Hugh Hewitt

On Thursday NPR released the results of its internal review of the firing of Juan Williams. A New York law firm pronounced --surprise-- that the taxpayer-funded radio network's actions had been "legal." The sole casualty was the network's head of news, Ellen Weiss, tossed under the bus and off the payroll. NPR's CEO Vivian Schiller lost her 2010 bonus as a sort of make-weight to a hilarious episode in faux corporate governance.

Read all of NPR's own reporting on the shakeup at HQ, including this wonderful takeaway at the very end of the piece: '[Weiss] will be replaced temporarily by Margaret Low Smith, NPR's vice president for programming. The two executives joined NPR on the same week in 1982."

Change is in the air, eh?

NPR is a hard-left organization run by hard-left ideolouges who haven't changed their tone or core political beliefs in more than thirty years, though I confess surprise that the head of news and the head of programming are both veterans of the early anti-Reagan years. Those two with Nina "forgive-the-expression" Totenberg must make up the longest serving triumverate of the left in a major news organization, and between them have worked out the party line response to five presidents and countless crucial national events.

This "shake-up" is a desperate attempt to try and hold off the defunding demands that surged in the aftermath of the PC police's slams at Williams last year. Suddenly, with a clarity that is rarely achieved, a massive number of people said at once "We are paying for this?" At first NPR tried to respond with claims of consistent application of standards, an effort which fell apart immediately. Then defenders of state-sponsored propaganda from the left fell back to the "It isn't that much money," and now they are offering up human sacrifices to the Beltway gods of the appropriations committees. The bell is tolling for the left's breakfast club. The View is so low brow. What will they do without the bits of classical music interspersed with the reporting, telegraphing intellectual and cultural superiority.

The next flailing gesture will be a very interesting one as a new panel is to be established comprised of NPR insiders, "respected journalists and others outside of NPR." This panel is going to look at the ethics of the NPR operation.

Anyone want to guess who will be called to serve? They will need a couple of big name semi-retired commercial network types, a couple of retired senators, an acceptable Republican and someone from Harvard. A home run would be former Secretary of State Rice, though she is far too smart to be dragged into this charade. Together they will labor and decide that nothing like this should happen again and that the money should of course keep flowing.

Does anyone inside NPR see the irony of the use of the term "respected journalists?" Are they aware of the farce? Respected by whom, exactly? How self-important can one organization be?

It won't work, or at least it shouldn't. Speaker Boehner knows as does Chairman Hal Rodgers of Appropriations that the Tea Party now attaches enormous significance to the funding of NPR and of the Corproation for Public Broadcasting, and with very good reason. Why in an era of government austerity should even a dime of tax money be spent on the care and feeding of liberal elites? Why should Nina and Vivian and Margaret get a subsidy (and perhaps Ellen's retirement as well) when the rest of the country is being told the era of limits has arrived.

"I do not like the liberal bent that they generally put out," Chairman Rodgers told me in an interview (the transcript is here). The problem is more basic than the "liberal bent" however, and goes to the core notion of government's reach. The government shouldn't be in broadcast, certainly not in an era of a million avenues to the public's eyes and ears. The taxpayer shouldn't be funding the right or the left, though in fact 99% of the money goes to the left for the which the left doesn't even have the decency to admit its own overwhelming bias.

Though center-right people do not much listen to the NPR line, those that do hear the bias every day all day, in the choice of guests, in the questions asked, in the subjects not covered and the attitudes expressed obliquely. Those who deny the deep bias of the network are either ignorant or mired in deceit. A half-century of subsidized self-important sneering is enough.

So the subsidy has to end, which won't end NPR of course. Their loyal listeners, and there are millions, will step forward to provide funding. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting ought to be cut off just as completely and just as quickly, and yet PBS will survive. NPR and PBS are very much like the churches of the secular absolutists, with favorite pastors and preachers, and their followers will sacrifice for them.

But those who disagree with these messages ought not to have to pay for them any more than a lefty should be taxed to support an evangelical Christian revival meeting.

The complete cut-off of NPR is close to a "must-deliver" for Speaker Boehner, one weighted with enormous symbolism for the Tea Party as well as the old right. If NPR emerges with a dollar when the new Continuing Resolution is passed come March, the conclusion will quickly and ruthlessly be drawn that the House GOP is not serious about controlling spending because there is nothing easier to cut than the NPR-CPB subsidy, nothing with less consequence to the public good, nothing so patently and completely unfair and as unnecessary as milk money for the left.

In the meantime, watch for that new NPR committee as it will be a howler. I suppose that NPR's Board could summon Mark Steyn to chair the review of the ethics code of the network, thus demonstrating their complete confidence in their mission, but the Board hasn't got the guts or the flare for that. (A conservative Roman Catholic bishop would also be a nice touch, given the systematic exclusion of all pro-life views from the network for thirty years). Instead lefties on the board will summon other lefties for urgent hushed discussions about the pressure from the unwashed, and they will find a token Manhattan-Beltway conservative or two for their panel, and they will pray that the president, Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer know the value of their contribution to the cause.

This is the first highly symbolic battle of the next two years, a short and sharp engagement that will tell us much about the resolve of the new GOP majority in the House and of the willingness of the left to seek defensible in the spending battles ahead. Which of the nearly two dozen senate Democrats facing the voters in the fall of 2012 want to be seen as vocal allies of NPR's subsidy? Which of the freshmen GOP want to return to their districts with a townhall meeting ahead of them when someone will bring a radio turned to "All Things Considered?"

NPR's and CPB's days of clover should be at an end. The public doesn't want to pay for public broadcast any more.


Hugh Hewitt

Hugh Hewitt is host of a nationally syndicated radio talk show. Hugh Hewitt's new book is The War On The West.