My friend Swamp Rabbit and I get a kick out of Republicans who complain of National Public Radio’s “liberal bias,” a strange charge given the fact that NPR rarely veers from the “he said/she said” style of reporting and commentary, even when he and she, or he and he, are voicing the same narrow point of view. In this case I’m referring to conservative David Brooks and liberal E. J. Dionne, who appear together with moderator Robert Siegel to share their opinions on hot news stories. This week Brooks and Dionne took turns agreeing that Russia is the Great Satan and should be penalized in some way by the United States if Crimea becomes part of Russia again.
Siegel: On Ukraine and Russia, does it appear that politics is stopping at the water’s edge? And if so, is U.S. policy sound? David Brooks, you first.
Brooks: I think so. I give the Obama administration an A for what they’ve done so far. They’ve been tough. They’ve been out front. They’ve really been cracking down in a slowly but very rigorous way against the Russians. They’ve taken clear sides. You know, I’d love to see every Russian oligarch have their kid kicked out of British prep school or something like that. That would end the crisis in a week.
But they’re doing that sort of thing. They’re freezing assets, they’re stopping visas, they’re raising money to help the Ukrainians. It’s a comprehensive policy which I think is getting pretty broad support.
Dionne: It ought to be bipartisan, and on the actual steps being taken, it is – it is broadly bipartisan. There is still all this sniping at Obama, as if there were a whole lot more that we could do than we are doing. But I think there’s a toughness here and that Putin will pay a price, and I think he may pay the biggest price in the long term in Ukraine because he’s lost a lot of friends that he might have – or he’s lost for Russia a lot of friends that Russia might have had.
Siegel: Even though we expect a referendum on secession of Crimea to take place on Sunday…
Dionne: A phony referendum, it should be said, under occupation.
These guys could finish each other’s sentences. Why bother with a segment that purports to present different perspectives when both commentators are Washington, D.C. insiders who never stray far from so-called centrist positions? God forbid they should present Russia’s perspective on the Ukraine before they trot out the anti-Russian cliches.
“Ain’t no liberal bias on NPR, just mainstream drift,” Swamp Rabbit said as we sat on the porch and looked out at the swamp. “If you ain’t Tweedledum, you damn sure better be Tweedledee, or you don’t get no airtime.”
Clarification: This is not to imply the commentators are always mirror images of one another. Dionne is a standard-issue liberal; what you see if what you get. But Brooks is the Earnest Weasel, an apologist for the rich and corrupt posing as a moderate and a moralist, a hypocrite of the first order.