Writing that Huffington Post reporter Sam Stein's tough questioning of President Obama was a healthy "confrontational question," Steve Benen of the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog thinks that (2/10/09) "more importantly, as Ezra [Klein at the American Prospect] noted, it was 'confrontational from the left rather than from the center.'" Benen then looks at stimulus bill broker Senator Ben Nelson's recent press experiences:
Last week, during the Senate debate, Nelson made four appearances in four days on Fox News and Fox Business. The questions were predictable, and presupposed that Republican talking points were right. Nelson clearly struggled in the [MSNBC Rachel] Maddow interview, though, in part because he faced substantive questions from a progressive perspective, and in part because he's not used to substantive questions from a progressive perspective.
Consider the kind of questions Maddow threw his way: Wouldn't the legislation be more effective with a higher ratio of spending to tax cuts? Why cut $15 billion in school construction money? (When Nelson emphasized the importance of local control of education, Maddow reminded him that school construction crews wouldn't affect the curriculum.) Why take out $40 billion in aid to states? Why is there less money going to food stamps, when food stamps offer the best stimulative bang for the buck of anything in the economic arsenal? (That last point has been lost on almost everyone else in broadcast media.)
Nelson being reduced to admitting that such concessions were more in consideration of appeasing Republicans than in actually helping the U.S. economy is "one of the reasons" Benen finds "shows like Maddow's (and press conference questions like Sam Stein's) so important. The political discourse is dominated by a certain conventional wisdom, which looks at the news through a prism of Republican creation."