Today’s Morning Edition on NPR featured an interview by Arun Rath with teabagger Tom Cole (OK-4). It’s a great example of the thing I hear again and again on NPR: lots of softball questions, casual acceptance of whatever nonsense “both sides” say, lack of followup, and a complete failure to get at actual facts. Here we go.
In the first twenty seconds, Rath repeats the teabagger line that President Obama is “bypassing Congress” with his plans on immigration reform. That’s bullshit right there. Absolutely nothing in the three and a half minute story backs up the “bypassing” accusation.
Unless by “bypassing” you mean I bypassed Congress by shoveling snow off my own sidewalk this morning, and I bypassed Congress by eating breakfast of my own choosing.
What I’m saying is that when you make an accusation like that, it’s meaningless (i.e., bullshit) without something that makes the action, well, wrong. It’s a loaded term. If NPR wants to take sides in this, great, they can go all Fox and use all the loaded words they want, but without substantiation it’s fake news.
So Rath put it right out there, asking Rep. Cole what he thinks of the administration’s assertion that the new immigration plan is within the President’s powers. “The President’s been on both sides of this issue,” Cole replied, waving around words like “inappropriate,” “unproductive,” and “unconstitutional.” Calling the President out for some perceived inconsistency, Cole went on with “It’s hard for us to understand, when were you [Obama] being disingenuous?”
Now stop right there. Cole did not answer the question. He made an assertion that Obama’s plan exceeds his powers, and when asked to substantiate that charge he switched to calling the President “inconsistent” and “disingenuous.”
Rath failed as a reporter. He simply moved on to the next question, without comment or challenge.
The question of whether Obama’s plan is legal and within his powers is an important one. I’m curious about it myself. I honestly don’t know what the legal issues are in this regard, but my point is that I still don’t know because the reporter didn’t do his job.
What’s wrong with this is that the interview leaves the question hanging out there with no actual information other than one guy’s uninformed opinion about some other guy’s alleged inconsistency on a point that may or may not be relevant.
Rath could have made the interview not useless by asking a simple followup: “I hear you saying that the President has been inconsistent in his own statements on his powers in the realm of immigration, but what I’m asking you is on what basis do you say he is exceeding his legal powers?” If Cole dodged the question again, Rath could have said, “Wait, no, you’re claiming the President is stepping over a legal line, so you must know where that line is. What is the limit of the President’s power in this regard, and how do you know that?”
I realize this is a morning news show, and NPR could only allocate three and a half minutes to the interview, but can we hold them to a higher standard than merely filling time?
Political reporting isn’t supposed to be amateur hour. This story is yet another easily found example of NPR doing C-level work and expecting an A for showing up. I call bullshit. The interview was a waste of time at best, a disingenuous propaganda vehicle at worst.