Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Feet to the Fire

Representative Raul Labrador [R - Idaho]: I personally would be willing to give the president a one year CR and I have a lot of conservatives there with me, which would be good for the president, in exchange for a one-year delay in the implementation of Obamacare. And I think that would be something where both sides actually would be able to get something out of these negotiations.


Renee Montagne: Would you be happy with that [the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act] in a year?

Labrador: I won't be happy with it in a year. My position would be: Yes, let's get rid of the entire program. But I know we don't have the votes to do that. And I don't think it's unreasonable for us to ask for one year delay, of a program that's clearly not working.
Rep. Labrador Of Idaho Weighs In On Government Shutdown
If Representative Labrador's offering a one-year delay of the Affordable Care Act in exchange for a one-year Continuing Resolution, what happens when the year is up? It seems that we end up back in the same place, especially given that his stated goal is to kill the ACA in its entirety. Given this I was somewhat surprised that Ms. Montagne didn't ask Representative Labrador what happens at the end of the year. (The question immediately occurred to me.) Now, to be sure, I suspect that the Representative would likely have attempted to dodge the question, as his choices would have been either making a commitment to allow the law to take full effect or basically admit that he was offering a deal that it made no sense for the President and Senate Democrats to go along with.

Granted, we already understand this, but putting the question out there would have required that Representative Labrador go on the record with his answer. And that may have irritated him, and made it more difficult to get him on the show in the future. But this becomes the problem with relying on "the media" for things like this - they can ask questions, but they generally can't compel their subjects to answer. I would, however, like to have seen the risk taken, and the question asked. But then again, I don't live in the 1st Congressional District of Idaho. And, presumably, those are the people to whom Representative Labrador has to answer when the next election rolls around. Therefore, it's unlikely that he'd say anything that he understands would hurt the cause - or knowingly put himself in a position where not answering would do the same. Because, frankly, he doesn't have to. Refusing to speak to NPR on-air would likely elevate him in the eyes of his constituents. And NPR knows that. So an informative question goes unasked, and Representative Labrador is allowed to cast aspersions on Senate Democrats without even a hint of challenge.

As often as we say that the public relies on the media, the media actually relies on the public. Parts of it, anyway. As long as Republican voters in the 1st District will side with Representative Labrador if he clashes with Ms. Montagne, she has little power as an interviewer. Aggrieved NPR listeners nationwide can "beseech her to do her duty as the fourth estate" all they want, but their opinions carry little weight. It is not an activist, engaged media that makes for a better public. It's an activist, engaged public that makes for a better media. We can't expect the media to simply go after suspect items on the part of people we dislike. We have to be prepared to do the same for the people we like.

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