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CNN RELIABLE SOURCES
From Gushing to Grilling; 2012 Issues: Missing in Action; Interview with Bob Schieffer; Remembering Helen Gurley Brown
Aired August 19, 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: Paul Ryan got quite a media honeymoon when he was picked. You know, he works out, he goes hunting. He makes his own Polish sausage. It lasted for, oh, a long weekend.
Then, the coverage turned skeptical and sour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS: Tonight, Ryan is on the defensive over whether he asked for millions in stimulus money despite voting against President Obama's stimulus package while calling it wasteful spending.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC: "Roll Call" and "The Hill" and "Politico" all featuring articles right now about Republicans freaking out about what Paul Ryan's addition to the ticket means for every other Republican on the ballot in November.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Is all this legitimate scrutiny for a vice presidential contender or a pushback against a conservative congressman?
And what about the chatter that his selection would lead to a substantive campaign debate? Not so much.
Bob Schieffer talks about landing the first joint interview with the Republican ticket and why he didn't throw any fastballs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: It seems to me the purpose of the first interview with these two men is to try to give people a little idea of who they are, and to try to find out, number one, why Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan? And, number two, who is Paul Ryan?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And we'll ask Schieffer about moderating another presidential debate this fall.
Plus, the legacy of the long-time editor of "Cosmopolitan."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HELEN GURLEY BROWN, FORMER EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, COSMOPOLITAN MAGAZINE: You just say, no, I'm still a woman, I'm still sexual. I'm still smart. I'm still interesting. And then you go about trying to be those things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: We'll talk to Gail Sheehy about Helen Gurley Brown.
I'm Howard Kurtz and this is RELIABLE SOURCES.
KURTZ: When Paul Ryan stepped on to the national stage last weekend, the media spotlight shined rather brightly on his personal side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN: His message is he's been going through the Iowa state fair, et cetera, has been, listen, I flipped burgers at McDonald's. I'm a regular guy.
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: He's an avid bow hunter who likes to pose with his kill. And he's obsessed with fitness. A devotee of Tony Horton's hyper-intensive P96X workouts.
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS: Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan talks a lot about his grueling workout routine.
Can you show us the throwing elbows move?
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Throwing elbow is this there. MMA is the number-one growing sport in America. Now, the abs and core, you get down on the floor.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: But journalists soon got off the floor to look at the Wisconsin congressman's record.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY O'DONNELL, NBC NEWS: Now Ryan also admits when he looks back on some of his own votes, he feels, quote, "miserable about policies that added to the deficit," too.
DAVID MUIR, ABC NEWS: And while Ryan might be the running mate, it's his record driving much of the debate right now. Ryan's budget with deep cuts he argues are needed, and big changes to Medicare, eventually adding a voucher-like system for seniors to shop for their own health care.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: And the liberal pundits mounted their own assault. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, MSNBC: Tonight, Mitt Romney is running away from Paul Ryan's record, but not as fast as Paul Ryan is running away from his record.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: So what should we make of this rather dramatic pendulum swing in the coverage?
Joining us now here in Washington, Erin McPike, national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics". Jonathan Martin, senior political reporter at "Politico." And Steve Roberts, long-time "New York Times" correspondent, now professor of media and public affairs at the George Washington University.
Jonathan Martin, how much pushback are you getting from the Romney campaign as you and other journalists raise questions about Paul Ryan's record?
JONATHAN MARTIN, POLITICO: Not a huge, significant amount. I think they expected the scrutiny to come. They have put in place a staff, though, of folks around Ryan which I find interesting. Two of the aides, former Capitol Hill aides.
So, the Romney folks I think have put folks around that can sort of explain some of the details about his budget blueprint that perhaps the typical campaign operative couldn't quite digest. So I think that to me is notable.
But the pushback has been less about Ryan and I think more intent on -- more intense on the general issue of Medicare and want reporters to know we're not going to take this lying down. In fact, we're going to go on offense about what President Obama would do to Medicare under the A.C. Act.
KURTZ: I want to circle back to that.
But, first, let me ask Steve Roberts -- what explains this seeming lurch as we saw in some of the clips, talking about Ryan's fitness routine? I've never been the P90X workout. I will confess that on national television. To whether he misled on seeking federal stimulus money and other details of his Capitol Hill record?
STEVE ROBERTS, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the first blush was the Kim Kardashianization of American politics. You know, this notion of putting something up this on the web that will attract attention and media hits. That -- there's one story, pardon the expression, in "Politico" about his hot bod. I mean, please --
MARTIN: That was not mine --
ROBERTS: But quickly, people got serious. The fact is if you're going to run for national office, you've got to expect this. And the -- and no one really knows quite how white-hot that spotlight gets, Howie. Even the most experienced person can be thrown back on his heels.
Let's look at Rick Perry. Let's look at Rick Santorum, a whole lot of people who went down this road before.
KURTZ: And Erin McPike, when journalists have looked at Ryan's budget-cutting record, the budget at the House, turning Medicare into a voucher program, all of that, the Romney campaign has said, well, that's not the Romney plan. Of course, he picked Paul Ryan because of his policy record on these issues.
ERIN MCPIKE, REAL CLEAR POLITICS: Well, he actually picked Paul Ryan because he likes Paul Ryan the best.
KURTZ: OK, that's good reason, too. But the point is, what's the most prominent thing about Paul Ryan, his record?
MCPIKE: The Ryan plan.
MCPIKE: That's right. And a lot of Republicans I have spoken to have said they were unsure of the narrative that the Romney campaign was trying to push to begin with, and by picking Paul Ryan it goes from trying to stimulate job growth and fix the economy to let's slash the budget.
KURTZ: But where does that leave reporters trying to ask questions about and hold Ryan accountable for that record if the campaign can say, well, you know, he's just the veep?
MCPIKE: What it does is force us to ask the Romney campaign, OK, what is your plan? If it's not the Ryan plan and not the Ryan budget, what is Mitt Romney going to do differently than what we've seen in the Ryan plan?
ROBERTS: A lot of the best reporting doesn't ask the campaign anything. It's gone out and looked at his record. And the best example is going back and looking -- you have a tease on this -- about the fact that he has asked for stimulus money for his hometown. That he hasn't quite walked the walk of his ideology.
KURTZ: Criticizing the Obama stimulus --
ROBERTS: And there's been some good reporting on that.
KURTZ: Let me circle back, Jonathan, to the point you raise about good Medicare, because it seems to me that a lot of news organizations have tried very hard to do the basic fact checking here. Without getting into all the details, Republicans accused Obama of cutting $700 billion from Medicare. The same exact savings applied in a different way is in the Paul Ryan budget.
I have the impression now campaigns don't care about fact- checking, they don't care about how many Pinocchios you get awarded, they are just trying to push through and drown out any attempt by the media to do the truth squadding. MARTIN: Let me first, on Steve point earlier about the issue -- of the sort of frivolous reporting about Ryan, his body or his habits, or what have you.
Look, I think there's a place for both, right? People want to know about these -- as human beings, their family, their avocations; he likes to go noodling for catfish. That's fine as long as we can get both things in there. Serious scrutiny, as well. I think there's room for both.
As to your question about the fact-checking, you're absolutely right. But these campaigns believe if they can muddy the waters on an issue like Medicare, then the Pinocchios be damned. And all they want to do -- especially on the Republican side -- is find a way to blunt the attacks about the Ryan blueprint for Medicare. And the best way they think to do that is they'll be talking about the Medicare cuts under President Obama's health care reform plan.
And so to answer your question, the issue of whether or not some nonpartisan fact-checker says -- says X or says Y, they'll point to that when they're under attack.
MARTIN: But when they're doing the attacking, no they don't care, because they don't think voters are going to take the time to look up the president PolitiFact.com or the Pinocchio in "Washington Post."
KURTZ: When I was at the "Washington Post", I did fact-checking of ads for five campaign cycles starting in 1992. It was kind of a novel idea. When I or other journalist would write that an ad was misleading, exaggerated, false, it would be taken seriously. Campaigns would have to respond.
Now I have the impression that the campaigns -- actually like when you make a -- make this into a controversy because it keeps the original charge in the news.
MCPIKE: Well, exactly. And a lot of the stories that I've read in the past couple of days and even this morning on the back and forth over Medicare, they start with the attacks that are lobbed from both sides, and later on in the story, they say what's true.
For example, the $716 billion that the president took out of Medicare to put into Obamacare, Paul Ryan took that same $716 billion in his plan and re-routed it. Now that's something that we read further on down in the stories about what's going to happen. But the attacks are most important in media coverage now.
ROBERTS: I've used many of your columns when you are doing that in my class, because -- journalistic ethics. There's always a problem, as you well know, for a fact-checker, because you repeat the untruth to the debunk it.
But at the same time, I don't think it's totally irrelevant, because you will see, those, the four Pinocchios showing up in the opponent's ads saying, see, they're a liar. And it can come back to haunt you in terms of your credibility down the line.
KURTZ: But one difference now is that the campaigns were -- you couldn't do it a decade ago, they can blast out the message, even those shown to be clearly misleading on YouTube, on Facebook, on Twitter.
MARTIN: Yes, you control more platforms.
KURTZ: You get in Drudge link, as many other ways of getting there.
MARTIN: If you look at focus groups, though, Howie, voters said the same thing over and over again. It's all negative, we don't believe either side. They've become so cynical because they're inundated with material from the campaigns and groups. They don't know how to sift through it all.
And so, the notion that because some charge has gotten four Pinocchios, a voter in Toledo or Waukesha is going to pause, perhaps, but the focus groups and the polling that I see, voters now more than ever have really tuned a lot of it out because they believe both sides are guilty of being false and pushing these distortions.
KURTZ: By the way, Jonathan, in the "Politico" this week did a piece that got a lot of play on television and elsewhere in which a number of unnamed Republican strategists talked about how they think Ryan hurts the ticket and other congressional candidates for the GOP. Most of then as the piece acknowledged, not quoted by name. Isn't that giving a free pass?
MARTIN: We were very candid about that the sourcing on that, as you mentioned, Howie. And the piece basically saying, look, folks don't want to put their names the charges. If you don't want to read farther, that's fine.
Look, that is a conversation happening right now in the political community. We as reporter want to capture that conversation. The challenge for us in trying to do so in a what I that you can get it in print, but you respect -- people who don't want to have their names used, it's a question of do you not represent what's happening in a political operative community or do it in a way that you have to do a lot of blind quotes?
We choose the chose the latter because it's such a hot issue going on right now.
KURTZ: Do you have a problem with that?
ROBERTS: Yes, I do have a problem with that, because of I do think -- you go back to the "Politico" stories about Herman Cain, a good example with blind quote that were not backed up with specific sources. And I understand the point. I want it get into the paper the buzz, but --
MARTIN: -- was proven true by multiple women --
ROBERTS: Yes, eventually, eventually. But not on the day that it came out.
I do have a problem with stories like this, unnamed sources. I gave that "Politico" story to my ethics class, and they gave it about a D.
MARTIN: Well, he basically dropped out of the race -- that was actually my story. He dropped out and multiple women came forward and said that he had sexually harassed them.
Look, that's a different story entirely from Republican operatives grumbling about the ticket.
ROBERTS: Still, put names on it.
KURTZ: I've got to go break.
MARTIN: We love putting names. It's not always an option nowadays because these operatives don't want to be seen as criticizing their party's nominee. It's the world we're in now. I wish it was different, but it's not.
KURTZ: All right. You two take this outside. Let me run some commercials here.
When we come back, whatever happened to all that media chatter about a high-minded substantive campaign?
And later, Bob Schieffer on whether he was too soft on Paul Ryan in that "60 Minutes" sit-down.
KURTZ: We were talking before the break, Erin McPike, about a "Politico" story quoting unnamed GOP operatives as saying Paul Ryan hurts this ticket. You tried to write a similar story for "Real Clear Politics"?
MCPIKE: I did, because I had heard the same thing for a couple of months, that a lot of Republican operatives thought there was no way they could pick Paul Ryan.
KURTZ: And what happened to your story?
MCPIKE: My editor said we cannot run this. So, we did a watered down version --
KURTZ: Cannot run it because?
MCPIKE: Because we didn't want to have all those blind quotes in the story. KURTZ: OK. Let me move to the question of when Ryan got picked, people, including me, said, boy, given his record on budget cuts and Medicare, we're going to have a really substantive debate in this campaign. Instead, we have -- you know, the Obama campaign -- excuse me, the Romney campaign accused the Obama campaign of running a campaign of hatred. The spokesman pushing back saying Romney is unhinged. What happened?
ROBERTS: Well, I think it's happened on two levels. I do think that you have such a -- a level of anger, the "Washington Post" today had a very interesting study of how the sharp spike in partisanship among the electorate, where people feel very strongly about their views, much more strongly than they did a few years ago.
And I think that animosity and that -- genuine anger, I don't think it's faux anger, the genuine anger is showing on one level.
But at the same time, Howie, there is a serious debate about the future of Medicare. There is a serious debate about the size of government. And -- they're both happening at the same time.
KURTZ: Is all of that, and yet, Erin McPike, TMZ puts out a photo of a few years ago of Paul Ryan shirtless -- this ran on "The Daily Beast," as well, where I work -- and it probably got more clicks than all of the Medicare stories put together.
MCPIKE: Don't forget that "The Washingtonian" several years ago put a picture of a shirtless Obama on its cover. So, this is not a new thing here.
And President Obama got a lot of coverage about his life and his personality when he was running for president. So the fact that we're talking about that with Paul Ryan for a couple of days doesn't faze me at all.
KURTZ: If the candidates and their surrogates are throwing mud at each other, kind of incendiary language, of course, we have to cover it. But I wonder whether that warfare, the flap of the day stuff, has come to dominate the coverage.
MARTIN: I think it -- it has. And I think there's also a reluctance for some reason to call out one side -- when one side or the other is being more egregious in terms of throwing out mud. There's really the tendency to say, well, pox on both of their houses.
I mean, no. It's hard to say which side is being more egregious and making these accusations. I don't we should slink from that.
KURTZ: Go ahead.
MCPIKE: The throwing of the mud is the big storyline of the campaign. What either side would do is not being covered. Just take this Medicare debate, for example. Each side is trying to disqualify the other side. There's no talk of what the solutions would be.
KURTZ: Just briefly, Jonathan. You wrote this week about Vice President Biden and his team trying to influence on the trail the pool reports that are filed --
KURTZ: These are initial reporters who get in and share their findings with the larger groups of reporters who can't get into small events. What did they do?
MARTIN: Right. They -- well, myself and colleague, they attempted to edit some of what was being put in the pool report. And that's just a no-no because those are -- of and for the journalist.
KURTZ: They tried to offer their suggestions about what should go on there -- is perhaps the kinder way to put it.
And those pool reports belong to us. The only reason that the White House is involved with them is because they -- they're the ones that sent them out to the rest of the press corps.
Look, the Romney campaign has set up a way where it's the journalists who send them out. There's a Google group or whatever, that's probably the way it should go forward.
The technology nowadays allows us basically to put them out amongst ourselves. I don't know why the White House is still involved putting them out anyways.
KURTZ: All right. Jonathan Martin, Steve Roberts, Erin McPike -- thanks very much.
Up next, presidential candidate who's been stiffing the reporters who cover him. And it's not the one you might think.
KURTZ: In each campaign cycle it seems, working press, by which I mean the beat reporters who follow the candidate and issues, not anchors given a few minutes of airtime or infotainment types, have less and less access to those running for president.
Now, I have harped on, maybe have been a little obsessed with Mitt Romney keeping his press corps at arm's length. For a year and a half, he wouldn't appear on a Sunday show.
Well, fairness requires me to point out that Romney has changed that strategy a bit. He held two news conference this week and has given interviews to "60 Minutes," "CBS this Morning," Brian Williams, Gloria Borger and others.
President Obama has been a different story. Yes, he pops up in all kinds of forums, even talking about his favorite music and chili on a radio show the other day. There's been a drought when it comes to the journalists who cover him.
MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell pressed the point this week with Obama's spokesman Ben LaBolt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC: Why hasn't the president had a news conference for either the traveling press corps on the campaign or for the White House press corps? He's not met the White House press corps in the East Room officially since March 6. When is he going to be accessible for questions other than to "People" magazine and "Entertainment Tonight"?
BEN LABOLT, OBAMA CAMPAIGN: Well, as you know, the president has been available for dozens of questions each week on the campaign trail. There's no doubt that the number of outlets there and that Americans get their news from is more diverse than it was even from four years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: True. There are more ways to communicate these days with Twitter town halls, and the like. But that is no substitute for dealing with the White House press corps. And we ought to keep making an issue of that with a president who's running to hang on to his job.
Ahead on RELIABLE SOURCES, some folks at FOX say the media have been biased in covering Paul Ryan. Does that charge hold up?
KURTZ: We're all accustomed to the partisan media. What was noteworthy on FOX News this week is the way some of its pundits launched an immediate counterattack on any media scrutiny of Paul Ryan, even on the most basic questions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SARAH PALIN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Paul Ryan has actually proposed a budget, a "Pathway to Prosperity", that anybody can read, if voters do their own homework and not rely on the liberal media.
KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, FOX NEWS: There's been a lot of misinformation put out there by the mainstream media and political pundits.
ERIC BOLLING, FOX NEWS: Some reporters are nothing more than left wing ideologues masquerading as journalists. And Mitt Romney's announcement of Paul Ryan as his V.P. nominee was no different.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KURTZ: Joining us now to examine these allegations of bias, in New York, Amy Holmes, anchor for Glenn Beck TV, and here in Washington, David Shuster, nationally syndicated radio host and correspondent for Current TV.
All right. David, is any scrutiny of Paul Ryan's record being dismissed by some as being the work of the bad old liberal media?
DAVID SHUSTER, CURRENT TV: Well, if it is the bad old liberal media, I'm kind of surprised that Brit Hume now falls into that category, because Brit Hume did one of the most brilliant, aggressive, but fair interviews of Paul Ryan that we've seen since the announcement. He works at FOX News.
I think -- I think the mistake that some people make is they assume, well -- and maybe the Romney made the mistake of think figure we go on FOX News, we're going to get softballs. Then a journalist asks questions like, hey, what are the details on your budget? What loopholes are you going to close? And then Paul Ryan can't answer them.
And then the media says, wait a second, Paul Ryan is not providing details and somehow that's evidence of liberal bias?
KURTZ: Amy Holmes, there's a line it seems to me between aggressively examining a congressman's record and piling on. Do you think there's been piling on by the press?
AMY HOLMES, GLENN BECK TV: You know, Howie, it might be surprise you to hear, the answer is no. And it seems to me that in fact a lot of journalists know Paul Ryan well. And that's giving him a better of -- I wouldn't say cover, but maybe fairer coverage than, say, Sarah Palin got four years ago, you know, this time four years ago.
Where I have seen what seems to be a bias is the idea that Mitt Romney is responsible for Paul Ryan's legislative career.
Four years ago when president, then-candidate Obama, tapped Joe Biden to be his V.P., you didn't see the same sort of scrutiny. Over six terms in the Senate, he was number four in leadership. Yet, President Obama was not sort of drilled and peppered with questions like take responsibility for Joe Biden.
KURTZ: One difference is that Romney had endorsed, at least in principle, Ryan's budget, the one that passed the House. So it's not like he just had never met the guy --
HOLMES: Sure. But as then-Senator Obama said, he chose Joe Biden to be on his ticket because of his foreign policy experience. Well, Joe Biden had voted for the Iraq war. He had advocated for partitioning of Iraq.
And then Senator Obama was not asked aggressive questions about whether or not he agreed with these policy positions.
KURTZ: All right. Let me play sound for you. It's not just commentators at FOX who are making this charge. A number of Romney surrogates in interviews in CNN and elsewhere seem to be trying to brand or label correspondents who ask skeptical questions as being in the tank for Obama.
Here's John Sununu, former governor, top Romney spokesman, talking to CNN's Soledad O'Brien.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN SUNUNU, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Soledad, stop this! All you're doing is mimicking stuff that comes out of the White House and gets repeated on the Democratic blog boards out there. If you're going to mouth what --
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN: I'm telling you what factcheck.com tells you. I'm going to tell you what the CBO tells you. I'm telling you what CNN's independent analysis does --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: She had been asking about Ryan's budget plan, Medicare. And Newt Gingrich on another show also said you're in the tank for Obama, almost sounds like a talking point.
SHUSTER: Well, John Sununu seems like somebody who hasn't taken his medication and can't hear very well. If that's the message that the Romney campaign wants, if that's the kind of surrogate, keep putting him out there.
I think the problem that a lot of journalists have had in trying to figure out exactly where Romney's position is, is Mitt Romney, because on the one hand, one day he'll say, yes, I support the Paul Ryan budget. The next day, well, I have my own plan for Medicare. On the next day, but I support his budget plan. And then the next day, reporters say, what are the details? Well, we're not going to tell you until after the election. It's as if reporters don't know what his position is.
KURTZ: But, Amy, is it fair -- I mean, look, it's politics -- these guys can say whatever they want. But when somebody like Sununu or Gingrich says, you know, Sununu particularly said you should put an Obama stamp on your forehead, are they working the refs or are they making an unfair charge against journalists who are trying to be straight?
HOLMES: Well, I think we've seen and you and I have talked about this a lot in this horse race coverage that oftentimes the candidates are asked to respond to here's the White House charge, here's the other side. And I think what John Sununu was responding to with Soledad O'Brien, was there was a screen grab that she was reading from Talking Points Memo, a printout of that blog site, which is known as a liberal leaning site.
I have no problem with a journalist asking questions from, say, here's what some liberal bloggers have to say about your plan, can you answer those charges and those criticisms? I think that obviously those charges need to be correct and fact checked, but it also has to be done on the other side. Do we see journalists taking blogs, right- wing blogs, and asking liberal politicians to respond to conservative criticism of their policy positions? And I don't think you see that quite as often, frankly.
SHUSTER: Amy's absolutely right. In fact, if you look at -- the argument that President Obama wants to protect Medicare, yes, you can make that argument. But by extracting $700 million away from providers -- in other words, no cuts to benefits, but nobody's asked President Obama or Joe Biden, OK, what about this part of the report that says something like 15 percent of hospitals may go under because of this extraction from providers. And that's a legitimate, fair question. I think there's a legitimate fair answer, but we haven't seen that exchange.
KURTZ: So both sides should get these searching questions. Speaking of Biden, the press was not exactly easy on the vice president when he told that crowd in Virginia that Romney and Ryan want to put y'all in chains. Says he was talking about banking deregulation. Does it seem to you that -- that he deserved the critical coverage that he got?
SHUSTER: I think it was another -- I don't think even Joe Biden said he didn't intend for it to come out that way. I think the problem that Republicans have in this is that the Republicans themselves have used words like shackled and unshackled. When you play the entire context of what Joe Biden was saying, it's so clear to everybody watching that he was talking about the deregulation of Wall Street. And, yes, it was perhaps an inopportune statement, but look, I mean, Joe Biden has made these sort of things before. And I think that's sort of a side issue for the campaign.
HOLMES: I think that we also heard this drawl that he pulled out to speak to this audience, to sort of to pander and I'm one of you, and what does that mean? Joe Biden has a history of making sort of peculiar, I'll put it that way, racial remarks. Talking about walking into a 7-Eleven, you can't walk into a 7-Eleven without hearing an Indian accent. The day that Joe Biden launched his own campaign, he was quoted in the New York Observer as describing senator Obama as clean, bright and articulate. Sort of almost as he was bewildered that an African-American politician could possess those qualities.
KURTZ: Got to wrap it up here.
HOLMES: So larger context there.
KURTZ: I do wish--
SHUSTER: Let's measure people not by what they say but their policies. And I think the policies of the candidates on this issue are clear.
KURTZ: I do wish the press would stay away from this ridiculous speculation that Biden's going to be dumped for Hillary Clinton. I don't believe -- it's getting a lot of play on Fox, by the way. David Shuster, Amy Holmes, thanks for stopping by this Sunday morning.
After the break, Bob Schieffer landed the first joint interview with Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and he'll moderate one of the presidential debates. A conversation with the CBS veteran is next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KURTZ: The presidential debate moderators were announced this week, and there was a little more diversity on the gender front. CNN's Candy Crowley will handle a presidential debate, and ABC's Martha Raddatz the vice presidential debate. Plus, two old pros -- Jim Lehrer for the 12th time, and CBS Bob Schieffer.
I spoke to the host of "Face the Nation" from New York.
KURTZ: Bob Schieffer, welcome.
BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Thank you very much, Howie.
KURTZ: Now you have moderated presidential debates in the last two election cycles. Given the high stakes, though, will you be a little bit nervous when this starts?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I'd be a little bit excited, that's for sure. And I'll certainly be up for it. There is no question about that. I don't know. Maybe I will be a little bit nervous.
KURTZ: What's the biggest --
SCHIEFFER: Normally I'm not, but --
KURTZ: Normally you're not. You obviously spent many years in front of television cameras. What's the biggest challenge in a debate setting when you have 60 seconds, 30-second response, and you know these candidates are going to come there and they are going to have their canned sound bites and their prepared zingers. How do you break through that?
SCHIEFFER: Well, what I'm hoping for is that they will break through that. Basically the way we've got it divided up now -- I think that six 15-minute segments, I'll pose a question to start the first segment, ask one of them to comment, get the response from the other, and then my hope is that they'll be so ready to counter-attack, as it were, or -- or counter the argument they've just heard that I won't even get in a followup question. That they'll go back and forth.
I think that would be the best possible thing that could happen. Last time around, I remember I would get in every once in a while. But in this kind of format, which unless they -- is a lot looser than it has been in some debates in the past, I think we'll get some genuine back and forth. That's my goal. I'm kind of the referee there. These -- these debates are not about the moderator. They're about the two guys who want not to be president of the United States. And so I'll do the best I can to get them involved in this conversation.
KURTZ: Well, the two candidates for president actually debating each other would certainly be welcome for people who are trying to make up their minds. Are you are, of course, the timekeeper, the moderator, the facilitator, and maybe the whistleblower when somebody makes an outrageous claim.
You and Jim Lehrer, who's done this a few more times, kind of the old bulls (ph) in -- among the debate moderators this time. But CNN's Candy Crowley moderating a presidential debate, first woman in 20 years at the presidential level. And ABC's Martha Raddatz doing the V.P. debate. Do you think it's good to have a little diversity now in the lineup?
SCHIEFFER: Absolutely I do. These two women are both friends of mine. I've known them for years. There's nobody better in the profession than Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz. There's a lot of good people out there, but these two, there's nobody that would put ahead of them. And yes, I think it is a wonderful thing. I'm the father of two daughters and I have three granddaughter. I think women should be involved in this. And most of the people coming into journalism these days, Howard, it's not like when I got into it, when it was all a man's game. Most people now coming into journalism are women. And so I think it's only natural that we would have two women doing the debate. And I think we're lucky to have the two we do.
KURTZ: Overdue. And nice for the presidential debate commission to recognize that. Now, it was just last Sunday that you had on "60 Minutes" the first joint interview with Mitt Romney and his new running mate, Paul Ryan. How did you land that?
SCHIEFFER: I was home when the phone rang. That's how.
KURTZ: That's all it took? You just picked up the phone?
SCHIEFFER: You know, most of my career, Howard, has been being next to the phone. When it rang, I always tried to grab the phone and answer it before somebody else did. But the truth of the matter was I had gotten in from New York very -- about 1:00 in the morning on Saturday morning, because there had been storms in getting from New York back to Washington.
SCHIEFFER: Put me behind. And then I got up at 5:00 in the morning because it was announced that he was going to the running mate -- announce the running mate. So I came in for the special events coverage from that. Went, stayed at the office, and I was writing the tease to the broadcast in my commentary and stuff like that. And finally about 2:00, I just gave out. I went home, and I told my wife, I said, I got to lay down and get some sleep. And so about 2:00, I laid down. And I must have slept several hours, because she came in and woke me up and said, they're on the phone from Romney headquarters and they want to talk to you. I picked up the phone. And it was somebody from the Romney staff.
KURTZ: You might have thought that you were dreaming.
SCHIEFFER: No. I didn't know, they said, we think it would -- they said would you be interested in interviewing Governor Romney and Paul Ryan on "60 Minutes" tomorrow? I said sure, I think that's a great idea.
KURTZ: How long did you have to think about that one?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I said but maybe I better call the executive producer of the broadcast, Jeff Fager, and see what he thinks about it. Of course we did.
KURTZ: Let me jump in, Bob, and play a little bit for our audience of that "60 Minutes" interview.
SCHIEFFER: Has this sunk in on you yet?
RYAN: It has.
SCHIEFFER: Congressman, this is going to change your whole life. What did your family think about it? I have to say, Democrats seemed equally delighted about this, because they said that they think that Congressman Ryan's budget plan, with its overhaul of Medicare, with cuts in social programs, and education, it's just going to drive voters their way. How do you respond to that?
ROMNEY: Well, what I respond is very simple. And that is America has a choice. A very clear choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: What was your thinking going into that joint interview? Some critics said they thought the interview was kind of soft.
SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, look, this was an introductory interview. It seems to me. It seems to me the purpose of the first interview with these two men is to try to give people a little idea of who they are and to try to find out, No. 1, why Mitt Romney chose Paul Ryan. And No. 2, who is Paul Ryan. So that was -- that was my purpose and kind of the general line that I took in this interview. And I think --
KURTZ: So it's not like a (inaudible) interview where you are going to grill somebody on the issues. This was very different. He was being introduced to the country, in your view?
SCHIEFFER: Yes. That was the way I went at it.
KURTZ: Well,, you were there, you answered the phone. You woke up in time. And now we know how you got the exclusive. Bob Schieffer. Thank you very much for sitting down.
SCHIEFFER: Thank you, Howard.
KURTZ: I love that he was taking a nap. We also wanted to talk to Candy Crowley, of course, but she is off on vacation this week.
Coming up, the legacy of Helen Gurley Brown, who changed women's magazines forever. A conversation with Gail Sheehy.
KURTZ: The word "legend" get tossed around a bit too much when a public figure dies, but I think we can make an exception for Helen Gurley Brown. From her groundbreaking book "Sex and the Single Girl" to her long tenure at "Cosmopolitan" magazine, she had a major impact on the culture.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HELEN GURLEY BROWN: Single women having a good sex life probably better than their married friends.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really?
BROWN: Yes. And they weren't in bad trouble at all. So I'm getting so much mail, David said, why don't you try to start a magazine? We didn't know you couldn't do. So we did up a format, and it got across town to "Cosmo," which was failing. And they said we could try the format on their old, dying magazine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: David was her husband. What was she like as a person, what's her legacy? Joining us now from New York is Gail Sheehy, the best-selling author and journalist.
And Gail, you wrote for the Daily Beast, my web site, about your experiences with Helen Gurley Brown. In particular, the first assignment she gave you not long after taking over "Cosmopolitan" in 1965. Tell us about that.
GAIL SHEEHY, AUTHOR: Oh, it was terrific. It was to go to Paris on Pan Am and follow the secret life of stewardesses, as we called them then, to see if they had romances that they weren't telling their boyfriends back home about. And they did. So it was a shocking story in '65. And I worked for her for a year writing the same story over and over again in different venues.
KURTZ: About women having fun, shall we say, in the bedroom?
SHEEHY: Well, actually, career women, young, working women, who she invented. We still have that -- that was 50 years ago. She invented the young, working, single woman. Who was told you can have the same prerogatives that young, working men have, which is to have a long, lusty sexual life before you get married, if you even do marry. She never mentioned children. Which was left out of the formula for you can have it all.
KURTZ: Very interesting observation. Now, we live of course now in a sex-saturated society, but in the somewhat straight-laced America of the early '60s, what was the impact of "Sex and the Single Girl" and then a couple of years later, the changes she started to make at "Cosmo?"
SHEEHY: It was dynamite. It was scandalous, particularly among religious groups, but for young mouseburgers, which is what Helen considered herself -- Helen had nothing. She came from a poor background, her father died early, her mother was left destitute. She had a crippled sitter. She was really a Horatio Albert hero, who maneuvered on luck and pluck. She was pock-marked and flat-chested and skinny. And she transformed herself, and then she told through her magazine later on, other women in hard-scrabble towns across America, working class women, how to do it for themselves.
KURTZ: She seems, from what I have read about her, to have been somewhat of an eccentric character. Was she difficult to deal with at times?
SHEEHY: She was gushy. You couldn't -- nobody ever complimented you as much as Helen Gurley Brown. She would wrap you around her finger and you would do whatever she asked.
KURTZ: A lot of editors would like to have that formula. And this wasn't just marketing. She told you she enjoyed lots and lots and lots of sex until she got married at the age of 37.
SHEEHY: Oh, yes. And she had a very romantic life with her husband, claimed to have been faithful for the 45 years of their marriage. Although, in a later book, she wrote when she was in her 70s, if sex is getting a little old, just borrow some of your friend's husbands, which created an uproar, as you can imagine.
KURTZ: She was provocative.
"Cosmo" is known in my view in part for all those cheesy cover lines. You know, 20 ways to please your lover and 12 ways to catch a man. How much did it change women's magazines and the whole culture of publishing in that sphere?
SHEEHY: Totally. Totally. I mean, I think most women's magazines have at least some element of sex and the single woman, and certainly at "Cosmo." The formula is self-improvement, which is a classic American formula. It goes back to Dale Carnegie. Self- improvement, health, reproductive health, and lots of sex and romance. And we see it in everything from Oprah's magazine to "Reader's Digest." We even see it in the most current women's TV show, "Heroine," "Girls," Lena Dunham. Except she leaves out two crucial things that Helen Gurley Brown said you absolutely have to do if you are going to be a successful single woman -- and that is work hard and use self-discipline. Well, we've lost those two in Lena Dunham.
KURTZ: It is amazing how much the culture has changed over the years, and I think some women would perhaps object to the notion that you have to have a man or catch a man in order to be fulfilled and satisfied. But we have unfortunately run out of time. Gail Sheehy, thanks so much for joining us and helping us to remember the colorful career of Helen Gurley Brown. Nice to see you.
SHEEHY: Thank you.
KURTZ: Still to come, the controversy over Fareed Zakaria is resolved, and an MSNBC commentator admits he went too far with racially charged comments. "The Media Monitor" is straight ahead.
KURTZ: Time now for the "Media Monitor," our weekly look at the hits and errors in the news business. Toure is known for his provocative commentary, especially on racial issues. But on MSNBC's "The Cycle" this week, talking about Mitt Romney's criticism of the president, he went too far. A word of warning -- this sound bite includes language you may find offensive.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOURE, MSNBC COMMENTATOR: This is part of the playbook against Obama, the otherization, he is not like it. I know it is a heavy thing to say, I don't say it lightly, but this is nigger-ization.
In retrospect, I muddied the discussion by using the n word. I could have made that point without that word. I shouldn't have used it, and for that, I'm sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: I'm glad Toure apologized. There is no place for that kind of inflammatory language.
Fareed Zakaria's suspension is coming to an end both at "Time" magazine and CNN. Both news organizations, which are owned by Time Warner, had placed him on leave after Zakaria admitted lifting parts of a New Yorker article without attribution. That was a serious mistake, as he himself has acknowledged. "Time" says in a statement, "We have completed a thorough review of each of Fareed Zakaria's columns for 'Time.' We are entirely satisfied that the language in question in his recent column was an unintentional error and an isolated incident, for which he has apologized." And here is the statement from this network. "CNN has completed its internal review of Fareed Zakaria's work for CNN, including a look back at his Sunday programs, documentaries and CNN.com blogs. The process was rigorous. We found nothing that merited continuing the suspension. Zakaria has apologized for a journalistic lapse. CNN and Zakaria will work together to strengthen further the procedures for his show and blog." Zakaria will resume at CNN and at the magazine in the coming weeks.
Finally, Jay Leno is taking a sizable pay cut. "The Tonight Show" is laying off at least 20 staffers, and might have fired more if the comedian hadn't offered to reduce his compensation at NBC. What's funny about this, not funny ha-ha, is that "Tonight" remains the No. 1 late night talk show. Good for Leno for putting his team first, although with the salary that had been around $25 million, he will probably just have to buy fewer of those expensive antique cars. Well that's it for this edition of RELIABLE SOURCES. I'm Howard Kurtz. If you miss a program, you can check us out on iTunes on Monday and download a free audio podcast or buy the video version. We will be in Tampa next Sunday morning, 11:00 a.m. Eastern, for the Republican National Convention. Hope you will be able to join us there. "State of the Union" with Candy Crowley begins right now.