March 13, 2011
The Chic of ArabyBy Clarice Feldman
Not since the 1978 FBI Abscam sting when FBI agents posing as a fictional sheikh and his associates, has Washington D.C. been so entertained by make believe Arabs exposing corruption by those who think they are smarter than we are. You may not find much of this on your regular news shows or in the press, but young James O'Keefe of ACORN busting fame has exposed NPR in such an unflattering light this week that the institution is very likely to lose its public funding at long last. Undoubtedly Sesame Street's Count von Count can help them learn about this thing called capitalism and why there's more to it than occasionally whining for people to buy your mugs and tote bags.
O'Keefe released several hidden camera videos of top fund raisers for the organization, Ron Schiller and Betsey Liley, meeting with two men who identified themselves as officers in a fictitious Muslim Education Action Center. In the first tape, lulled no doubt by the thought of the way the promised $ 5 million donation would puff up their resumes, the thrill of being picked up for lunch in a limousine by the O'Keefe confederates, and dining at one of Washington's most prized see and be seen at places Café Milano, Schiller and Liley candidly expressed their partisan political views. They expressed disdain for the tea party and non-Democrats, laughed at and expressed pride at the pretend donors' contention that they called NPR "National Palestinian Radio", endorsed the firing of Juan Williams, and seemed comfortable tacitly if not covertly endorsing the view that Jews and Zionists control coverage in the American media.
Most people concentrated on the outrageous political and cultural values expressed by the NPR diners.
Protein Wisdom's Jeff Goldstein noted the irony of Schiller's self-appraisal as an intelligent and informed observer:
Juan Williams, whom the WSJ's James Taranto described as the happiest man in America this week, found his opening to blast NPR yet again:
To my mind, everyone who pays attention to news coverage is aware of NPR's political partisanship and the luncheon discussion merely confirmed it. What was far more damaging to the institution --as it is in a battle with a cost-cutting Congress which wants to strip it of its $450 million in federal funding -- is that Schiller said he thought the organization didn't need federal funds and would be better off without them. Frankly, I believe that it was this truthful assessment, most damaging NPR rent seekers that caused the NPR Board to deep six both Schillers and "suspend" Liley.
Dave Edwards, the chairman of NPR , publicly kvetched that without federal funding a lot of the small local stations would go dark and that "In some cases, public broadcasting remains the community's primary connection with the outside world." For these people America really is both coasts separated by Little House on the Prairie, isn't it?
Taranto comes through again, with the perfectly framed conclusion:
Shortly after the release of that tape it was announced that Ron Schiller was leaving NPR for the Aspen Institute where he was due to begin work on April 1. His boss (no relation) Vivian Schiller who had brought unwanted scrutiny to the partisanship at NPR just months before with the firing of Juan Williams and who was responsible for his hiring, was also forced out. While it got less publicity, we later learned Ms Liley was suspended. About that same time we learned Aspen Institute said that Ron Schiller has informed them that "in light of the controversy" it was not in the Institute's best interests for him to work there.
Schiller also said that during the course of the meeting he made statements "counter to NPR's values and also not reflective of my own beliefs." This is getting to be a common theme now when people are caught in bad behavior, isn't it? It wasn't really me. But the second tape released by O'Keefe shows that these professional fund raisers and NPR really were behaving in ways absolutely consistent with NPR's values --or at least its practices.
In this tape, Liley suggests to the poseurs that NPR could hide the source of the contribution from the public and federal auditors, suggesting this sort of thing had been done by a number of universities headed by women with an $80 million gift which had been parceled out to them.
NPR repeatedly stated it had rejected the fake $5 million gift, but when and how that occurred is not evident in the emails it released. Those indicate that as of March 5, a bare three days before the release of the first tape, NPR was still trying to work with the group and its own counsel to accept the gift. If in fact it was rejected before the tapes' release it seems to have been because the fakers could not produce evidence of their existence and tax status, not because NPR had any compunctions about their stated aims and purpose.
Given that both Ms Liley and Ron Schiller came to NPR from the development offices of prestigious universities, it is fair to suggest that their behavior and expressed views may be common to institutional fund raisers in our colleges and universities and in other tax exempt operations , especially those which shape public opinion and views. A significant number of them took grants from Kaddafi; others from the Saudis and so on.
It's time to lift the institutional veil on anonymous gifts and nonprofit institutions' fund raising operations I think. There's every reason to believe the sort of behavior -- high class prostitution of decent values and overt anti-conservative partisanship -- are not confined to NPR. In any event, O'Keefe is promising the release of even more tapes and I can hardly wait to see them.
I know I am not the only one who wants to yell "this is not a presidential issue" whenever the White House ignores its real obligations to lead here and abroad in favor of gauzy photo ops promoting something better left in the hands of local PTAs. Yes, it was a sure sign that Clinton was trying to divert attention from his shortcomings when he took up the issue of uniforms for school children and it is a sure sign that Obama is recognizing the slippage in the polls when he and his scenery chewing mate involve themselves with school bullying. (The kids' fat behinds were more on the line of give the First Lady an issue to keep her busy, in my opinion though it certainly exposed the first lady's own bullying skills.)
But this takes the cake. In the first place, the initiative is being led by pedophile enabler Kevin Jennings. In the second, the notion of federal regulations of childhood bullying shows the overly expansive regulatory notions of the Obamini. Just imagine the FBI spending its time prosecuting kids because someone once made fun of Barack's Dumbo-like ears, Finally, though you'd think I've exhausted the irony well here, the anti-bullying initiative comes in a week where Obama both openly and covertly sided (through his speech, his supporters in the SEIU and the Organizing for America gang) with thugs in Wisconsin who have threatened the Governor and state legislators with murder, caused great damage to the historic state capitol, let into the state capitol protestors in an effort to overwhelm the elected officials meeting in the Assembly to pass a law needed to keep the state from fiscal ruin.
The President signals grown-up bullying to defeat the will of the voters and save a state from ruin is okay, but ragging on your fellow students is a federal crime.
updated 3 13/11 11:46 AM EDT