NPR Presses Pelosi From the Left With Code Pink Criticism

NPR’s Morning Edition broadcast an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday, lamenting her from the left. Co-host Steve Inskeep reported that a new vote on war funding "means Democrats get a reminder of something they have not accomplished. For a year and a half now they've tried and failed to end the war." Would that really be an "accomplishment"?

While the story aired current and dated declarations from Pelosi that Bush has his "head in the sand" to conditions in Iraq, NPR’s interviewer, KQED/San Francisco correspondent Scott Shafer, never asked if improvement in Iraq might have changed just which politicians look like they have a "head in the sand" to current conditions. But then, Shafer has a partisan background: he worked as a press secretary to San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos and as chief of staff to Gray Davis when he was the state of California’s comptroller.

Shafer made no acknowledgment anything has changed since 2006, that the surge happened and violence is way down, but only that the death toll surpassed 4,000:

SCOTT SHAFER: In November of 2006, the day after Democrats won a majority in the House, Nancy Pelosi -- then poised to become speaker - expressed hope that the war was about to wind down.

NANCY PELOSI : We must not continue on this catastrophic path. And so hopefully we can work with the president for a new direction, one that solves the problem in Iraq.

SHAFER: But today, 18 months into her speakership, there are more U.S. troops in Iraq than the day Pelosi took the gavel. And the death toll has passed 4,000. Sitting in her office at the U.S. Capitol near a window that perfectly frames the Washington monument, the San Francisco Democrat expressed her frustration about the war.

PELOSI: The president has a tin ear to the voice of the American people. They spoke. He didn't care. He has a blind eye to what's happening on the ground in Iraq. He's got his head in the sand.

SHAFER: How disappointed are you that you haven't been able to do more in terms of ending the war?

PELOSI: Very disappointed. It's the main issue. Everything else is eclipsed by the war. All of our accomplishments are eclipsed by the war, because we didn't end the war. And the war has an impact on other issues.

Shafer then went on to highlight criticism of Pelosi from the far left, which NPR, as usual, only classified as "anti-war." He cited Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, but made no mention of the disruptive protest group. Pelosi was pressed to defend how liberal the House Democrats were, even the "conservative" Blue Dog Democrats:

SHAFER: The San Francisco district Pelosi represents is one of the most liberal in the nation. But as speaker, Pelosi's constituents are the other 235 Democrats in Congress, including the most conservative members, known as the Blue Dogs. Antiwar activist Medea Benjamin says liberals feel betrayed after being encouraged by Pelosi's antiwar rhetoric before the 2006 election.

MEDEA BENJAMIN: And what we see now, it's been part of a political game. Talk a hard line, put the blame on Bush, but make sure the money keeps flowing, at least until the presidential election.

SHAFER: Benjamin thinks Pelosi has failed to pressure the conservative Blue Dog Democrats into supporting troop withdrawal deadlines -- a charge that makes Pelosi bristle.

PELOSI: We have a very progressive caucus. And when we come to voting for a definite timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, our Blue Dogs have been with us. They have not strayed from this.

SHAFER: Pelosi has a point. Last year, Congress did pass legislation bringing most of the troops home by the end of 2008. But President Bush vetoed it. He's threatening to veto the current war funding bill too, presuming the House goes along with the Senate's $165 billion version. It sets no deadlines for bringing home troops. But it includes more domestic spending than Republicans and Blue Dogs want. The speaker needs every Democratic vote, because she'll get little help from the Republicans.

At least, Shafer did include a Republican view, but it wasn’t a Republican view on the success of the surge, but merely a critique of Pelosi’s relationship with Bush:

RICH BOND: I think she maybe gets a D.

SHAFER: Former Republican National Committee chair Rich Bond gives Pelosi low marks, because he faults her for a troubled political partnership with the president.

Mr. BOND: Speaker Pelosi has no relationship with the president of the United States. It's toxic, and that really doesn't serve either side.

SHAFER: That toxicity between Pelosi and the minority party leave some Republicans calling her Czar Nancy. Still, she rejects the notion that she and Bush don't have a good working relationship.

Representative PELOSI: Oh, I think I have a very truthful and candid relationship with the president. He knows I have to do what I have to do, and I know he has to do what he had to do.

Shafer wrapped up with standard-issue talking head Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute defending Pelosi by saying thending the war with 100,000-plus Americans under fire is "not a practical reality in the world."

Shafer’s biography on the KQED website noted that he "started his radio news career in the early 1980s as a reporter for KPFA in Berkeley and KFBK in Sacramento," two stations in the radical-left Pacifica Radio network. Then, there was Shafer’s Democratic-aide history:

From 1988 to 1992, Shafer served former San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos as Deputy Press Secretary and then Press Secretary, and from 1992 to 1994 he served then-State Controller Gray Davis as Chief of Staff. He left a position as principal in the San Francisco public relations firm Staton, Hughes & Shafer to join KQED 88.5FM in 1998.

You could certainly see how Pelosi would see Shafer as a friendly interviewer, even if he was pressing her to please Code Pink instead of pressing her on whether the surge’s success should change her characterization of the Iraq War.

Iraq NPR Morning Edition Scott Shafer Steve Inskeep
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