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A reader's letter to NPR

Reader and frequent commenter Alistair Mackay took issue with an interview on NPR this morning with Cokie Roberts, centered around the Trent Lott story. Alistair, an NPR subscriber, was ired enough to send off a letter to NPR regarding his feelings on the issue. It reads like a blog entry and should be a blog entry, and Alistair has given me permission to post his letter here:

As a dues-paying National Public Radio supporter, I was glad that today's "Morning Edition" included Cokie Roberts' analysis of Senator Trent Lott's situation. Roberts noted that the weeklong controversy has been fueled by conservative rather than liberal commentators. She then asserted that these
pundits object to Lott because he is an "institutionalist" and a "legislator" rather than a true-believing right-wing activist in the mold of Rep. Tom DeLay.

It's an interesting and important story. If true. I wouldn't know what motives lurk in the hearts of right-wing pundits. However, to Trent Lott's sorrow, Google makes it easy to recall what people actually say and write.

The "prominent," "conservative" commentators that I've read are Andrew Sullivan, Charles Krauthammer, Joshua Micah Marshall, and Glenn Reynolds. Recent brief quotes from the first two (plenty more where these come from):

Andrew Sullivan: "[Lott's Dec. 6 statement] was part of a pattern of consistently voting and speaking as if he did indeed regret desegregation. [It] was damaging precisely because it makes more sense of Lott's career in racial matters than any other plausible explanation."

Charles Krauthammer: "[Lott's behavior] is about getting wrong the most important political phenomenon in the last half-century of American history: the civil rights movement. Getting wrong its importance is not an issue of political correctness. It is evidence of a historical blindness that is utterrly disqualifying for national office."

Perhaps Sen. Lott's vile statements and craven spin-doctoring have stayed in the news because these analyses make sense to centrist voters like me. Perhaps the heart of this story is best captured by righty pundits, not mainstream media pontificators or collegial apologists (James Jeffords, Paul Simon).

Ms. Roberts might wish to name the commentators who have criticized Lott for his "institutionalist, legislative" tendencies, rather than for his despicable utterances on matters of race and history. If she can't point to any such pundits, she can always apologize for her "poor choice of words" this morning.
Suggestion: do it quickly, completely, and sincerely.

written by Alistair Mackay


I heard the same segment and thought the same things.

This is where blogs really are having a hand in shaping media coverage and therefore public opinion. The immediacy of a weblog can keep an issue alive, while the internet allows access to info that makes a story build and build. A columnist at a paper has one crack or two a week and only a small column of text at their disposal. A weblog can hammer as fast or as heavily as the author wishes. All those who hammered on Lott, especially those you mentioned, deserve a big debt of gratitude for not allowing this guy to get away with his statements.

One thing I have noticed more and more- I wake up in the morning, look at drudge, the yahoo "most popular" news pages, read a few prominent weblogs, check "Best of the Web" at lunch and I am more up to date on news and opinions than I have ever been. Watching even Foxnews in the evening has become a bit of a waste of time- they're only retreading what the internet broke that morning! I don't learn anything new.

One more thing- almost half the time now, the morning paper is going straight into the recycle bin after I read the local section. I don't even crack the first section- they just can't measure up to the internet! It's getting every interesting out there.

----Brian Perry

It does read just like a blog post - somebody get this guy a subdomain somewhere!

I agree with all the above. Since the Net, and in particular blogging, arrived one can really see, hear and feel the agenda driving major media coverage...it's not politics as much as they are playing to each other...news for the newsmakers.

They really don't get that a large portion of the American news audience has left the building.

It's sure going to come as a surprise to Josh Marshall that he's a conservative. Think again. It's not a mistake anyone who reads him could make.

Jon (6:13 PM):

Re Josh Marshall: "[Thinking he's conservative] is not a mistake anyone who reads him could make."

You're right. Talking Points Memo doesn't qualify as conservative. I like what Mr. Marshall has had to say on the subject of Trent Lott's comments, and started reading him last week as a result of referrrals to these posts on his web log. I was in error to include him with the others.

And speaking pre-emptively, Glenn Marshall's libertarian positions and Andrew Sullivan's take on matters sexual may make them uneasy with the "right-wing" label. I imagine Krauthammer will live with it.

The commentators to whom Cokie Roberts originally referred remain unknown to me.

Alastair Mackay

Good to hear. Score another "small victory" for the open minds...

Jon (8:57 AM):

FWIW, I figured out that my error was due to confusing Josh Marshall with Jonah Goldberg (who has also been critical of Lott). All those J's.

I remain glad to see how Sen. Lott is beiong forced to account for his Kinsley-esque remarks (accidentally saying what he really means) by commentators of all stripes. It's a reminder of what's right with this country.