Republican House Minority Leader and expected soon-to-be Speaker of the House John Boehner was quoted by National Review this afternoon calling for National Public Radio to lose federal funding in the wake of its controversial firing of longtime correspondent Juan Williams…
“We need to face facts — our government is broke. Washington is borrowing 37 cents of every dollar it spends from our kids and grandkids. Given that, I think it’s reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers’ money to support a left-wing radio network — and in the wake of Juan Williams’ firing, it’s clearer than ever that’s what NPR is.”
As with so many things Boehner says and does, this is good – and as a policy statement it’s on point. NPR is a waste of taxpayer dollars at a time when the internet, cable TV, satellite radio and all the other mechanisms to deliver information abound. The need for public funds to support a media venture does not exist – if NPR’s content is worthy of listenership then it’s worthy of sponsorship as well. And if it’s not, then it’s time for the creative destruction of the free market to wipe out people like Nina Totenberg, who can say things far more objectionable than Juan Williams did on NPR’s air.
But just like many things Boehner says and does, it’s not great.
That NPR is a left-wing radio network is certainly bad, at least in the context that it’s funded by your tax dollars. But Boehner missed the mark. What he could have said was “Washington is broke, and we’re borrowing 37 cents of every dollar we spend. And we’re borrowing money to fund NPR, a network so far out of the mainstream that even Juan Williams, who is as reliable a liberal as you’ll ever find, isn’t left-wing and politically orthodox enough for them.
“Juan will, I’m sure, land on his feet. But NPR has proven it no longer deserves our funding, in my view, and as Speaker I’ll support efforts to make it stand on its own like everybody else in the media.”
Boehner’s on the right side. But what the American people are looking for right now is for him and the Republicans we’re about to make the majority in the House of Representatives to show the kind of audacity and determination that the Left showed when they jammed Obamacare down our throats.
It’s true that talking about de-funding NPR isn’t as effective as actually de-funding NPR, so if Boehner walks softly on the issue as he did for NRO today and then does the deed in January we have no quarrel. But we’re two weeks away from an election of colossal importance, and NPR’s firing of Williams is now the hottest topic of conversation in the country. It’s an outrage on both sides of the political aisle, and as such it’s one of those galvanizing “70-30” issues politicians dream about. It’s just like the Ground Zero Mosque issue it spawned from in this regard.
And making the Juan Williams firing a campaign issue Republicans take a strong majoritarian position on is a winner in two weeks. A stronger statement from Boehner, one which doesn’t just ask questions but promise action, would have helped galvanize that issue for Republicans.
We’ll take what we can get on this one. But we’d like a good bit more.