If you’ve been paying attention to the fallout from last night’s presidential debate, you’ve probably noticed that there is some beef between Mitt Romney and Big Bird.
The flare-up revolves around remarks Romney made during the debate last night, when asked how he would cut the federal deficit.
Turning to the debate moderator, PBS News anchor Jim Lehrer, Romney responded:
“I’m sorry, Jim, I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS, I love Big Bird. Actually, I like you too.”
The political left pounced immediately, noting, correctly, that cutting the federal government’s $445 million subsidy to PBS wouldn’t begin to make a dent in the $16 trillion national debt. At a rally Thursday, President Obama mocked Romney for the remark: “Thank goodness someone is getting tough on Big Bird.”
But the liberal outrage misses a much larger point. As ridiculous as it may sound, Romney’s “Big Bird” comment actually marked a significant milestone in his evolution as a conservative standard bearer.
A candidate’s willingness to tell PBS News anchors that they want to cut funding for the network has become something of a litmus test for Republicans, revealing their willingness to make the hard choices — even if it means saying no to Sad Elmo.
Romney, whose political pandering is well-documented, has never shown a particular fondness for telling people things they don’t want to hear, and movement conservatives have been slow to warm to the Republican presidential nominee as a result.
It’s safe to say, however, that Romney’s willingness to take on a beloved icon of public broadcasting — during a presidential debate broadcast on public television, no less — went a long way toward assuaging those concerns.
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