On their Friday Week in Politics segment on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered newscast, they discussed just how “ultraconservative” the early Trump cabinet picks are. No one eight years ago discussed how “ultraliberal” Barack Obama’s administration would get. But New York Times columnist David Brooks at least made this discussion of extremism amusing by suggesting Trumpians were “headbanger Guns N' Roses conservatives.”
This is amusing in part because GNR lead singer Axl Rose rants against Trump on Twitter. Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne led off with the “far right” references:
E.J. DIONNE: I am reminded of one of Ronald Reagan's great line that he once said the problem with my administration is that the right hand doesn't know what the far-right hand is doing. And here what you have are normal right-wing Republicans, people like Reince Priebus, close to the Koch brothers, a very ideological conservative but a normal politician, Betsy DeVos, a big advocate of vouchers and charter schools at the Education Department. And then you've got Jeff Sessions, Steve Bannon, General Flynn - I mean, so far there's very little reassurance for anybody who is not on the right, some reassurance for conventional conservatives. And I think that the fight over Mitt Romney, which we'll get to, suggests how much difficulty there'll be in other kinds of voices penetrating this cabinet.
ARI SHAPIRO, anchor: David, I wonder if you really see this as right versus far-right, or is there also some sort of alt-right influence? I mean, Steve Bannon cannot exactly be considered mainstream Republican or ultraconservative per se.
DAVID BROOKS: Yeah, I'd say pop-right. There's a bunch of headbanger, Guns 'N Roses conservatives, types.
DIONNE: I was being respectful when I said far-right, you know?
BROOKS: I meant that as a compliment. You know, I regard so far the picks as amazingly coherent with the campaign. This is a populist nationalist candidate, and he's picked by and large populist nationalist people. And I think Steve Bannon put it well. They're going to try to spend a lot of money, make some conservatives very upset with how much federal spending there is in a way to give working-class people jobs and probably a way to get working-class people of different races over to their side. I think that's the vision, to create a multi-racial populist majority. And so far I have to say these are not conventional Republicans. It's populist Trumpian nationalists.
A quick search of NPR transcripts on the Nexis database searching for terms like "far left," "hard left," "radical left," and "ultraliberal" during the Obama transition in 2008 and 2009 turned up nothing.
On the November 19, 2008 Morning Edition, NPR's Scott Horsley dismissed the label in a story headlined "Obama Takes 'Common Sense' View On Economy."
HORSLEY: Although candidate Obama was criticized during the campaign as coming from the far-left lane of Democratic politics, Bernstein says President-elect Obama seeks input from both sides of the road, and the middle as well.
Dr. JARED BERNSTEIN: He is not driven by ideology, and in fact, he kind of sits atop these discussions and cherry-picks one good idea from one side and one from the other.
Bernstein soon signed up for the administration at Vice President Biden's economic adviser.
On the January 18, 2009 Weekend Edition Sunday, as anchor Liane Hansen brought up the "much anticipated inauguration" of Obama, Juan Williams also dismissed any notion of appealing to the fringe: "If you ask him about something like reparations, his eyes go, you know, blank. So, when you think in those kind of far-left black political terms, he is not going to satisfy that agenda."