That's right. There was a storyline there and this contributed to changing that storyline, at least for the moment.
KURTZ: And, Robin, "The Los Angeles Times" did a whole series on the possible contenders, you interviewed and profiled Ohio Senator Rob Portman. A lot of wasted energy or is that a useful exercise? ABCERIAN: No, I mean, I think it is a useful exercise to know who these people are. You have to be prepared to jump on it as soon as the guy is announced. And what we decided was, you know, in any case, these people who are being mentioned, those contenders, are important national political figures anyway that our readers should want to know about. So we looked at them.
I did have a funny conversation with Rob Portman's wife. She said, so you're doing all that work on my husband and what if he's not the selection? And I said, well, I guess I will just throw my notebook away. I mean, they are looking at this kind of all the press hovering around them going, boy, this could be all for naught.
KURTZ: A lot of people throwing their notebooks away now for everybody except Paul Ryan, and a lot of people gathering, as we speak, more information about the congressman from Wisconsin.
Let me get a break. We'll come back and talk about a little bit more detail about the coverage of Ryan's policies, especially on the budget.
KURTZ: Back in Los Angeles.
Looking at the Paul Ryan coverage.
And, Terry Smith in Washington, Rupert Murdoch tweeted the other day -- yesterday, I guess, "Thank God about the Ryan choice, an almost perfect candidate."
How much do you think this selection was influenced, if at all, by Murdoch's "Wall Street Journal" editorial page and "The Weekly Standard"?
T. SMITH: I suspect it was influenced in the sense that those editorials were a reflection of the fact that the conservative base really had not come out for Romney at this point, that the enthusiasm factor among them for Romney was very low, that Romney need to do something to push the discussion away from his tax returns and his Swiss bank accounts and his money and so forth.
And so I suspect that did have a contributing factor. What you read this morning is that a big factor was the personal chemistry between Romney and Paul Ryan. Accepting that that is good, I suppose that's important as well.
KURTZ: What you also read this morning in several newspapers are stories about Ryan's budget, particularly, Robin, his proposals to do such things as eliminate all taxes on capital gains, turn Medicare into a voucher program for future retirees. Now, is it -- it's certainly fair game for the press -- fair to tie Romney to those proposals, even though they are made by Ryan?
ABCARIAN: Oh, I don't think you cannot tie Romney to those proposals because by choosing Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate, what Romney has done is whole-heartedly, full-throatedly embraced that budget and embraced the philosophy that Ryan brings to the table. I mean, that's what he talked about in the rollout yesterday, talked about his intellectual leadership of the GOP.
Clearly, Romney turned this into an election about Paul Ryan's budget and the Democrats are foaming at the mouth, practically.
KURTZ: I must have gotten 100 e-mails from Democratic places, operatives groups yesterday attacking -- obviously, they were prepared to attack everything Paul Ryan had ever done.
On that point, Ben Smith, if now that the -- now that the press is focusing, as it well should, on not only Ryan's budget, but his position against abortion, for example, even the case of rape and incest, is there any danger it looks like we are piling on as we try to explain who this guy is, what he stands for?
B. SMITH: Yes, I do always think about that. Whatever is new always gets way more attention than something very important that's been around for a couple of days , and we are in that phase with Ryan, that kind of introductory get-to-know-you phase, and is this sort of a swarming kind of coverage of who this guy is? It's just -- I mean, it is part of the process.
I mean, it's also -- the single-most important choice Romney is going to make this cycle and it says a lot about Mitt Romney. I think the coverage when it's best is always looking to that.
KURTZ: In other words, we can't understate the importance here, not just because Ryan, you know, would be a heartbeat away, to use the cliche, but -- not just because he has transformed the race but because it shows something about Romney's decision making?
B. SMITH: Absolutely. Both about the very kind of careful process, and then also something that I would really surprise me taking a real risk here, which is something that he has not done this entire cycle.
KURTZ: Right. Exactly.
Terry Smith, you know, this budgetary stuff, Medicare, the out years, cutting the deficit, the effective tax cuts, it's complicated stuff, especially for TV. How effectively do you think press will be able to play referee here?
T. SMITH: Well, that's a very good point, Howie, because some of these things are open to interpretation or certainly to your perspective on them and so, you're going to get a lot of argument about it. Also, as you were saying before, we haven't gone beyond his budget plan, Paul Ryan's budget plan, to look at his views, if he has any, on foreign policy, on other issues, on immigration, that sort of thing.
So, there's a good deal of analysis still to go, a good deal of introduction, I would say. But I agree with Robin, the point she was making earlier, that when Romney picked Ryan, it became the Romney/Ryan budget. And he's now got to embrace it -- he can say as he already has that he will come up with a budget plan of his own.
T. SMITH: But nonetheless, this sets the parameters and the base for that discussion.
KURTZ: And, Robin, we're already hearing media chatter, why wasn't Romney wearing a tie at yesterday's announcement, and the fact that he's a devotee of Ayn Rand.
KURTZ: We'll be hearing more about this --
KURTZ: -- I presume as reporter try to focus on his personal side?
ABCARIAN: Yes, we are looking at, you know, what made this guy this guy and Paul Ryan often says he was deeply influenced by the work of Ayn Rand, who many people associate with high school students and undergraduates in terms of a phase you go through about self-reliance and, you know, the privacy of an individual, on your way to a more mature view of the social contract.
But he is still passionate about her and he gives the book to his staffers to read.
KURTZ: Very briefly, could the press be turning this into an Obama/Ryan race?
ABCARIAN: Oh, I think absolutely they will. I think that Ryan has the ability to eclipse Romney the way Palin did McCain. I think we will see some of that play out. And whether Romney can bring it back the attention to himself remains to be seen, but Ryan is the one who is generating the big crowds right now.
KURTZ: I think we might be talking about this on next week's program as well.
Robin Abcarian, Terry Smith and Ben Smith, thanks very much for joining us this morning.
We'll be back with in a moment with more further look at the Ryan coverage. More RELIABLE SOURCES from Los Angeles.
KURTZ: For further perspective on the Paul Ryan extravaganza, the media coverage, joining us now here at Los Angeles, Stephanie Miller, host of Current TV's "Talking Liberally" and her own radio talk show, and Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California and a former Republican Strategist.
Stephanie Miller, are you and your left wing pals are now going to pound Paul Ryan even more than Mitt Romney?
STEPHANIE MILLER, CURRENT TV: I'm not sure if this is better for comedy or better for Democrats. It's about even. I love the fact that Eddie Munster is trending on social media now and also the term zombie-eyed granny starver, which I believe my friend Charlie Pearce coined on my show.
KURTZ: This would be in reference to the congressman from Wisconsin?
MILLER: Yes, this would be a reference to someone that wants to gut Medicare, which I guess they just gave up Florida.
KURTZ: Speaking of comedic potential, let's roll the tape of Mitt Romney introducing his running mate yesterday in Norfolk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Join me in welcoming the next president of the United States, Paul Ryan.
Every now and then I'm known to make a mistake.
ROMNEY: I did not make a mistake with this guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: You probably know that he -- we didn't hear it here in the studio, but that he said, the next president of the United States came back and said, oops.
MILLER: Yes. Freudian slip or some people are saying, I've read some column saying that this is such a Hail Mary this is such an obvious giving up on this cycle, they are trying to prep Paul Ryan for the next time.
KURTZ: Dan Schnur, you would have to say the so-called liberal press, many conservatives think it leans to the left, has been respectful, maybe surprisingly respectful of Paul Ryan so far.
DAN SCHNUR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Being the reasonable centrist that I am, Howard, the media coverage, as your previous guest talked about, has been very, very favorable, as it always the case when someone new is introduced in the national --
KURTZ: Why is that? Is that because we want to give a little honeymoon? Because we don't want to appear to be beating up on somebody who just been trotted out onto the national stage?
SCHNUR: I think that's exactly right. And whether it was Sarah Palin four years ago or John Edwards four years before that, the media bends over backwards to get a honeymoon, becomes a shorter and shorter one. And by this time tomorrow, Paul Ryan is going to be talking a lot less about his workout regimen and a lot about his workout budget. But for a day or two, he gets a little bit slack.
KURTZ: Now, I should mention that Barack Obama also introduced Joe Biden without using you the word "vice". So, apparently, it's something that happens every four years.
Now, what the Washington pundit class is saying, it seems to me, Stephanie Miller, is that you may not like Paul Ryan's ideas, and I bet you don't.
KURTZ: But at least he has a plan, and he's put himself out there with a detailed or fairly detailed budget, some omissions and then clearly, and the Democrats are largely ducking debate about entitlement. So, how you take that one out?
MILLER: Oh, you mean ducking as in not wanting to destroy the social safety nets? I -- this is what drives me crazy about the mainstream media, present company excepted, of course, is that we -- you know, we -- somebody puts forward a plan like that and people go, oh, that's bold and courageous, he is serious. It's seriously a horrible plan. I don't there is anything bold or refreshing about destroying Medicare, replacing it with vouchers.
KURTZ: Sure. But -- and this I think will be the focus of many stories in coming weeks, if on the other hand, you basically don't propose to do anything in a second Obama term about these runaway costs in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, it's not like these programs can continue on -- on an unsustained basis without going bankrupt.
MILLER: Well, this is what George Bush tried to do with privatizing Social Security. First of all, they call it a crisis. It's not a crisis. It's not that there can't be policy ideas.
But Paul Ryan's I think is roundly rejected by the, you know, the American public. And as my favorite writer, Howard Kurtz, pointed out it does nothing to address the deficit with us, all these tax cuts for the rich, if you are going to run as a small government person, his budget does nothing to reduce the deficit.
KURTZ: It is true that while Congressman Ryan takes big whack at a lot of domestic program, he doesn't touch the Pentagon, he does keep tax cuts for the wealthy and eliminates capital gains. And that's fair point for media scrutinizing.
But do you expect there to be, once this two-day honeymoon is over, a kind of media assault on what Paul Ryan has proposed and what he stands for?
SCHNUR: There almost certainly will be. And whenever anyone comes out with a proposal that veers significantly from the status quo to the left or the right, that is inevitably the second wave of coverage, Howie, as you know. That said --
KURTZ: And this isn't some starry-eyed proposal -- this was passed by House Republicans, although it was kind of symbolic, because everybody in the House knew the Senate wouldn't take it up, more making a statement than something that was going to become law.
SCHNUR: And one that President Obama offered some grudging respect to early on, even though he said he differed with some of the details. Recognizing Ryan for being bold and taking a more aggressive stance. That said, this is the president of the United States. That said, I think one place where Stephanie is right, the Romney campaign took a risk here. If they were confident about the trajectory of the campaign, you would have seen a Paul Pawlenty or a Portman or someone like this.
KURTZ: The short-hand the media uses is a boring white guy, I believe?
SCHNUR: Precisely. This isn't throwing a Hail Mary. This isn't -- this isn't a Palin-type of selection, but it does represent a risk. And I think to your question, Howie, what the Romney campaign is anticipating is, OK, we are going to get beat up over Medicare, we were going to get beat up over it anyway. Maybe at some point going forward, we can pressure the media to push Obama to offer his plan.
MILLER: -- double-down on getting beat up on Medicare. He is certainly not a boring white guy. He likes to strangle catfish with his bare hands.
SCHNUR: The second wave of risk is to get the media to say, OK, Mr. President, what is your plan for Social Security and Medicare?
KURTZ: It's a good debate to have, I think. It could make this a more substantive campaign for those that cover it. You are not a boring white gal, but you are a liberal in a conservative media, on talk radio. I mean, in other words, it is dominated by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. Won't people like you and Ed Schultz and some of the few liberal national voices on talk radio be drowned out in this election?
MILLER: I don't think so, because you look at all the polling, Howie, and the American public is largely with us. They do not think it is a good idea to give further tax cuts to the rich. If his choices were Bush's budget director or doubling down - this is Bush's plan even worse.
KURTZ: You are saying you won't be drowned out because you are right.
MILLER: Well, I mean, the vast majority of the American people don't want tax cuts for the rich and gutting Medicare.
KURTZ: But conservatives have a much louder megaphone on talk radio.
MILLER: Just because you are loud, doesn't mean you are right. KURTZ: You were saying briefly, Dan Schnur, that having now the Ryan pick, Wall Street Journal editorial page, Weekly Standard, National Review in Romney's corner, will help him?
SCHNUR: It probably helps him marginally, as Terry Smith mentioned earlier. While Romney is getting the support from the base of the Republican Party, there is not a great deal of enthusiasm. As Palin was deciding to rev up the base, here is Ryan with an intellectual foundation to help him out.
KURTZ: Most of the conservative pundits did not like Mitt Romney in the primaries as you may recall. Let me get a break, we will continue this conversation on the other side.
KURTZ: There has been plenty of chatter, mostly in the media, about NBC airing its prime-time Olympic events on tape delay. NBC bowed to the criticism by streaming today's closing ceremonies live online, that's the plan, though still delaying them for tonight's prime-time. I now know how it feels to live in the middle of tape delay land. It was six in the morning yesterday when Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan as his running mate, when most of California was asleep and at least one journalist was half asleep. Try running a coherent story at that hour. When the network evening news comes on here, it is usually on tape, at least an hour or two old. Nightline, 60 Minutes, Today, GMA, 20/20, American Idol, Letterman, Leno, three hours behind. Yes, the country runs on Eastern time, but in this Twitter age with everything else instantly available on every phone, the West Coast feels like some kind of a time warp, especially heading to the studio this morning in a pre-dawn darkness.
More with Stephanie Miller and Dan Schnur in just a moment.
KURTZ: The explosion of coverage about Mitt Romney picking Paul Ryan, Stephanie Miller, what was it like going through the veepstakes, when your dad, William Miller, was picked to be the Republican candidate VP in 1964?
MILLER: Yes, well, I have to say, it is interesting, everything that the Romney camp has thrown at Obama - oh, he didn't have any business experience -- well, Paul Ryan drove an Oscar Meyer wiener mobile and has never worked in the private sector. He's, as some Bush people are saying, has zero foreign policy experience.
KURTZ: I am trying to get you to talk about your family.
MILLER: My dad, I am telling you, my dad was yes, a congressman for fourteen years, but he was chairman for the Republican Party, he had been a prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, he served in World War II, so I take offense when people try to say, oh, your dad wasn't that well known. He was eminently qualified. I don't think Paul Ryan is.
KURTZ: How old were you at the time? MILLER: Three. So I hadn't said anything yet, it wasn't my fault.
KURTZ: And you went from the Goldwater family to this. Whatever you are today.
MILLER: This. Trust me, my mother is shaking her head at the same time you are, Howard.
KURTZ: And Dan Schnur, you worked for the John McCain's presidential campaign in 2000. The press loved him at the time, he had the bus tours, which I spent a lot of time riding around with, answered endless questions from reporters. How does a campaign look different from the inside compared to the picture that we get from the press?
SCHNUR: The biggest difference over that 12-year time lapse, of course, is just the, no offense intended, the relentlessness of the media coverage. And even Bill Clinton, a master communicator in 2008, you remember, Howie, he really struggled with the ongoing coverage, the online media, the social media and so on. And by the way, very quickly, my father is a liberal Democrat from Madison, Wisconsin, who's now surrounded by Paul Ryan, Scott Walker and Reince Priebus, and he is very, very unhappy.
KURTZ: So we have two--
MILLER: Let's hook him up with my mom.
KURTZ: We have two guests who have evolved, shall we say, from their beginnings growing up. But you know, reporters I think sometimes have the impression that campaigns are extremely Machiavellian in everything that they do, and that may be true, but I wonder whether it seems more disorganized on the inside. You know, was it a brilliant McCain press strategy in 2000, or it just kind of worked out because he liked hanging out with reporters?
SCHNUR: A longer conversation than we have time for today, but the so-called straight talk express was something that he invented unintentionally on the spur of the moment, because he had gotten so used to sitting with reporters.
KURTZ: And then it became this phenomenon.
SCHNUR: There are plenty of smart people in both parties in presidential level politics, but they are never as smart as we pretend they are, and a lot of this stuff happens by accident along the trail.
MILLER: Well, the honeymoon with Sarah Palin, as you know, lasted until she started talking.
KURTZ: I have got twenty seconds here, did your dad ever talk to you as you got a little older about the experience of having all that media attention as Goldwater's running mate?
MILLER: Yes, I mean, it is interesting, all he talks about are ads this year, as you recall the famous mushroom cloud ad that ran against my dad and Goldwater.
KURTZ: 1964, LBJ.
MILLER: So politics has always been a tough business, but to me, all of Mitt Romney's ads so far have been based on provable lies, as, you know, Politifact or wherever has pointed out.
KURTZ: Well, neither of you has lost your sense of humor, Dan Schnur and Stephanie Miller. Thanks for stopping by.
And later this morning, we will go to London next where Lolo Jones and other female athletes are denouncing the media as sexist, and, well, a little bit mean. A conversation with Christine Brennan in just a moment.
KURTZ: There she was on the cover of "Time," Lolo Jones, the Olympic hurdler, and there she was on HBO talking about her sex life, or lack thereof.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jones says she knows why she can't find a man who is willing to commit to her. She recently Tweeted that she is a virgin.
LOLO JONES, ATHLETE: It is a gift I want to give to my husband. So -- but please understand, this journey has been hard. I'm not -- if there is virgins out there, I am going to let them know, it is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: In short, Lolo Jones became a major media figure almost overnight, and when she just missed winning a medal in London this week, she lashed out at the news business during an interview on the Today show.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: New York Times had a very tough piece, criticizing you for being more image than accomplishment, how hard was that to deal with?
JONES: I think it is crazy, just because it was two days before I competed, and then the fact that it was from a U.S. media, like I mean, they should be supporting U.S. Olympic athletes, and instead they just ripped me to shreds. And I just thought that was crazy, because I work six days a week, every day for four years for a 12- second race, and the fact that they just tore me apart was just heartbreaking. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Is Lolo right? Have the media largely been portraying female athletes as sex symbols? Joining us now from London, Christine Brennan, sports columnist for USA today. Christine, certainly Lolo Jones got lots and lots of media coverage, she sought media coverage, but does she now have a legitimate complaint about how she has been treated?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, SPORTS COLUMNIST: Howie, I really don't think so, and here is why. I don't want to sound overly harsh about her. She did have a fine fourth place finish, but she was clearly the most publicized U.S. Olympic athlete to not win a medal here, and she brought a lot of this on herself by posing in various stages of undress and wanting to get the publicity. And that is fine, it is a free country, she can do that. And often Olympians have a very small window, so we understand why they do some of this stuff. But then to get angry at the media -- first of all, U.S. media, we're not there to support her, we are there to cover her, and that is what journalists do. We report on these issues, we are not the PR people. And I understand why she is angry, but I think from our perspective, Howie, we do have to cover athletes the way we cover other news. It is journalism, and sometimes it is not always easy, but it is what we do.
KURTZ: A bit of a delay from London, but I agree with you, she did pose nude for ESPN the magazine, she is out there talking about her virginity. I am sorry she missed a medal by one hundredth of a second, but she does seem to have the impression that the media are there to pump up and support U.S. athletes, and that is not your role, is it?
BRENNAN: No, it is not. Now, I can understand the confusion by these U.S. athletes, Howie, because most other nations, they are the cheerleaders. For example in the Press Center, which is not too far from where I am talking to you right now, in the Press Center, we will hear cheers from the press offices, the wire services of other nations when their teams are playing in gold medal games or in big matches. The U.S., of course, we are not cheering for the athletes, that is not what we do, and we are not part of the government, obviously. There is the First Amendment, everyone knows all about that. But so many of these other nations, because they are smaller, because they are kind of all in it together, the reporters do cheer for the athletes. Even here in Great Britain, there has been a lot of cheering for the British athletes. We don't do that. I am proud we don't. We will never do that, and I don't think the readers and listeners want us to do that.
KURTZ: That is fascinating that foreign journalists shed any even appearance of objectivity and get up there and root for the home country team. Now, I do think this New York Times piece by Jere Longman about Lolo Jones was quite harsh, and the New York Times ombudsman agreed. Let me put it up on the screen, I will read it quickly.
"Jones has received far greater publicity than any other American track and field athlete competing in the London games. This was based not on achievement but on her exotic beauty and on a sad and cynical marketing campaign. Essentially, Jones has decided she will be whatever anyone wants her to be -- vixen, virgin, victim -- to draw attention to herself and the many products she endorses."
That seemed to me to be a trifle mean.
BRENNAN: Jere Longman is a colleague and a friend. We have known each for what, 25 years or so, and there is no male journalist covering sports, Howie, who has done more insightful, intelligent work on women athletes than Jere Longman. When most male sports writers want to run away from covering women's sports, Jere has always said he wants to cover it. So he speaks with authority. And he made some very valid points. Harsh, I know that's what the ombudsman said. You know, that's -- to me, it was a fair commentary. It was tough. But I'll make this point.
BRENNAN: If women athletes want equality and if women athletes want to, you know, be in the same sphere as male athletes, and I think that's something certainly that most of them want, then sometimes there's going to be some tough criticism. And I hope that the criticism of Jere Longman's piece isn't because, oh, he was being tough on a woman because, again, Jere has done incredible work and has a right, I believe, to say what he said.
KURTZ: What about Gabby Douglas? She was this inspiring story at the Olympics, and suddenly the whole media debate seems to be about her hair. And she seemed rather frazzled by that.
BRENNAN: Oh, that was ridiculous. That was absolutely preposterous. I have no idea how that got started. I covered Gabby Douglas, I guess, three days. The qualifying, the team competition in which she helped the U.S. to win the gold, and then that individual all-around where she won the gold. To me she is the breakout star of these Olympics. I think we will be on a first name basis with Gabby Douglas for the rest of her career, probably, if not her life, like Mary Lou Retton, like Nadia Comaneci, Mary Lou and Nadia, and I think Gabby is that big of a deal. And for anyone to be talking about anything other than her incredible athletic performance, I just don't understand where that comes from.
KURTZ: And finally, Christine, I have about a minute, are the media guilty or at least some in the media of playing out female athletes based on their sexual attractiveness? I know some athletes might exploit this themselves, but is there a little bit too much of that in your view?
BRENNAN: Yes, I think there is, although I will say this, Howie, this has been team Title IX for the United States, more U.S. women winning gold medals and medals overall than U.S. men by a lot. And around the world, again, I think they can call these the Women's Olympics. I think it is a jumping off point for so many things for women in sports in the future, enabling and empowering women. So I think there are so many positives that I hate to focus on the negative, but certainly, as long as it is a male dominated sports media and a male dominated sports audience, and it still is, then you are going to have some of these reporters, some of these broadcasters talking about the looks of female athletes. And I sure wish they would focus on their athleticism, on their talent, on their incredible ability to perform under pressure, which we have seen behind me for the last two weeks. That to me is the story of the Olympics, not how they look.
KURTZ: Thanks so much for joining us from London. Christine Brennan, you are certainly right, especially when it comes to beach volleyball, you can see some of that tone creeping in.
Still to come, Fareed Zakaria admits a mistake and pays the price.
KURTZ: Fareed Zakaria is a smart journalist who did a dumb thing, by his own admission. The "Time" magazine columnist acknowledged Friday that he plagiarized parts of an article by Jill Lepore in the New Yorker. It is, sadly, the latest case study of an insidious journalistic disease. Zakaria, who hosts the weekly CNN program that usually precedes ours, says in a statement, "Media reporters have pointed out that paragraphs in my Time column on gun control, which was also a topic of conversation on this blog for Time magazine, bear close similarities to paragraphs in Jill Lepore's essay in the April 23rd issue of The New Yorker. They are right. I made a terrible mistake. It is a serious lapse, and one that is entirely my fault. I apologize unreservedly to her, to my editors at Time and CNN, and to my readers and viewers everywhere."
Now, Time accepted the apology, but has suspended Zakaria for one month pending further review. The magazine said he had violated its standards, which say columnists' work must not only be factual, but original, and that their words must be their own. CNN, owned by Time's parent company, has temporarily taken Zakaria off the air. The network says in a statement, "He wrote a shorter blog post on CNN.com on the same issue, which included similar unattributed excerpts. That blog post has been removed and CNN has suspended Fareed Zakaria while this matter is under review."
A conservative watch dog site Newsbuster, acting on a tip from the NRA, broke the story that Fareed's column was not entirely his own work. Let's take a look. "The New Yorker" article cites a book by USLA scholar Adam Winkler saying, "Laws banning the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813, and other states soon followed. Indiana 1820, Tennessee and Virginia, 1838. Alabama, 1839, and Ohio 1859, were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As a governor of Texas explained in 1893, the mission of the concealed deadly weapon -- murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting law-abiding man."
Zakaria's "Time" column cites the same Adam Winkler book, saying, "Laws that ban the carrying of concealed weapons were passed in Kentucky and Louisiana in 1813. Other states soon followed. Indiana in 1820, Tennessee and Virginia in 1838, Alabama in 1839, and similar laws were passed in Texas, Florida and Oklahoma. As the governor of Texas, (Texas!) explained in 1893, the mission of the concealed deadly weapon, murder. To check it is the duty of every self-respecting law abiding man."
Now, I have seen a number of plagiarism cases, far more extensive than this one, but that misses the point. Borrowing someone else's words without credit is a cardinal journalistic sin, which is why Fareed Zakaria did one smart thing here, and that is quickly owning up to his mistake.
That is it for this special edition of RELIABLE SOURCES from Los Angeles. We will be back in Washington next week, 11:00 a.m. Eastern. If you miss a program, you can always go to iTunes now on Monday and download the free audio podcast or buy the video version. "STATE OF THE UNION" with Candy Crowley begins right now.