During its 9:00 a.m. news cast this morning, National Public Radio (NPR) did its bit to counter the impact of Sarah Palin’s hit speech. Reporting on Palin’s speech, NPR noted that Palin promised that she and John McCain would bring about “what she called real reform.” NPR then tried to demonstrate that Palin is a hypocite. First, it played a clip from 2006 in which Palin spoke well of Alaska’s congressional delegation (“God bless ’em, they do a great job for us”). Then NPR said it was Congress, not Palin, that killed the Bridge to Nowhere, and that Palin did not give the money back to the U.S. government but instead kept it for other projects.
If NPR wants to present a feature on Palin’s record as a reformer, that’s fine. Her record as governor probably provides the best evidence of her fitness for higher office, and it merits scrutiny. But scrutiny means a fair and reasonably comprehensive analysis of her overall record, not a drive-by attack during a “top-of-the-hour” newscast.
If NPR attempts such scrutiny, let’s hope it can come up with something more than Palin’s generic praise for her state’s congressional delegation and her decision not to return federal money to Washington. The fact that, as governor, Palin acted in the interest of her state by using federal money to help its residents in ways the state, not the feds, saw fit is hardly evidence that she’s not a reformer. Nor is it evidence that, as a member of the federal executive branch, Palin would support earmarks. As the Heritage Foundation explained at the time:
Defenders of earmarks often say, as they did in this case, that the earmark is simply a reflection of local priorities. But that clearly wasnâ€™t true here: Alaska still got the money, but decided it had higher priorities than the â€œbridge to nowhere.â€ If money must be funneled through Washington before it ends up back in the hands of states, then it appears that refraining from earmarking is the best way of serving local priorities.
Finally, NPR’s suggestion that Palin had no role in killing the Bridge to Nowhere is not consistent with my understanding of the facts. According to an AP report from September 21, 2007 (link no longer available), after Congress deleted the earmark specifying that the money it was appropriating for Alaska be used to build the bridge, Alaska still had the option of using the money for that purpose. Palin decided not to. That’s what finally killed the bridge.
UPDATE: In fairness, this balanced piece about Palin by Dick Meyer ran on NPR’s webpage. But an online article is not the same thing as a “drive-time” newscast.