Sunday Night NPR Newscast Starts With 11.5 Minute-Long Defense of Big Government

On Sunday night’s All Things Considered newcast, NPR began with an 11-and-a-half-minute defense of Big Government. The headline online was “On Defense In Era Of Anti-Big Government Sentiment.” That certainly fits NPR, whose very existence demonstrates all-encompassing government. NPR anchor Guy Raz explained: “That's our cover story today: making the case for the government.”

The stars of Raz’s “cover story” were liberal professor Julian Zelizer and Current TV host (and former Democrat governor of Michigan) Jennifer Granholm. After Raz explained Bill Clinton changed the equation by proclaiming "The era of Big Government is over," Zelizer expressed concern that President Obama is "very skeptical of government" unlike, say, Ted Kennedy in the glorious past:

ZELIZER: President Obama is very much a product of the post-Jimmy Carter, post-Bill Clinton Democratic Party. For all the talk from Republicans of this being a quasi-socialistic administration, nothing could be further from the truth in that if you just listen to what he says and look at the kinds of policies he proposes, he's very skeptical of government.

OBAMA (soundbite): I have never been somebody who believes that government can or should try to solve every problem. Some of you know my first job in Chicago was working with a group of Catholic Churches that often did more good for the people in their communities than any government program could.

ZELIZER: And he's trying to use it in strategic ways, but he's always putting handcuffs on the programs that he even creates. And I think it's a pretty consistent part of who Obama is. He certainly would not offer the kind of robust defense you heard from FDR in the '30s or even Ted Kennedy in 1980 when he challenged Jimmy Carter during the primaries and made a famous convention speech.

Zelizer is the same liberal prof that argued that America's maldistribution of wealth is growing so severe we'll soon "be watching royal weddings in our own backyard." Then Raz turned to Gov. Granholm for liberal reinforcement:

RAZ: President Reagan famously said government is part of the problem, which has become a mantra for many conservatives, and we've been hearing it this past week at the Republican convention. How is government the solution in your view?

GRANHOLM: Well, first of all, as I say, there's only certain things that governments can do, especially as this conversation is unfolding, about the economy. And if you have purely a hands-off laissez-faire approach for addressing the economic challenges America's facing, then basically you're throwing in the towel. You're waving the white flag. You are aiding and abetting the offshoring of jobs to countries that are very aggressive in poaching jobs.

The weekend anchorman also borrowed from NPR's in-house liberal analyst E.J. Dionne to go after Democrats from the Left:

RAZ: E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and an analyst here at NPR wrote a column earlier this summer and it was titled "Government is the Solution." And in that column, he went after Democrats for running away from this idea that government can be part of the solution. He essentially argued that Democrats have essentially accepted this argument that government is part of the problem.

GRANHOLM: It is an uphill battle to make the argument because the other side is so deeply permeated into our pores as a result of the very effective messaging that has been done, but it is such a curious form of self-loathing that that notion represents. And what I mean by that is that how can you hate government, which is the product of democracy and a constitutional structure that is revered? How can you hate the service that government provides but love America and love democracy? It is such an interesting schism.

Raz then tried to channel the "self-loathing" conservative view (without talking to anyone conservative), that government is a hassle. Granholm then unloaded the conspiracy theory that Republicans have aggressively sought to make government more inefficient:

RAZ: If the term government were a brand, it would be a brand in which the company overseeing that brand would have no control over it because government means so many different things to so many different people, right?

So I'm sure when you were governor, people would say, look, I'm a small business owner and I've got to deal with all these permits and all this red tape, and I've got to go to all these offices, you know, every time I want to hire somebody or do something with my business. And so I wonder whether you can understand that, why some people are skeptical.

GRANHOLM: Totally. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And it's such an interesting strategy on the part of the Republicans, honestly, because they want to slash and slash and slash government. And therefore government is in less of a position to be able to provide the quick, rapid, seamless service that people have come to expect from the private sector.

RAZ: You're arguing that Republicans have deliberately made government less efficient because they want people to think that government is inefficient?

GRANHOLM: Well, it's certainly been a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the shrinkage of government, they have disabled the effectiveness of government in many places.

After a story like this, does anyone have a scintilla of doubt about why liberals adore NPR and conservative taxpayers protest paying for it?

On Saturday night's All Things Considered, Raz offered a more balanced "cover story" of similar length. He began by talking to Professor Zelizer and then interviewed paleoconservative Daniel McCarthy of The American Conservative magazine. But McCarthy isn't brought in until almost seven minutes into the story.  Perhaps McCarthy came to NPR's attention because liberal blogger Brad DeLong hailed his rant on "How Conservatism Lost Its Mind."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis