If you thought of a place on the radio dial on a Saturday morning where Sen. Tom Coburn would be pressed as squishy, it probably wouldn't be NPR. But on Weekend Edition Saturday, NPR anchor Scott Simon asked some basic questions about a budget deal, and then shifted to Grover Norquist's criticisms of Coburn for being a tax hiker. This could be seen as quite an anti-Grover segment, with how strongly Coburn attacked him:
SCOTT SIMON: Let me ask you about a debate that was brought to my attention this week. You're -- Oklahoma, I think can fairly be identified as a farming state. You're opposed to ethanol subsidies.
TOM COBURN: Well, I'm specifically opposed to the ethanol blending credit, which is just one of the subsidies that we give for ethanol.
SIMON: This has opened up, as I don't have to tell you, a pointed disagreement with Grover Norquist and his group, Americans for Tax Reform.
COBURN: I'm not sure that they add anything positive to the debate today being dogmatic in their position that if you don't give the most profitable companies in this country -- who, by the way, sent me a letter saying they don't want this money -- that we're going to send them $5.9 billion and call that a tax increase by not sending them money that they're not earning, to me, seems ridiculous and the average American's going to look at that and say 'That's stupid.'
SIMON: This gets fairly intricate but we're talking about the 45 cent-per- gallon ethanol tax credit.
COBURN: For blending.
SIMON: Yeah, for blending ethanol, which I think, difficult to understand but I think the argument that Mr. Norquist and others are making is this represents a tax increase.
COBURN: He's saying it's a tax increase. If we take away this -- which they don't agree with the blending credit either -- but if we don't cut somebody's taxes somewhere else, I am a heretic and I no longer am a conservative Republican who believes in limited government.
SIMON: And as far as you're concerned, they're...
COBURN: I think it's background noise and it doesn't play for what the real problems are in front of us.
For the ATR response, see Greenwire at The New York Times from Wednesday:
ATR tax policy director Ryan Ellis responded within hours in a letter of his own that took no issue with Coburn's criticism of government ethanol supports. "[T]he best policy outcome is to eliminate the ethanol tax credit in a way that leaves money in the hands of taxpayers, not increases the amount of money going to Washington for the Appropriations Committees to spend," Ellis told Coburn. "Your amendment as written to repeal the ethanol credit (unfortunately) does the latter."
NPR would love to claim this shows they're not liberal because they interviewed Coburn, and asked him something that conservatives are squabbling about. The interview does qualify as a step toward balance with guests. The only way this shifts back to the left is any joy from making mischief between conservatives.
Perhaps NPR has already pestered a liberal Democrat with the unhappy Code Pink line on Libya? No. They certainly tried that with Nancy Pelosi before. A search shows they haven't mentioned Code Pink since the last favorable Revolutionary Nutcracker ballet story from San Francisco.