Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is PBS' "Newshour" Becoming MSNBC? Gwen Ifill Cites "Tea Baggers"

The "Newshour" program on PBS had a segment on race in the debate about Pres. Obama's "health care reform" (link to transcript). It's worth a look, but one comment by the moderator, Gwen Ifill, prompted me to send them the following response:


IFILL: "So whether it's Jeremiah Wright or Henry Louis Gates, Jr., or what Jimmy Carter said about this, the Tea Baggers or whoever, it's always going to be with us?"


I found myself outraged at Ms. Ifill, during the round table about race in the health care debate, when she used the words "tea baggers" to describe the "tea party" movement. In what was otherwise a reasoned debate about the language used, and it's effect on people of African heritage, she chose to use a derogatory term for another group of Americans. "Tea Party" protesters come in all colors and political stripes, but from what I've seen, they're mostly Caucasian conservatives. After I stopped yelling at my TV, I had to appreciate the irony. Apparently, it's all in the "ear of the listener," whether something is offensive or not. I'm sure Ms. Ifill wasn't intending to offend anyone, but perhaps she needs to be "educated" about different sensibilities than her own. "Teabagging" is a slang reference to a sex act, and a "teabagger" is a person who performs that act. I expect that kind of crude reference on MSNBC, but not on the NEWSHOUR.


I have been a viewer since it was the half-hour "Report," back in the seventies. I am also an admirer of Ms. Ifill's, which is why I am writing this note to her. I hope she understands that my feelings are just as valid as hers, and everyone else's. I'm no fan of political correctness, but in a debate about sensitivity to language, her choice of words was a glaring example of insensitivity to people who are part of the "Tea Party" movement. I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts.


I don't really think that the Newshour is slipping to the shoddy level of journalism practiced on MSNBC, but it's a "slippery slope," as they say. Once this kind of slur is considered "acceptable," who knows what will be next. PBS does broadcast Bill Moyers, who is barely a notch above MSNBC on the "partisan" scale. I'd hate to see the Newshour slide any further down that path than they already have. It seems a small thing, but perhaps I haven't been pointing out examples like this often enough, because I do like the show, and have been such a long time viewer.


You're back on my "radar," Newshour, and I intend to hold your feet to the fire.


PS: I thought I'd share this excerpt from James Taranto's "Best of the Web Today" column, to further instruct Ms. Ifill:

De-Klein and Fall

We can't swear that anyone has paid attention to Time magazine's Joe Klein since the Clinton years, but we had a laugh at this item of his on the opposition to ObamaCare and other big-government proposals:

My sense of the teabaggers is more complicated: they are primarily
working-class, largely rural and elderly white people. They are freaked by the
economy. They are also freaked by the government spending--TARP, the stimulus
package etc.--that was necessary to avoid a financial collapse. (I'm not sure
Keynes is taught in very many American high schools.) But most of all, they are
freaked by an amorphous feeling that they America they imagined they were living
in--Sarah Palin's fantasy America--is a different place now, changing for the
worse, overrun by furriners of all sorts: Latinos, South Asians, East Asians,
homosexuals...to say nothing of liberated, uppity blacks.

He imagines that critics of President Obama are not only racist but, to use that ugly bit of academic jargon, homophobic--and he makes this assertion in the same breath as he derides them with the antigay slur "teabaggers."

Oh well, Klein is in his seventh decade. Maybe he's just too much of a fuddy-duddy to be up on gay slang.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dem's Fightin' Words: Obama's Fight is Within the Democrat Party

I don't know how long I've been saying this, but it's been a while. Pres. Obama is not really fighting with the GOP over the health care bill, he's fighting with the "Blue Dog" Democrats, and using the GOP as a "straw man." His true problem is that he's energized a whole new bunch of opposition "community organizers," and he doesn't know how to deal with it. He seems passive-agressive, claiming to want to listen to "other ideas," then attacking those with other ideas. This is what political infighting looks like, in the Obama Administration.

If it were just the conservative GOP he was fighting with, there would be no "reaching out." It would be like one big party, as the MSM cheered on, and laughed at the "partisan" opposition, who had no power. If this was is a "mainstream" Democrat bill, most liberal Republicans would support it, as well. The fact that even Sen. Snowe is reserving judgement says volumes.

It looks as if the problem is with the same people who defected from the GOP over the past four years, and their reasons are the same: too much government spending, and intrusion into the "free" economy. These people were fed up with Pres. Bush, for the same reasons they dislike Pres. Obama now. I'm sure the lefties were happy to count the poll numbers as support for their agenda, but it wasn't. It was a "they're all the same" mentality, reasoning that Pres. Obama would have to be fiscally conservative, in the economic circumstances he was elected under.

Well, he has not fulfilled those expectations. In fact, he's multiplied the deficit to the point where blaming it on Bush wears thin. This has caused the rise of the "tea party" movement, which crosses party lines, and definitely includes many formerly left-leaning independents. Candidate Obama sold himself as all things to all people, an alot of them bought it. He is now displeasing his left wing, as well as "swing voters," or independents. He has put conservatives squarely in "the opposition," and tried to dismiss them.

Unfortunately, many Democrats and independents are asking the same questions that the conservatives are, and they want answers before the bill is passed, this time. Every major bill that's been passed under the Obama administration, and some that predate it, has come under criticism for legislators not knowing exactly what was in the bill they voted on, much less the public. Most of the "tea party" people just want a little transparency in their government, and they certainly aren't getting the level of it that Obama promised.

This is a battle royale within the Democratic party, but the party leaders seem to think that they work in a vacuum. While Obama talks to Pelosi and Reid, none of them can tell the American people what will be in this bill. Sen. Max Baucus, Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, says "President Obama and I are on the same page," whatever that means. His constituents won't be satisfied with that, I can assure you.

"Community organizing" is a two-way street. It looks to me as if the shoe is on the other foot, now that we have a truly "liberal" president, and liberals have become "the man" that citizens protest against. As the agenda unfolds, look for Obama's approval to decrease. Pres. Bush poked his base in the eye on several issues, both before and after 9/11. Pres. Obama seems to be doing something similar, but he's not getting credit from the people he's trying to "kiss up" to.

Bush held the independents long enough to get re-elected. Will Obama fare as well? He may have smaller majorities in Congress, after the '10 elections. Bold liberal programs may not be helpful to staying in power, but they're what's on the table. Let's see what happens. How committed is our president to the "left-wing" agenda, and what about the rest of his Democratic Party?