NPR Plays Down Support for Censure

Friday night on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered”, host Michele Norris introduced a story and interacted with political correspondent Mara Liasson in a segment titled “Calls for Censure Show a Divide in Democratic Party” that followed a piece by David Welna on the Senate Judiciary committee hearing on Senator Russ Feingold’s resolution to censure President Bush. These transcript excerpts are my own, from the audio on NPR’s site.

NORRIS: The muted reception that Sen. Feingold’s censure resolution is receiving from Democrats points to a serious divide in the party. Among liberal activists, censuring Pres. Bush is a very popular goal. Many would go further, saying he needs to be impeached. But as you heard in David Welna’s piece only two Senate Democrats are co-sponsoring Feingold’s resolution.

LIASSON: Among liberal activists in the base of the party and certainly in the blogosphere, censure is very popular. And censure even gets lots of support in polls of registered Democrats, not just activists.

In fact, according to a mid-March poll by American Research Group, 70% of Democrats support censure of the President for “authorizing wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining court orders”. With only 26% opposed, that’s not simply the liberal activists in the party, that’s nearly a 3:1 majority. 61% of Democrats polled support impeachment, with 30% opposed, a 2:1 majority.

LIASSON: Just because the President’s policies and performance are unpopular doesn’t mean the public wants him censured or rebuked, and on this particular issue, which is about the NSA warrantless wiretapping program, the President’s policies are not that unpopular. Polls show the public either split or a small majority are actually in favor of them.

The same poll showed that more voters supported censure (48%) than opposed it (43%). That’s not just Democrats, that’s all voters. 42% of independents and 29% of Republicans polled were in favor of censure.

NORRIS: Back to the Democrats, is the split between the liberal base and the suits in the Senate a big concern for the party?

70% of the Democratic party is in favor of censure. 71% of the GOP is opposed to or undecided about censure. In other words, censure is splitting the parties in a complementary manner. Certainly there is a disconnect between Democratic Senators and the party’s voters, but that’s not how NPR framed the issue, choosing instead to give the appearance of a minority of “liberal activists” and bloggers who support censure when, in truth, most of the people who make up the party agree with Russ Feingold. As do nearly half of all voters.