Thursday, March 3, 2011

NPR’s Interview of Gov. Mitch Daniels Doesn’t Include Hard Questions

On the February 28, 2011, edition of NPR’s Morning Edition, host Steve Inskeep interviewed Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Take a few moments and read the transcript of the interview. It seems to me that other than asking Gov. Daniels about the Clinton-era budget surplus and the Bush tax cuts that lead to large deficits, Inskeep really didn’t ask Gov. Daniels any “hard” questions. Moreover, I’d say that Inskeep’s failure to really ask any probing questions of Gov. Daniels with regard to the Bush tax cuts (or Inskeep’s willingness to let Gov. Daniels essentially render his own involvement in the decision-making process as de minimis) deprived listeners of getting a chance to hear real explanations of complicated issues from Gov. Daniels.

What I also find troubling about this interview is the fact that the day before the interview, Inskeep posted the following on Twitter:

Taping at 4pm with Indiana's much-talked about R Gov. Mitch Daniels: what would you ask?

In response to this query, I offered several suggested lines of questioning for Inskeep (each in 140 characters or less; and you can see my tweets here):

  • Ask why his admin won't release accurate info re actual numbers of jobs created vs. Jobs promised.
  • Ask him about failed privatization if [sic] Indiana's welfare system and $1+ billion cost.
  • Ask him why he let his state treasurer (Lugar's challenger) fight Quixotic battle against Chrysler bankruptcy.
  • Ask him how Indiana's budget would look without federal stimulus money.
  • Ask him what Indiana's economy would be like without stimulus or auto bailout.
  • Ask him what US economy would be like if he'd done a better job of advising President Bush on the costs of the Iraq war.
  • Ask him why, if he wants a social truce, he's letting Indiana Republicans focus on social issues with no jobs bill in sight.
  • Ask - and demand a yes or no answer - if he supports or opposes amending Indiana's constitution to ban gay marriage.
  • Ask him why a Republican filibuster in Congress was OK but using the quorum rules of the Indiana constitution is "unacceptable".

Instead, we only got questions on the national deficit, extension of tax cuts after 2012, and whether Gov. Daniels will run for President. Inskeep makes oblique reference to what is happening today in Indiana … but doesn’t ask about Indiana at all. I understand that Gov. Daniels is getting national attention, but to focus on national issues and issues that are more than a year away, while ignoring important issues pending in Indiana (not to mention the fact that Gov. Daniels hasn’t even said that he’s going to run for President) was the wrong point of focus for this interview.

Look, I have no idea how many responses Inskeep received to his query. Nor am I presumptuous enough to think that all of the questions that I posed were the best or even appropriate (perhaps the interview was intended to focus only on national issues). But I think that Inskeep let Gov. Daniels off far too easy and never really pushed him to answer the hard questions.

If Mitch Daniels has any intention of running for President, he’s going to have to answer some of these questions (well, maybe not in Republican primaries, he won’t). But when the media has a chance to ask hard, probing, substantive questions … and fails (or refuses), then we as listeners and voters aren’t being well-served.

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