After receiving the Colbert bump and the Daily Show grind last week, CNN anchor Don Lemon has definitely turned up the heat on our nation’s politicians despite the network’s insistence on using Lemon in their gimmicky stunts. As Jon Stewart explains:
It turns out reporter Don Lemon prefers reporting such stories as the uprisings in Syria, breach of trust in British journalism, or even some simple local interest stories.
And this week Lemon has decided he and the American people have had enough with the talking points already. He has created a segment of his show that bans politicians from using their talking points when he is asking them questions. Guess what he’s called it… just guess…
“No Talking Points”! Simple enough to understand, right? And the principle is sound. According to Lemon his reasoning for the segment is thus:
On this debt debate, for weeks now, we have been hearing politicians come on television and give talking points from their perspective parties. And you as Americans have spoken.
All polling indicates that you don’t want to hear talking points. You want to hear about compromise and progress. So in our broadcast tonight, we have asked all of them not to come on and repeat partisan points. …
It’s not ideological to ask someone to stick to the question presented. It’s just being respectful of you, the viewer, the voter who deserves direct answers from the people who are fortunate enough to be given a platform on national television to speak directly to the American people.
Refreshing, right? Well apparently some politicians are having a tough go at it. It’s seems quite difficult for some to simply answer the question being presented, even when that question is remarkably simple.
Take the case of Senator Rand Paul. In Lemon’s “No Talking Points” segment with Senator Paul, Lemon asked a series of simple questions which Paul, for whatever reason, avoided answering while continuing on with what Lemon deemed were talking points. Here are the three basic questions Lemon was asking:
- Do you feel like the Tea Party is overreaching right now?
- If we default, who do you blame?
- Do you feel the public sentiment in Washington?
Granted, Lemon seemed to squeeze a bit of Lemon-juice in Paul’s eye a few times (no pun intended) with an apparent undercurrent of frustration regarding the Tea Party’s fervent positioning. Nevertheless, the exchange was quite entertaining and demonstrated that Lemon is at least willing to take control over his interviews instead of simply providing a platform for politicians to pontificate.
Check out these examples:
LEMON: Okay, listen, the Democrats have made many concessions when it comes to what’s going on here and even the Tea Party position, it appears to most people, remains rigid. The question is: Have you made your point and are … by continuing to go on with this, do you feel like you’re overreaching and you’re going to lose the clout and really the respect that you’ve gotten because you’ve really made your point here. And then most people would say that you’ve done a good job at it. Do you feel like you’re overreaching right now?
The simple answer (if this is how Paul felt) would be “No, I don’t feel like we’re overreaching and here’s why…” But here is what Paul said:
PAUL: Well, I guess the thing is we have 14 trillion dollars in debt and the Boehner plan and the Reid plan and whatever the mixture of the two will become will add about seven to eight trillion dollars over the next 10 years. I think what’s interesting here is that people have talked about Moody’s and S&P downgrading our credit …
LEMON: OK. Hang on, hang on. Can we just stick to that — we’re going to get to that, but hang on, let’s stick to the — hold on, please, be respectful here.
PAUL: Let me finish my thought.
LEMON: Can you answer the question and we’ll talk about Moody’s and all that.
PAUL: I’m trying to answer your question, you’ve interrupted my answer.
LEMON: I want to ask you — do you feel like — if you answer the question, I’ll give you plenty of time. Do you feel like you have made your point and now do you think people are going to think that you’re overreaching and that maybe you’re going to ruin the clout that you already have and the respect that you’ve gotten?
PAUL: Well, here’s the problem is this, I’m not trying to make a point. I’m trying to do what’s best for the country, and adding seven trillion to $8 trillion of debt over the next ten years, I don’t think is good for the country.
LEMON: OK. Now, continue. You were talking about Moody’s and our credit rating.
Here another example:
LEMON: If – you have been criticized by both sides and maybe the answer to this question is both sides are to blame – but if the U.S. does default, who will be to blame here? Will it be the President, will it be the Democrats will it be the Tea Party, Republicans? Who’s going to be to blame here?
Again a simple answer would have been, “I’d place the blame with (fill in the blank) and here’s why…” However in this portion of the interview, Paul was somewhat cryptic.
PAUL: I think all along the President should have taken default off the table. In fact, we have legislation that would require him to pay the interest on the debt, require him to pay Social Security checks, and require him to pay the soldiers salaries. So we’ve never been for default or reneging on any checks. The President has put that on the table in a grand, elaborate game of chicken. We’ve always been opposed to that. We think he should reassure the markets and that there’s plenty of tax revenue to pay the interest …
LEMON: Okay, I’m going to ask – I’m going to ask you again. Just a simple answer to my question. If we indeed default who’s going to be to blame, do you feel?
PAUL: I don’t think we should default but if we do I would say it’s the President’s fault for not reassuring the markets that he will pay the interest and actually privately he is reassuring the markets, but publicly he’s still playing this game of chicken. We have plenty of tax revenue to pay the interest on our debt . There’s no reason to default.
That line of questioning led in to another very simple question from Lemon which was basically, “do you feel the public sentiment in Washington?” Here’s the dialogue:
LEMON: I appreciate you taking the time. I just want simple answers because, listen, you should know that the public is really frustrated right now and they don’t know what’s going on. They don’t understand why we haven’t come to some sort of consensus or why you guys haven’t come to some sort of consensus and they want some answers. You understand that. Are you feeling that in Washington right now?
PAUL: Well you know, we’ve been continuing to offer compromises. About 30 minutes ago, I was on the floor and I offered to vote for the Reid bill. So while many in the media –
LEMON: Hang on, hang on, one second again.
PAUL: You’re in the middle of my answer.
LEMON: I know, but I’m asking you to answer the question — I don’t want talking points, with all due respect, I’m asking you, do you feel the public sentiment in Washington?
PAUL: This isn’t a talking point, I’m trying to tell you what we did 30 minutes ago in the Senate.
LEMON: I’m not asking you what you did, sir. With all due respect, I’m asking you if you feel how the public feels in Washington. You don’t have to tell me what you did, but are you feeling? Do you understand how people feel about this?
PAUL: We feel that they want compromise and I’m trying to tell you that we’re still trying to compromise and many in the media are trying to depict us as not. But the only way, I can prove to you that we’re trying to compromise is by telling you, we have offered up on the floor another chance to compromise, I said I’ll vote for the Reid bill, I’ll vote for the entire $2 trillion that the President wants, so he can avoid talking about this during his campaigning. The things is is that that is an offer to compromise. And it is me hearing the American people that they do want a compromise.
LEMON: Okay so you are hearing the American people, you feel? (Long pause) Yes?
PAUL: I think I’ve answered the question I think were maybe having some trouble understanding each other. But, yeah, I have answered the question. I do understand that Americans want us to find a compromise. And I’ve offered to compromise. I’ve offered to vote for the Democrat plan if they agree to balance the budget gradually over a seven to eight year period.
LEMON: Okay, alright, thank you Rand Paul. We appreciate it. Guys get back to work because the American people, we want something done – the people that sent you there. Thank you very much. I appreciate you coming on.
Thank you, Lemon. You need a little work on the Lemon zingers, but all in all it’s nice to see a reporter at CNN finally take control of the interview.
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By the way, you know you’re doing something right when you’ve angered Glenn Beck:
Glenn Beck Goes After Don Lemon
- CNN’s Don Lemon And Rand Paul Clash Over Debt Ceiling (VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)
- Don Lemon On Combative Sen. Rand Paul Interview: ‘It’s Not Ideological’ To Insist On Direct Answers (mediaite.com)
- CNN’s Don Lemon And Sen. Rand Paul Clash Over The Tea Party’s Role In The Debt Crisis (mediaite.com)