Many outlets, including the Huffington Post, Mediaite, and the Examiner, are increasingly taking notice of Fox News anchor (and longtime left-wing drama queen) Shepard Smith for his alleged courage and principle in distancing himself from the rest of the channel’s right-wing propagandizing. He’s currently being lauded for having taken up the cause of a controversial bill to provide medical care for 9/11 first responders, angrily unloading on Republican Grinches who would dare steal Christmas from American heroes:
We’re able to put a 52 story building so far down there at Ground Zero, we’re able to pay for tax cuts for billionaires who don’t need them and it’s not going to stimulate the economy. But we can’t give health care to Ground Zero first responders who ran right into the fire? Went down there to save people? Do people know what this city was like that day? People were walking over bridges, they were covered in ash, they were running for their lives, they were crying, their family members were dead. And these people ran to Ground Zero to save people’s lives. And we’re not going to even give them medicine for the illnesses they got down there? It’s disgusting, it’s a national disgrace, it’s a shame and everybody who voted against should have to stand up and account for himself or herself.
The Examiner’s Elliot Levin compares Smith to several of his Fox News colleagues, including Sean Hannity, who has endorsed the bill’s purpose but expressed reservations about the particulars, such as concern for potential abuse by illegal immigrants, suspicion about the Democrats’ refusal to pass it via simple majority in the House when they had the chance, and scorn for Rep. Anthony Weiner’s unwillingness to allow that reading a bill might be an important prerequisite for supporting it. Levin says:
While Fox’s primtime lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and to a lesser degree, Greta Van Susstren, are all card-carrying Republicans and openly use their shows to press a conservative agenda, Smith, who anchors the 3pm and 7pm shows, is well-known and liked throughout the TV news world for his passionate and apolitical perspectives.
He has also broken away from the typical conservative line in the past on issues such as torture.
Smith is at his best when it comes to hard news stories, such as car chases, wars, and natural disasters, but when he steps into politics he epitomizes the Fox News slogan of ‘fair and balanced,’ speaking his mind regardless of what his fellow anchors may be saying or believing.
Smith’s caterwauling certainly makes good on the “balance” part of the Fox promise, but “fair” is questionable. He characterizes bill opponents as soulless monsters, who cannot possibly have legitimate reservations. But their reservations are indeed valid. At Politico, James Richardson explains:
Republicans objected not to the compensation fund, rather to the way its coffers were filled. As usual, Democrats wanted a program paid for by a new tax — in this case, one on foreign-registered firms operating within the United States.
As a matter of policy, Republicans oppose entitlement programs, both old and new, though ideological rigidity here takes second to honoring and caring for these emergency responders. For the Republican caucus, the key problem was the pay-for tax increase that Democrats engineered for the $7.4 billion measure.
The GOP’s more wonkish members were concerned the tax increase might force closures of foreign-registered but domestic-operating firms that employ Americans. Others, were uneasy that the bill was not means tested.
At Human Events, John Hayward points out that Smith-style emotionalism masks the fact that we have very good reason to tread slowly when entrusting Congress with the task of spending large sums of money:
Nothing about the situation demanded the creation of an unlimited entitlement, or abandoning precautions against waste and fraud. One of the first orders of business for the lame-duck Congress was shoveling another billion dollars into the Pigford fraud, where thousands of bogus claims have been filed. [NRB: see here for more on Pigford.] Maybe they should have saved that billion for the heroes of 9/11 instead.
On top of Pigford, we’ve seen billions wasted in Medicare fraud, millions paid to convicts filing phony tax returns, and California Republican congressman Darrell Issa’s recent report that $125 billion in taxpayer money disappeared through “improper payments” over the past year. I can’t find any reason to blindly trust this government to carefully manage a few billion more, especially when those demanding it maintain that no patriotic American can question them in any way.
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