On Sunday, the Washington Post’s Outlook section was dominated by an article with a headline imposed over an elephant’s rear end: “Admit it. The Republicans are worse. Don’t blame both sides for gridlock. Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein say it’s the GOP’s fault.”
Within about 24 hours, there were Mann and Ornstein, being interviewed on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. Anchor Steve Inskeep asked Mann if he would read from their hatchet job on the Republicans:
MANN: (Reading) However awkward it may be for the traditional press and nonpartisan analysts to acknowledge one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become a resurgent outlier, ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime, scornful of compromise, un-persuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.
INSKEEP: That's pretty brutal, gentlemen.
MANN: We're not exactly neutral or balanced, are we? That's perhaps the central message of our book, that as norms operate and your business, in our business -- press, nonpartisan groups of all sorts, we have to be even-handed. We have to be fair-minded. That does a great disservice to the reality, and it feeds a public belief that they're all corrupt, they're all ineffective, the system is what's at work. It disarms the electorate in a democracy when you really need an ideological outlier to be reined in by an active, informed public.
They have a book called "It's Even Worse Than It Looks." There was another book with this thesis: it was called “Right Is Wrong,” and was authored by Arianna Huffington. Like these men, she insisted the media needed to shelve any pose of fair-minded neutrality and savage the Republicans for being anti-facts and anti-science.
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How well does this fit the NPR narrative, attacking the new infusion of conservatism in the Republican House? Conservatives want to defund NPR? This is how NPR fights back, with two liberal establishmentarians bashing them as the Huns.
It’s awfully funny, though, for NPR to insist that it’s wrong to be “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition” as they trash Tea Party conservatives and fire employees who show up on The O’Reilly Factor.
Inskeep also asked Ornstein about how the American Enterprise Institute is seen as a conservative think tank – but not when you factor in liberals like Ornstein:
INSKEEP: Norm Ornstein, you're with the American Enterprise Institute, which if it's known as anything, it's known as more of a conservative or Republican-leaning think-tank. Are your colleagues all comfortable with you signing onto that statement, that the Republican Party is most at fault here?
ORNSTEIN: I think some of my colleagues are going to be quite uncomfortable with that. We didn't come to this conclusion lightly. And in previous works that we've done, we hit both parties, and we've hit both of them hard in instances where either, for example, when the Democrats were in the majority for 40 consecutive years, leading up to 1994, they became arrogant, condescending, complacent, and there was a significant amount of corruption that comes with accumulated power.
But for Republicans currently inside Congress, you have a new set of litmus tests and a new outlook that leads them in directions where you can't say that there is such a thing as climate change. You take positions on things like immigration that are simply off the rails. And if you compromise, you are basically defiling what the party stands for.
And when you have Mitch McConnell saying, after the first two years of the Obama administration, in effect, well, of course we wouldn't cooperate with him because if our fingerprints were on any of those policies, and they were popular, he'd get credit for them. There's not a hint in that of, well, the first thing we got to do is solve the problems facing the country. There's a contrast here, and Democrats bashed Bush plenty, used rhetoric at times, referring to him as a war criminal. They're not saints, here. But we're really dealing with a different phenomenon now with the Republicans.
If you can find Norman Ornstein trashing the Democrats in 1994 for arrogance and condescension, you might write NPR. You won’t find it on their waves. On July 2 of that year, Ornstein told NPR “I think over the long run Democrats lose if nothing happens [on Hillarycare], but in the immediate term, which means November, every incumbent, Democrat or Republican, has to fear what happens if the basic message back home is gridlock.” NPR's Inskeep tossed in a bit of the contrary point of view:
INSKEEP: There are Republicans who will argue that this is a moment like that, that this is a moment where the country is in danger of going in a radically different direction and an irrevocable direction, and that they must fight back in any way that they can.
MANN: But it flies in the face of a reality that the Democrats have become, in some respects, the party of the status quo, while it's the Republicans who are the true insurgents who want the radical change, returning to a pre-New Deal era of - more like the Gilded Age and pretending the last 100 years of history didn't happen.
INSKEEP: You're arguing against the politics of extremes. What about the argument that has been made by many on the right -- some also on the left -- that the solutions are not necessarily in the middle? You may have to go to the edges to find the solutions to our problems.
ORNSTEIN: I think that's a reasonable argument. I don't believe in a golden mean. I don't believe you find policy, wisdom between two polar points. I don't dismiss that possibility, but I look at the platform that's so ideologically based, that's so dismissive of facts, of evidence of science, and it's frankly hard to take seriously.
MANN: We're not against conservatives. [!] Some of our heroes are very, very strong conservatives, here. We're not against strong liberals, either. But what we found is, whether it's a Reagan presidency that did move the country like an ocean liner a few degrees to the right - Reagan understood, however, that you looked at facts and reality, and when you saw that your policies of trying to cut spending significantly enough that you could radically reduce government working and that we were leading to larger deficits, he understood that you needed to find some compromises. Let's get some revenues, but let's do it in the best possible way.
But Inskeep did not wonder how on Earth it can be argued that the present fiscal course of the Obama team is "conventional" or non-ideological. How is the present system in Washington "working" with trillion-dollar deficits as far as the eye can see? That apparently doesn't matter -- as long as the government keeps shovelng the subsidies to public radio. They're always comfortable with the Statist Quo.