NPR's Shocking Turn: A Real Conservative Frustrates E.J. Dionne

Last Friday’s All Things Considered segment on NPR was a real treat because David Brooks was absent, and therefore, couldn’t be his squishy self alongside liberal columnist E.J. Dionne.  National Review’s Mona Charen, a real conservative, filled in for the New York Times pseudo-Republican, and effectively countered Dionne’s Obama cheerleading.

The two were asked by host Robert Siegel to analyze the president’s State of the Union address last week, and to no one’s surprise – that Dionne was fawning over the speech, while Charen took a more pragmatic approach.

ROBERT SIEGEL: Let's start with the State of the Union, which you've both written about and, not surprisingly, you reviewed very differently. Mona, you wrote a column that said this, the lesson from the State of the Union address is this: Barack Obama has no second term agenda. What was a strikingly bad proposal in your view in that State of the Union?

MONA CHAREN: Oh, there were a couple. There was the minimum wage, raising the minimum wage is something pulled out of a 1970's bag of ideas. We know from the surveys and the research that though it may seem like you're doing the poor a favor by raising the minimum wage, in point of fact, only fewer than 1 percent of people who get the minimum wage are actually full-time workers.

It's mostly for teenagers and every time you raise the minimum wage, a certain percentage of people will lose their jobs altogether. And these are entry-level jobs that are the first rung on the ladder for the poor. And so it really - it seems to be something good for the poor, but it's actually not.

SIEGEL: And E.J., very differently, you wrote that you heard in the State of the Union Address, and I'm quoting, "an ease and specificity that were lacking in earlier speeches. It was," you wrote, "his most Democratic State of the Union."

DIONNE: Yes. That was with a big D. I just think the studies on the minimum wage, by the way, do not show on the whole that it increases unemployment. It does increase wages. I would have actually set it about a dollar higher than he proposed to set it. But, yes, I thought he was a kind of liberated Obama. He looked at ease. He came out and said things that he'd been reluctant to say.

I mean, his case for why we should worry about global warming was as strong as you could have. His case for asking Congress for a vote on his gun proposals was probably the best peroration he's had in a State of the Union Address. I think he took on supply side economics directly. He's clearly trying to change the political direction of the country.

He views himself as the anti-Reagan, not anti in opposing Reagan's methods. He's actually trying to use Reagan-like methods to move the country toward the center-left.

So we have Dionne, instead of analyzing the minimum wage, only says Obama's not so liberal because he would’ve pursued a minimum wage hike of ten bucks an hour, not nine.

Furthermore, insinuating that Barack Obama is Reagan-like is a gross instance of misinformation.  Reagan could work with Democrats.  Obama can’t.  Reagan was a great communicator.  Obama is only effective because of his political team that successfully spins his overt – and suffocating –narcissism. Lastly, he’s not trying to pull the United States, which is right-of-center, towards the center-left.  He’s trying to drag us all the way to the far, progressive left, which is exemplified in his push for Obamacare, contraception, more taxes, more spending, and more red tape.

Then there was a Pre-Kindergarten exchange.

SIEGEL: E.J., what about this idea that whatever virtue there was in the speech, we don't expect much of it to actually become law any time soon or to change lives much?

DIONNE: Well, I actually disagree with that, too, because I think that - Mona said that the background checks might be helpful. It would be a very big deal if we passed background checks. I think that will get through the Congress. I think that a law against gun trafficking will get through. They might even ban the big magazines.

Immigration reform has, I believe, a very good chance of passing Congress. There is a lot of Republican support for that. I think that could happen. I also think his proposal on Pre-K, this is an idea that a lot of Republicans, universal Pre-K, a lot of Republican governors are very enthusiastic about this. That is not a trivial thing.

And then, I think some of his manufacturing initiatives, though not enormous, I readily concede that, I think were, again, an attempt to come to terms with rising inequality and some problems that we've faced for a long time.

SIEGEL: Mona, on the State of the Union, you have the last rebuttal here.

CHAREN: All right. I'll give you immigration. That very well may happen and that would be a good thing. But universal pre-K, not so much. We have spent roughly $180 billion in America over the last number of decades on a program called Head Start. It has not worked. If we knew how to intervene with pre-K kids and help them, I'd say let's do it, but the evidence is we don't know how to do that, at least the federal government doesn't know how to do it.

DIONNE: I think the studies are actually pretty good on pre-K, but I'll leave it at that.

There’s a figure! And the liberal’s default position is to run away.  Dionne then went on to moan about how the Democrats, despite their majority in the Senate, can’t seem to get anything done, and how the filibuster is being abused.  Maybe if Harry Reid worked with Republicans, and stopped tabling all of the bills in the House, then the filibuster wouldn’t be used as often, but that would require work.

Nevertheless, Charen should probably replace the incorrigible Brooks from here on out.

Congress Culture/Society Economy State of the Union NPR All Things Considered E.J. Dionne Mona Charen Robert Siegel