Infuriating NPR Interview with Elizabeth Warren

Adam Davidson, one of the hosts of NPR's "Planet Money" just conducted a bullying, appallingly stupid interview with Elizabeth Warren that's worth hearing just for a glimpse into just how glib and superficial journalists can be.

Davidson accuses Warren of stepping beyond her bailout watchdog role to advocate for her "pet issues" (Davidson isn't specific about what Warren's "pet issues" are but presumably he is referring to Warren's advocacy for consumers in a number of areas from credit cards to mortgages).

When Warren points out that the financial crisis will "not be over until the American family begins to recover" and that the financial crisis does not "exist independently" from problems experienced by American families (skyrocketing foreclosure rates, high debt levels on credit cards), Davidson sarcastically interjects "that's your crisis." [More...]

Look: the Elizabeth Warren-is-Overstepping Her Bounds is a tired, discredited meme and its already been thoroughly demolished.

As John Carney wrote at Clusterstock recently:

"Her sharply worded missives on the faults of the bailout plans have surprisingly rubbed some pundits the wrong way, resulting in a fierce backlash. Most of this backlash, however, is more confused than it is convincing.

At the heart of the matter is the contention that Warren has somehow stepped beyond the parameters of her role as a TARP watchdog to become a shadow Treasury Secretary. This accusation, however, is built on an uninformed and unduly constrained view of her role as chair of the Congressiional Oversight Panel. The panel was not charged with simply watching the TARP funds go and monitoring their effectiveness. It was charged, in a law duly passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president, with reporting to Congress on 'the current state of the financial markets and the regulatory system.'"

That's exactly right and, indeed, Warren repeatedly told Davidson that a huge part of her oversight role is to "make sure we have a functioning banking system. I think I've said that like nine times now. Of course we've got to have a functioning banking system."

So, how exactly is she overstepping her bounds or advocating for her "pet issues"? Davidson doesn't say.

And that's not the worst of it. Throughout the interview, Davidson's tone is snide, bullying and sarcastic. At one point, Davidson tells Warren: "I want to make you madder."

Being angry, as we all know from years of lectures from "serious" mainstream media figures like David Broder, is a cardinal sin.

But the amazing thing to behold about this interview is that Warren isn't really angry; she's just passionate that taxpayers interests are represented in the bailout process.

Unlike Warren, I am angry. I'm angry that Davidson can dismiss Warren's ideas as "not accepted broad wisdom" and leave it at that. It is breathtaking that after 9-11, Iraq, torture, Katrina and now the financial crisis that "accepted broad wisdom" on any issue can be touted as reliable.

One would have to have just arrived on Earth from Mars to hold conventional wisdom in such high regard. But that's what passes for thinking even at prestigious media like NPR.

< Ain't That a Kick In the Head (LAPD Style) | When Is Fighting For Your Principles Wrong? >
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    absolutely insane (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by joze46 on Thu May 14, 2009 at 02:34:47 AM EST
    My take after listening to the interview; Adam Davidson, if that's who he was, is a creep. This is only my opinion, never heard him before and it sounds like gee that's the way it always has been done for the past eight years. Elizabeth, guess what it sounds like, its normal business to subsidize the banks as far as Davidson is concerned. It's top down Bush and Company economics.  

    Elizabeth if anything went wrong in Davidson's job like getting layed off it seems apparent he would likely go back and live with mom and dad. Could careless about anybodies family issues. Or, everyday likely has breakfast with his friendly banker while hearing all the misery the banks are going through. Nothing like screwing up and getting tax money for it. But, that's the way it always been...

    The only way to clean up this act is to get them all to admit that they should have come forward earlier. What I am trying to say, give up before they are indicted and he, Davidson might likely be indicted too for complicity, both are helping each other to cook the books with the help of public broadcasting. They likely cooked the books to look good until Bush left office.

    For me it is absolutely insane for banks to even consider asking for amounts of money like billions of dollars every so often. That's not business thats public tax charity. More over did not Bush and Company start this tarp thing? So there it is a huge massive in your face totally abusive down right deliberate premeditated with every intention in do respect for your stupidity to screw you and me with a smile.

    The male host interrupting the female guest... (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by lambert on Thu May 14, 2009 at 11:53:33 AM EST
    talking over her, snickering, and shouting her down is an old story. And not a pleasant one.

    Warren is guilty of DJWF (5.00 / 2) (#17)
    by Spamlet on Thu May 14, 2009 at 12:55:27 PM EST
    Doing Job While Female

    Have you ever tried (5.00 / 2) (#20)
    by Dr Molly on Thu May 14, 2009 at 03:26:36 PM EST
    watching poor Joan Walsh on Chris Matthews? She's really good and tries really hard, but oy. They treat her like crapola.

    Yes (5.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Spamlet on Thu May 14, 2009 at 06:50:35 PM EST
    I admire her persistence.

    Par for the course (5.00 / 2) (#4)
    by koshembos on Thu May 14, 2009 at 06:19:23 AM EST
    Davidson continues a long line, and almost tradition, of media irresponsibility that attacked  the Clintons viciously, and treated Gore as a liar and light weight shoeing in Bush into the presidency.

    We may dismiss the media's conventional wisdom as wrongheaded, skewed, worthless and old hat, but it still controls major thinking and continues to cause damage.

    You ought to (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Wile ECoyote on Thu May 14, 2009 at 07:30:16 AM EST
    demand that taxpayer money not be used in funding NPR.  

    i believe (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by cpinva on Thu May 14, 2009 at 08:51:16 AM EST
    "accepted broad wisdom"

    that's what helped create the current financial crisis to begin with. it tends to be almost uniformly wrong.

    How sad that Adam Davidson (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by Militarytracy on Thu May 14, 2009 at 11:35:07 AM EST
    is such a liar claiming that Warren is presenting a narrow view of our crisis.  What about Krugman?  What about Roubini?  What about Stiglitz.

    Buwahahahahahaha (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Militarytracy on Thu May 14, 2009 at 11:39:18 AM EST
    Adams claims that Roubini is a left of center Democrat.....

    Tits on a boar (none / 0) (#6)
    by tokin librul on Thu May 14, 2009 at 07:18:34 AM EST
    That's exactly how useful "formal complaints" to NPR are. I have sent scores of them, each met with a formulaic reply, regretting that I had issues with their coverage.

    NPR -- You Cannot spell R E P U B L I C A N without it...

    I support (none / 0) (#9)
    by DancingOpossum on Thu May 14, 2009 at 09:10:24 AM EST
    my local public radio station but not a penny to Nice Polite Republicans (don't remember who coined that and would like to give credit if anyone does).

    Never Provoke Republicans (none / 0) (#18)
    by tokin librul on Thu May 14, 2009 at 01:46:03 PM EST
    Now Phellating Republicans (okay I used invented spelling for that one)

    There are two "community radio stations" in Albuquerque, one run by UNM the other by the public schools. Both run NPR "News" shows, which have become nothing but paeans to the status quo; I cannot tell you how irritating I find their eternal, unvarying smug credulousness...Both clamor for donations. I'd like to support them both, but they claim there is no way I can contribute just to the local operations, both of which are unique and valuable for our diverse community here, without supporting NPR, too...So I don't donate at all anymore...


    Davidson is not a bad guy (none / 0) (#10)
    by MikeDitto on Thu May 14, 2009 at 09:55:53 AM EST
    But his behavior with Warren was really inexcusable and I think he needs to apologize.

    I listen to the Planet Money podcast pretty religiously, because in the midst of the collapse they were the only media to really dig into and demystify things like credit default swaps and explain how evil they are.

    Both of the Planet Money guys are really exasperated with how the mess has been handled, first by Paulson and now by Geithner. Davidson and Warren are actually old friends, and if I had to guess I think he was taking his angst out on her because she is familiar to him. That doesn't excuse it, but it does explain why Warren wasn't angry. She knew that she was an easy target because it's human nature to abuse one's friends.

    This interview happened over a week ago, and I've listened to it several times. I think Davidson is projecting responsibility onto Warren as if she ran the program, when of course she doesn't. She's responsible for investigating and auditing the program. I think he is truly and justifiably upset about how the program's being run, but he's misdirecting his anger at Elizabeth Warren instead of Paulson, Geithner, and Bernanke.

    Charlie Rose (none / 0) (#11)
    by Coral on Thu May 14, 2009 at 10:39:30 AM EST
    had a great interview with Warren, and also with Naomi Klein and William Grieder a couple of days ago. It's available online.

    You're right Mike... (none / 0) (#12)
    by Ethan Brown on Thu May 14, 2009 at 11:08:49 AM EST
    I think that Planet Money has been reliably good and its hosts have been critical of Geithner and Paulson. But I thought that Davidson was repeating discredited talking points about Warren (a point made by Yves Smith in a short post about the NPR interview) and it's worrisome when someone like Warren is framed by the media as somehow being outside "normal" discourse. That sort of framing means that important ideas don't get heard/taken seriously.

    I'll admit to being sensitive about this sort of stuff because it happened to me when I did interviews for my second book, Snitch. Even though I proposed modest reforms of cooperator deals I was treated like a crazy person who wanted to ban the use of informants (not true, never argued that). The framing stuck and just about every time I was interviewed I was given the same sort of dismissive treatment Warren received.

    Put bluntly, it sucked. And I can deeply relate to Warren's frustration...

    I made a transcript (none / 0) (#15)
    by lambert on Thu May 14, 2009 at 11:52:00 AM EST
    It's here. Complete with the interruptions and snickers.

    Thank you for the transcript. (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by KeysDan on Thu May 14, 2009 at 01:54:02 PM EST
    The guy is not only a creep, as aptly described above, but a really bad interviewer... he probably cannot do much about the former, but he should be able to work on the latter.

    I agree wholeheartedly (none / 0) (#21)
    by dutchfox on Thu May 14, 2009 at 03:50:13 PM EST
    Have you seen NPRCheck? It's a "watch-dog" blog full of gotcha comments by "liberals" and "progressive" listeners people - pissed off by the regular NPR correspondents and news analysts. I agree that NPR has earned the sobriquet "Nice Polite Republicans." I've read NPRCheck occasionally, just for fun, but never really take their rants seriously, because they love to complain, and that's all. They - whiners all - should take your advice.

    I've commented on programs and  have written the (useless, but well-paid) NPR Ombudsman, who rarely responds (with formula letters or writes lame excuses on her website). I'm even on some  NPR Listen's panel and receive periodic questionnaires via email. I don't hesitate to complain about their biases when I have a chance. My local stations, North Country Public Radio and Vermont Public Radio, are always asking for money, but - as has been noted on this thread - donations cannot be earmarked to local programming. So, next time they ask for a hand-out, I'll tell 'em, don't expect any dosh from me until they - as an affiliate - tell NPR to clean up its act.