Weekly commentary by CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.
News that the Department of Education paid talk show host Armstrong Williams what amounts to a $240,000 bribe to promote its No Child Left Behind legislation is so outrageous it borders on laughable. Except, I am not amused when the government uses my money, tax dollars, to try to con me.
Every large organization, including CBS has a few stupid people around and on occasion they do stupid things. But what I don't understand is why all this caused hardly a ripple at the White House. The only response from there that I could find in yesterday's papers was that a spokesman referred all questions to the Department of Education. Well, why go there for answers where the whole loony idea originated, the same department that had earlier spent some $700,000 on a survey to find out which reporters favored No Child Left Behind and which opposed it?
I cannot imagine that the president or anyone else with half a brain thought this was a good idea. But wouldn't you think the White House would want us to know that? Has the administration become so convinced of its own righteousness that it refuses to denounce even this sort of thing? Did they think we wouldn't notice? Forget the details. Trying to corrupt the news media with bribes is wrong. If the Department of Education people haven't figured that out, then the president should educate them. A good lesson plan might include firing those responsible. Then he should promise the rest of us it will never happen again.
By Bob Schieffer
Copyright 2005 CBS. All rights reserved.