“That’s all you want to do. That’s it. It’s your way or the highway. Raise the rates on the rich. No other way. Your way or the highway. That’s it. That’s where we are. Thank you, Senator.”
That's how CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo finished her interview with Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) last week as the two went back and forth over the fiscal cliff negotiations in Washington DC. It was the first time a Democrat has really been challenged over their lack of leadership in the negotiations.
Conventional wisdom (and therefore the dominant narrative in the media) focuses on Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans being intransigent and not meeting President Obama and the Democrats for a "balanced approach." Bartiromo exploded that narrative by challenging Cardin on ANY alternative type of revenue stream that doesn't include raising tax rates. Cardin would not agree to any of them, thus destroying the idea that Democrats are embracing the "balanced approach."
“So how come you’re not moving forward? What’s the problem? Because the American people are so tired of this, and they are really tired of the lawmakers thinking that the American people are stupid. You can’t keep coming on the show every week saying the same thing: ‘It’s not a balanced approach.’”
“You’re talking about $1.2 trillion in revenue, but you’re not prepared to put anything on the table. People are not stupid!”
What happened next was one of this unscripted and spontaneous events that we love seeing on CNBC. Because the anchors are often engaged in these shouting matches while reporting from their perch hovering over the trading floor (or in the case of Rick Sentelli right smack in the middle of the trading floor) the traders, the men and women who actually have to deal with the consequences of politicians' ham-fisted policies, are listening and following the heated exchanges.
After Bartiromo called Cardin (and all Democrats) out for their duplicitous approach the traders erupted in cheers and applause. They were rewarding her for finally doing what most anchors and reporters refuse to do. Instead of reporting on the fiscal cliff negotiations like it's a football game or a soap opera, we need journalists to actually know the facts and to challenge the narratives presented by the politicians who are trotted out in front of the cameras.
Cardin was not used to being challenged and he wilted. The traders were not used to seeing the challenge and they cheered Bartiromo. We need to see more of this. Who will step up and join Bartiromo? Anyone?