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Don’t Fire Nina Totenberg, Fire NPR

Let the left-wing commentators try their luck with the market.

You know how an unplanned remark can sometimes make a point more eloquently and emphatically than a carefully crafted prepared statement can? There was such a moment over the weekend when National Public Radio’s legal correspondent Nina Totenberg said this on “Inside Washington,” a weekly political wrap-up that airs on the PBS affiliate in Washington, D.C.:

“I was at a, forgive the expression, a Christmas party at the Department of Justice and. . . . .”

In those three words, Totenberg told us everything we need to know about her politics while reminding us that the “good war” liberals have long sought to deflect charges that they’re soft, doughy pacifists is not the war in Afghanistan — .that war is so last White House. No, the good and noble war liberals consistently support is the war on Christmas, and Nina Totenberg has just revealed herself to be a dedicated foot soldier in that unending battle.
 
Whenever news from the front makes it to our front pages, like yesterday when we learned that Red Cross centers in the United Kingdom have been barred from using the word “Christmas,” it brings to mind nagging questions about the war on Christmas. For example, what’s our exit strategy there? How exactly would we define “victory” in such a war — when people start actually celebrating Kwanzaa instead? Were we tricked into declaring war on Christmas by the use of phony evidence, such as the so-called “Presents of Mass Destruction”? And, of course, how does Santa know which of us were naughty and which of us were nice, and is the CIA involved in that?
 
The war on Christmas, of course, is really more of a battle in the over-all war on all things traditionally American, which is as good a definition of the modern Progressive movement (not the insurance company, the other one) as any, and better than most. Hence Christmas, being one of America’s most cherished traditions, is targeted by progressives (liberals, whatever) who incessantly associate it with gluttony, consumerism (the now-obligatory “overly commercialized” theme of most Christmas movies), hypocrisy, and, worst of all, blatant Christianity.
 
So it’s not the least bit surprising that Nina Totenberg should apologize, on camera in front of millions of viewers, for carelessly using the expression “Christmas party.” Nina Totenberg — the same Nina Totenberg who wished (also on “Inside Washington”) that Jesse Helms’ grandchildren would contract AIDS, who hugged Lani Guinier while “covering” the story of her nomination as associate attorney general, who went after Clarence Thomas, whose marriage ceremony was officiated by Ruth Bader Ginsburg) is, in point of fact, a liberal advocate posing as a journalist — which would be perfectly all right if, like Glenn Beck or Keith Olberman, she would simply acknowledge it. Instead, Nina Totenberg has made a lucrative career of delivering the “news” on radio and television networks that are publicly funded, yet have a distinct, undeniable left-of-center bias. And that, as liberals are wont to say nowadays, is not OK.
 
As a daily consumer of NPR and PBS programming — much of it quite excellent, by the way — I can assure you that the vast majority of their programming comes from a left-of-center perspective. Anyone who denies this at this point is, in my considered opinion, either delusional or doesn’t actually tune in to public broadcasting as often as he or she claims to. In a million ways, large and small, NPR’s on-air talent wear their “hip.” progressive, relentlessly compassionate politics on their sustainably produced, nonprison- or child-labor-manufactured sleeves.
 
Some of the bias is subtle, like the endless, near-hysterical coverage of World Cup soccer, as opposed to the occasional, often dismissive segment on American football. And some of the bias is blatant, like the way NPR morning hosts, normally self-effacing, warm and measured, become prickly (if not openly combative) during their (very occasional) interviews with conservatives.
 
I can still remember a segment on “Marketplace,” a supposedly nonpartisan NPR show about economics, during which the author of a book on the estate tax was interviewed. The host’s first question had to do with how the estate tax came to be repealed, and it went something like this: “So who came up with this crazy idea, anyway?” That is simply not something you would hear on an objective news source, but on NPR it’s a commonplace occurrence.
Imagine trying to launch a federally funded Corporation for Public Broadcasting-type entity today whose mission was to create radio and TV programming (including news, public affairs and even entertainment), and mostly from a right-of-center political perspective. You can’t, can you? I can’t either, and I just typed the words on my keyboard.
 
 The very thought of Congress approving such a thing is preposterous, and yet its exact, left-wing counterpart is on the air every day, coast to coast, thanks to your tax dollars!
 
But maybe not forever. A new Congress is convening in a couple of weeks, and it’s going to be looking for places to cut the budget. I know it’s only $100 million a year or so (a figure I’m sure the 10 percent of Americans out of work right now are scoffing at), but perhaps the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s budget, which funds NPR and PBS, would be a good place to start. I for one am tired of funding a corporate entity (yes, that’s what they are!) whose programming attacks me, my country, or my values on virtually a daily basis.
 
But to be fair, as I’ve stated, much of public broadcasting’s programming is excellent. Moreover, they clearly have a sizable audience and the potential to attract paying advertisers. Let public broadcasting take its chances in the open market like every other broadcaster. It’s a little thing we call,.you should forgive the expression,.free market capitalism.

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Written By

Ned Rice is believed to be the only person in Hollywood to have both written for "Real Time with Bill Maher" and voted Republican. His other staff writing credits include "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "Jimmy Kimmel Live," and many other fine television programs.

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