I take no particular joy in her passing. But she was terrible, a walking symbol of Beltway journalism with its extremely limited willingness to admit that anything like a left exists, where her right-leaning centrism often served as the supposedly liberal voice in “balanced” debates, and where any idea to the left of the ACA is seen as radicalism that must be shunned. Few got as much TV time to spread this poison to the American people. I have never been “fortunate” enough to read her history books, but historians I know who have read them say they are an utter atrocity against both the past and present.
It’s going to be a giant day of mourning within mainstream media, combined with the opportunity to talk about itself, its favorite topic. But the loss of Cokie Roberts’ voice is far from deleterious to the American media landscape. Not that they won’t find someone else to spew mindless centrism that serves elite political aims.
If Roberts’ vacuous segments seem phoned-in, it’s probably because they are. She does them from her home. In 2000, she told the New York Times that her “dog barking during a show” presented the “biggest problem” doing the early-a.m. spot, adding that her pup’s NPR airtime had made him “something of a cult figure.”
If only the dog barked a little more—the segment might have more going for it. I can think of no comparably sized media space that’s as void of original insight and information as Roberts’. Her segments, though billed as “analysis” by NPR, do little but speed-graze the headlines and add a few grace notes. If you’re vaguely conversant with current events, you’re already cruising at Roberts’ velocity. Roberts doesn’t just voice the conventional wisdom; she is the conventional wisdom. Give a listen to her March 9, 2009, chatter:
Some [Republicans] say the president is doing too much, what he’s doing too much about things they don’t necessarily want him to do right now—healthcare, education, energy. And they’re worried that he’s using this crisis for big changes that they don’t want. And, of course, that is the case. The administration will try to do that. But they go between saying that he’s a socialist, and the president did seem to feel the need to call a New York Times reporter after an interview this weekend to say he’s not a socialist. And the Republicans are saying he should—some Republicans—that he should nationalize the banks. So it is, you know, it is all over the place.And then some say he should be doing more. Others say he’s mortgaging our children’s future. So I think that they’re just trying to get their voices out there, mainly trying to drown out Rush Limbaugh’s voice as the voice of the Republican party.
If you can find an original thought in there, you’re welcome to it.
Don’t despise Roberts’ journalism just for what she says but for how she says it. The most irritating of her collection of tics is declaring a specific news topic “interesting,” “very interesting,” or “really interesting.” Yet her declarations almost never signal the approach of anything notable: It’s her way of squid-inking the waters so she can say something completely superficial and escape before the listener can think it though. Examples:
“It’s interesting, Harry Reid is also somewhat crossways with the president on the issue of earmarks.”
—March 2, 2009“Well, you know, what is interesting is when you talk to Republicans in Congress, they say, look, we know we’re not voting with [Obama].”
—Feb. 23, 2009“Senator Gregg is an interesting choice for commerce secretary.”
—Feb. 2, 2009“Each side [is] trying to make bi-partisanship a partisan issue. You know, I’m being more bi-partisan than you are. And that’s an interesting dynamic to see play out.”
—Jan. 25, 2009“But one thing I found really interesting is [Bush] said he didn’t feel isolated in this job, which you’ve heard from other presidents.”
—Jan. 12, 2009“But Bob Gates is a very interesting character.”
—Dec. 1, 2008“Well, there’s this interesting scenario that both campaigns have spun out, that they could each end up with 269 electoral votes, a tie, and each would need one more to get to the 270.”
—Oct. 6, 2008“So it’s going to be interesting to see how [the Palin nomination] plays out.”
—Sept. 1, 2008
NPR commentator Cokie Roberts Monday joked that “birth control” would be more effective than tougher immigration laws in producing a Latino vote in favor of the Republican Party.
In a conversation with host Steve Inskeep and Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson on NPR’s “Politics in the News,” Inskeep pointed to recent surge in Latino early voting asking if they will “be the ones that actually decide this election.”
Roberts said it will be “very significant” if Latinos “bring Hillary Clinton over the top” in states like Florida and Nevada, adding that outcome is a “reason for the electoral college.”
“You wouldn’t be paying that much attention to Latinos nationwide, they’re only about 12 percent of the vote,’ Roberts said. “But in states like Florida, Nevada, Texas, Arizona, it’s a much higher percentage and—clearly—there’s been a tremendous organization to get them voting and that’s a direct result of ‘build the wall.’”
Carlson argued that once Texas stops being a solid Republican state, “it’s over, there are no more national elections,” insisting the electoral college will overwhelmingly vote Democrat and “there’s really no need for a presidential election anymore.”
“If [the Texas] vote is within three or four percent, that’s really ominous for Republicans,” Carlson continued. “You can draw your own conclusions about they ought to respond to that, whether we ought to tighten immigration or they ought to win more Latino votes, or whatever.”
“Well, immigration wouldn’t do it,” Roberts said. “You’d have to do birth control to make it useful to Republicans.”
Not sure how we will replace this sage voice.