Ruth: I'm no fan of NPR "political analysist" Cokie Roberts. But the problems this morning [Monday] had a lot less to do with Cokie and a lot more to do with the kiddie hosts NPR's turned Morning Edition over to.
By Cokie Roberts
Political Wrap: Filibuster Debate
Morning Edition, May 16, 2005 · The dominant issue in the Senate this week will be whether to do away with the filibuster of judicial nominees. Current rules require the votes of 60 senators to cut off debate. Majority Leader Bill Frist will try to change that to a simple majority. If he succeeds, the immediate result would be confirmation of several controversial judicial nominees. News analyst Cokie Roberts looks at the issue.
Think of Cokie as a really dry apple challah kugel. Now most days, you'll avoid it. You know it's dry. You wish a certain someone who really can't cook would stop bringing it. But there are those mornings when you've been rushing around and maybe you're blood sugar's a little low.
So you decide to have a piece. But to do that, you need a knife to cut it with. Steve [Inskeep]
is the knife, a really dull knife. And as you use him to try to slice the kugel, you start wondering if it's really worth having any kugel when this dull knife's not helping at all.
Which I say to explain that today Cokie was half-way decent. Today the problem really wasn't Cokie it was dull knife Steve.
Cokie responded immediately to Steve's question about what she thought of the recent dinner between Senators Harry Reid and Bill Frist?
Cokie: Well I'd be a lot more positive about that if I didn't know about the fact that they were having dinner together and it hadn't been so widely publicized. Which leads me to belive that they were trying to show that they are trying to get to a compromise when they are in fact the two people least likely to get there. Bill Frist has presidential ambitions as we've talked about. Harry Reid wants to show the Democrat party as cohesive and hanging tough. And the Democrats don't want the rules changed as we know but they also don't want to seem obstructionists so they had a dinner planned.
That's her opinion and why. So whether you agree with her D.C. gossip chats, she started off strong for Cokie.
As usual with Cokie she had to make it all about John McCain whom she mentioned more than any other senator.
Cokie: The compromise if it comes will come from other people in the Senate. Republican John McCain, Democrat Ben Nelson who are working to try to get something done. As Senator McCain said yesterday people of good will can get to a compromise. The question is how many people of good will there are in the Senate at the moment.
Steve asks a question and it's not where did Senator McCain say this Cokie? He just dismisses that and asks his pre-rehearsed question. But Cokie, to her credit, did identify what network McCain said it on. Possibly because it was on ABC's This Week and she was on that show Sunday as well.
Cokie: These internal questions are always the most contentious. They get to the Senate's own power and the power of the institution. Again as John McCain said yesterday on ABC the very point of the Senate with their two seats per state regardless of the size of the state is minority protection.
Cokie then goes into a very detailed history of the filibuster. She speaks of past fights. She gives examples like Henry Cabot Lodge, Woodrow Wilson, Grover Cleveland, speaks of how historically "bitter" these fights have been. Steve seems to hear none of this, especially about how bitter things have been. It's like he's just waiting the whole time to ask the question someone's written for him.
Steve: And the rulesregarding the fillibuster have been changed before why not do it now?
I was surprised Cokie didn't ask, "Have you been listening to one word I said?" Instead she began her reply with, "Well again that was very bitterly fought . . ." which struck me as a nicer way of asking, "Are you paying attention?"
After which Steve wants to know "Do-do senators, Cokie, think on either side, think the public at large . . ." It was a badly worded question and Steve was so out of his element it was obvious. Morning Edition has suffered from serious discussion since the kiddie patrol took over.
Cokie: Well if they don't reach a compromise we are going to have a truly arcane vote which will be a vote on the motion to table the appeal on the ruling of the chair.
Read that again. Does it read like the punch line of the century? It was to Steve who cackled "Ah-ha-ha-ha!"
Cokie closed with the following: That will be the vote to decide whether the rules of the Senate are fundamentally changed and the minoirty is denied certain rights. The Democrats are quite bolstered as arcaneyist as all this is by polls showing the public overwhelmingly on their side. There's a new poll out in Time magazine today showing again the public is with the Democrats on this. So the pressure from outside unlike with the cloiture change is coming from both sides from Democrat groups who don't want change from Republicans who do. . . .
She identified the poll, she cited the ABC network earlier for McCain, she gave a great deal of history. Today, maybe I was in the mood for kugel, but she wasn't all that bad. It's too bad Steve wasn't up to an intelligent exchange because this segment could have really added up to something.