"60 Minutes" goes after (legal) congressional corruption, and even targets a fair number of Republicans!
Contrary to the impression given by the presentation of this report on the "60 Minutes Overtime" webpage, tonight's report actually targeted a bunch of crooked Republicans before giving Nancy Pelosi attention (including a shockingly hacked video clip).
It was only by accident that I stumbled onto Steve Kroft's report on tonight's edition of 60 Minutes (it's supposed to be here on the website, but I haven't been able to bring the page up -- is everybody trying to load it?). Once upon a time -- a long, long-ago time -- 60 Minutes was weekly "must" viewing, when the broadcast actually seemed focused on holding members of the political establishment to account for their deeds. Now it seems safely enmeshed in the Village media machine, seemingly aimed mostly aimed at paying tribute to that establishment, with occasional reference to wrongdoing that the system miraculously manages to self-correct.
It was just a couple of minutes after 7pm ET, and I'd just remembered to flip to channel 2 to see whether this was a week when CBS had a football game running long, thereby pushing back the network prime-time schedule and wreaking havoc on my scheduled recording of tonight's episode of The Good Wife. By the time what seemed like a 20-minute block of commercials ended, I saw that no, 60 Minutes was indeed on the air, and Steve Kroft was about to report a story that actually grabbed my attention: on what would be considered insider trading for anyone but congressmen, who are exempt from any such legal inhibitions, and other forms of more or less legal self-enriching congressional chicanery.
The clip above is from the "60 Minutes Overtime" webpage, which also features this text report:
November 13, 2011 6:46 PM
Questioning Pelosi: Steve Kroft heads to D.C.
By Overtime Staff
"Nobody would talk to us." That's what 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft says happened when he tried to get members of Congress to talk about "insider trading" on Capitol Hill.
It turns out that it is not illegal for member of Congress to make stock trades using inside information they learn while working on legislation, and Steve had some questions about some specific stock trades.
Since nobody involved would give him an interview, Steve had to find other ways to get some answers. As you'll see on Overtime this week, Steve looked for some lawmakers at their homes, attempted to track others down in their offices, and finally ended up asking questions at press conferences held by Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner.
"You don't like to do that stuff," Kroft tells Overtime producer David Rubin. "But on the other hand, if they don't want to talk to you and they don't want to give you an interview, and they are in powerful positions and play a prominent role in the story that you're doing, then you feel like sometimes you've got to do it."
Steve's 60 Minutes piece, Insiders, was produced by Ira Rosen and Gabrielle Schonder.
When the report itself (which is supposed to be available online here, though I haven't been able to get anything to load; too much traffic following the broadcast of the report?) began, I was a little nervous, because Steve Kroft made clear that the 60 Minutes it was coordinated with an investigation into personal wealth accumulation by members of Congress during their service spearheaded by Peter Schweizer of the Hoover Institution -- you know, "the conservative Hoover Institution," at Stanford University (Howie passes on a Media Matters report, about which more later, which notes that Schweizer is the editor-in-chief of one of right-wing superloon Andrew Breitbart's websites) -- making it sound to the underinitiated as if fighting congressional corruption is a conservative or Republican cause. The reality is that the brazenness of congressional Republicans is the leading cause of the extent, indeed the institutionalization of congressional corruption.
Which is not, let me hasten to add, to deny the extent of Democratic congressional corruption, which we have covered pretty extensively here at DWT. But let's not kid ourselves as to the affiliation of the pioneers and grand masters of the field, the visionaries who have led the way for their fellows -- of, yes, both parties. It's one of the few areas in which Congress can be seen to be functionally bipartisan.
But to get back to the 60 Minutes report, when it got down to cases my apprehension was alleviated somewhat. From what we were shown on-air, Peter Schweizer seems to have done some actual hard-headed investigating. For the record, the first subject of his investigation, and the most egregious case we were presented with, was one of the House's most expert balancers of ultra-extreme right-wing ideology and ultra-extreme personal profiteering, the singularly repellent Spencer Bachus, a longtime DWT fave, and attention was then directed to financial funny business attributed to Republican former Speaker "Planet Denny" Hastert and present Speaker "Sunny John" Boehner, before moving on to Democratic then-Speaker (now House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi.
IT COULD BE COINCIDENCE THAT ON THE "60 MINUTES
OVERTIME" WEBSITE THE FEATURED TARGET IS PELOSI
As you can see above, the "Overtime" Web report is headed "Questioning Pelosi: Steve Kroft heads to D.C.," and at the top only Pelosi is pictured.
Well, no, I don't think it's a coincidence at all. Yes, the text mentions "Sunny John" Boehner as well, but not Spencer Bachus or "Planet Denny" Hastert. And it sure looks like the offender "caught" by 60 Minutes is Pelosi.
Which is indeed how the Right-Wing Lie Machine is already spinning the report. (Here's the shocked "REVEALED" report on Andrew Breitbart's right-wing lie-o-rama.) And that Media Matters report I mentioned above includes a pre-air comment from Pelosi, as well as documentation of an earlier, debunked Peter Schweizer smear of Pelosi, along with a link to a YouTube version of Kroft's press-conference Q&A that's shockingly, astoundingly different, more substantive than the eviscerated version aired by 60 Minutes aired. (The aired version, by hacking out nearly all of Pelosi's answer to Kroft's question, makes it sound as if she simply ducked the question, which is an out-and-out lie. Does CBS News have an ombudsman?) Media Matters also goes into much detail about the right-wing history and associations of Peter Schweizer and his associates.
In the 60 Minutes report's defense, it devoted significant air time to an interview with former Washington State Democratic Rep. Brian Baird, talking about his long-standing, futile effort to get Congress to enact some sort of legal bar to insider trading by its members, which never attracted more than six co-sponsors.
It would be a shame if the substance of the report were allowed to be overshadowed by the corrupt-wingnut spin. But I suppose it wouldn't be the first time such a thing has happened. The Lie Machine knows its business. And certainly nobody who's in, or who has friends (or contacts) in, Congress has any interest in furthering the real story.
Still, it was nice to hear it surface just a bit.