Thursday, March 31, 2005

Fresh Air Getting a Little Stale (ouch, that was bad)

I used to like listening to Terry Gross' interview show on NPR, Fresh Air. She's a truly inquisitive interviewer who asks probing questions that allow her guests to reveal themselves. She's not an attack dog, but that's ok, it just not her style. But over the last 2-3 years, her show has basically turned into the Why George Bush Is Really Really Wrong show. Her show has gone from an ostensibly objective interview show to a one-woman campaign to discredit the Bush Administration's foreign policy. She's put on just about every Bush foreign policy critic you can think of, and lets them go without seeking to question their convictions or provide a balance of opposing viewpoints. (Yes, she has some opposing viewpoints, but they're clearly in the minority.) And her questioning style now goes something like this: At what point did you realize that George Bush is completely wrong? And then the person explains why, and she mm hmms sagely in response.

Right now she's interviewing Flynt Leverett, former senior director for Middle Eastern affairs at the National Security Council, who has just written a book about Syria. I've actually never heard of this guy, although I pride myself somewhat nerdishly on keeping up with the cast of characters in the current foreign policy debates, but he is one of the Vets, as someone has tagged all the former Bush Administration officials who have left and turned to a life of commentary. Apparently he has been providing commentary on Middle East policy since leaving the Administration, and he doesn't like what he sees. For example, he thinks we should be more engaged with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, rather than seeking his overthrow. That's fine for him, except Terry lets him make statements of opinion as though they were fact, with no contest, and lets pass squishily non-factual statements without calling him on them. For example, she asks if Lebanon's anti-Syria rallies are the result of Bush's Iraq policy. Leverett unsurprisingly says no, and Terry moves on to the next question. Oh, ok, thanks for clearing that one up.

By contrast, she is often snarky with pro-Bush guests. After Leverett, she had on Elizabeth Dibble, Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, who is allowed all of about 4 minutes to talk and with whom Terry tries to play gotcha by asking her twice to state definitively that the Administration is not seeking regime change in Syria, and then allowing embarrassing dead air time to condemn Dibble's refusal to comply.

You can find it all here.

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