Obama campaign surrogates taken to task on the Sunday talk shows over Reid's tax accusations

Ed hit this over the weekend, noting that if the Obama campaign really wanted Reid to stop making unsourced allegations, it would and he would. Ed’s not the only one making this clear, however — Candy Crowley hammered Robert Gibbs on “State of the Union” yesterday, as I pointed out on the Media Research Center’s blog this morning:

Crowley asked [Gibbs] if the campaign was happy with the accusations Reid was leveling, since a Democrat in touch with the re-election campaign had told her “if Chicago wanted Reid to stop, he would stop.” Gibbs ducked the question by talking about tax loopholes and “knowing” what is in the taxes people are paying. Crowley stopped him by stating that Romney didn’t make the loopholes, and pointed out that even the Swiss bank account Gibbs railed against was not used or invested in illegally…Crowley then asked twice, and stated once, about Chicago’s willingness to tell Reid to stop making unsourced allegations. Gibbs pointedly ignored the question, and simply stated that Romney could put the whole thing to rest by releasing his returns. He also said he doesn’t think anyone controls what Reid says or does, but Crowley didn’t let him slide — she slammed him for this misleading statement, noting that if the Obama campaign wanted him to stop, he would.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) was similarly treated by George Stephanopoulos on This Week, though Stephanopoulos focused more on the incredulous idea that Wasserman-Schultz would actually defend Reid’s unsourced allegation:

Wasserman-Schultz…said she “didn’t know” who Reid had spoken to, but that “Mitt Romney could clear this up in ten seconds” if he released the 23 years of tax returns he gave to Senator McCain (R-AZ) in 2008. Stephanopoulos then said he “can’t believe you [Wasserman-Schultz] believe it’s okay to make an allegations like that…with no evidence.” After letting Wasserman-Schultz continue to twist in the wind, he said “I take it from your answer you’re not going to repudiate Senator Reid’s charge,” at which point the Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee said questions have been raised about Romney’s taxes, and said he “owes” the American people answers on his time at Bain Capital, his overseas investment, etc. Stephanopoulos interrupted her to point out nobody except for Reid is making the accusation Reid made, but Wasserman-Schultz continued to ignore the question.

This reminds me of the old quote about how the Roman people were distracted by bread and circuses even as Rome itself fell. The Sunday talk shows are supposed to address substantive, important issues with some of the top political players of the week, month, year, era, etc. Yet too often, and epitomized yesterday, these and other political media outlets would rather focus on political tit-for-tat instead of actually addressing the economy’s slow stagger to recovery, Obama’s approval of assassination of American citizens, the failure of the GOP to hold the line on spending, etc.

In this case, of course, they are not entirely to blame; the decision by Huffington Post to first publish the accusations basically dictated that the shows address what Reid said. Huffington forced action by other outlets as well — this is my second post on the subject for Hot Air, for example, and both Ed and AllahPundit have blogged about Reid’s claims at least twice. I know the three of us would like to focus on improving the country, not engaging in political drama, but here we are.

What is the balance? Should Reid’s outrageous accusations be addressed by Megyn Kelly, Ed, AP, Crowley, Stephanopoulos, etc.? Or should they be ignored in the hope that the accusations die quickly as the news cycle moves along? Either approach has risk to it, but it seems like even the most honest and well-intentioned of political journalists and commentators get caught up in such soap operas on a regular basis.

Note: A little less than two hours before this went up, but after I’d completed the original post above, Ed posted about an article in The Hill pointing out that ducking the question is not limited to Obama’s campaign surrogates — it’s now spread to the White House’s Press Secretary. From the article:

“He certainly speaks for himself,” Carney said, adding that Obama hasn’t expressed an opinion on Reid’s recent comments…

Carney maintained that Reid has been known to speak his mind on issues. When pressed if it was appropriate to weigh in on the Romney matter, the White House spokesman said, “I would ask your question of Sen. Reid.”

“Only Senator Reid knows his source, which he has discussed, and I would refer you to that,” Carney said.

Brave approach, Mr. President. And definitely rising above the partisan rancor you regularly denounce.