Joni Ernst didn't exactly refute Biden's claim about the GOP standing for nothing
Also: The cable news silence about Mitch McConnell otherizing Black voters spoke volumes.
One of President Biden’s big lines during his lengthy news conference on Wednesday was about how the modern GOP doesn’t really stand for anything beyond kneecapping him. An interview Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) did with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday didn’t exactly refute that criticism.
Pressed by Tapper to name three things Republicans are actually for, Ernst gave a response that sounded a bit like she was just naming things in the room.
“I think that Republicans stand for a strong, free, and prosperous nation,” Ernst began, before going on to cite inflation, fighting Covid, and “foreign relations with our allies” as three key parts of the GOP agenda.
There were a few glaring problems with her response, however. For one, it’s easy to say that you support making the economy better — who doesn’t? — but Ernst didn’t so much as allude to how specifically Republicans would bring inflation down. Second, the idea that Republicans want to focus on fighting Covid is belied not only be the experience of living through Trump’s disastrous leadership during the early stage of the pandemic, but also by the fact that since then GOP lawmakers have mostly undermined basic public health best practices at every turn. Finally, saying Republicans support “foreign relations with our allies” sounds nice, but the fact of the matter is the last Republican president actively worked to undermine the US relationship with allies like Germany and Canada while bringing the country closer to pariahs like Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
Put succinctly, Ernst’s response was not very persuasive.
But instead of pushing back, Tapper wrapped up the interview. That wouldn’t be the only time on Thursday that Republicans got a free pass.
McConnell’s otherizing of Black voters barely registered a blip on the news radar
On Thursday, CNN and MSNBC were very focused on picking apart Biden’s news conference, including comments he made about Ukraine and the legitimacy of the upcoming midterm elections that the White House later clarified. That’s as it should be — Biden is the president and what he says matters.
But what the Senate Republican leader says also matters. And so the contrast between the wall-to-wall coverage of Biden’s statements and the almost complete silence about Mitch McConnell otherizing Black voters spoke volumes.
In case you missed it, during a news conference on Wednesday, McConnell argued against the idea that federal voting rights legislation is needed by clumsily drawing a contrast between African American voters and “Americans.”
"Well, the concern is misplaced because if you look at the statistics, African American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans," he said.
A McConnell spokesperson told CNN that he meant to say “other Americans,” not just “Americans.” But regardless of McConnell’s intentions, it’s worth noting that what he said isn’t even true — as this Brennan Center analysis shows, Black Americans cast ballots at a lower rate in 2020 than whites (58 percent compared to 71 percent, respectively), “a disparity that will worsen with new restrictive voting laws.”
And yet if you got your information from cable news, you might not even be aware of McConnell’s gaffe and the controversy surrounding it. That’s because while Biden took heavy criticism all day, McConnell’s comments weren’t even mentioned on CNN or MSNBC on Thursday until they were brought up very briefly on CNN during the 4 p.m. hour, according to a transcript search I did.
That coverage disparity encapsulates how Republicans being terrible is taken as a given these days in American politics. It’s news when a leading Democrats says something unclearly, but just another day when a Republican leader makes a statement that at best was regrettable and at worst reveals an ugly assumption underpinning GOP obstruction of federal voting rights legislation.