I understand why the late Cokie Roberts was valued by her readers and listeners on the basis of being a woman in a man’s game who broke through the glass ceiling. However, as with so many other aspects of our existence, there comes a time when actual content matters, and not merely the outer appearances. It’s important to have another, deeper point of view. Read it, then decide for yourself.
Nostradamus of the Obvious, by Mark Dery (The Baffler)
On Cokie Roberts
WHEN SHE DIED THIS PAST SEPTEMBER at seventy-five, Cokie Roberts, political commentator for NPR and ABC News and well-connected member of D.C.’s “little village,” as it’s known to Washington’s inner circle, was lauded as a pioneering female journalist who gate-crashed the boys’ clubs of broadcast news and political punditry. Her friend and fellow NPR reporter Nina Totenberg remembered her as “always polite” yet “willing to ask the impolitic question if necessary”—“impolitic” questions being the equivalent, in NPR’s ASMR-inducing atmosphere of timorous “civility,” of the caning of Charles Sumner.
To be sure, she was a tart-tongued observer of the misbehaving schoolboys in Congress, armed with the sort of inside-baseball knowledge of Capitol Hill you’d expect from someone whose parents both served in the House of Representatives. (Her father, Hale Boggs, a Democrat from New Orleans, made it to majority leader; when he was presumed dead in office, Roberts’s mother, Lindy Boggs, ran for his seat, won it, and held onto it for nine terms, from 1973 to 1991.) But she was also a Nostradamus of the Obvious, a mouthpiece for conventional wisdom who channeled the worldview of the D.C. elite for drive-time audiences. As such, she provides an invaluable civics lesson. Putting the class loyalties of the strenuously non-partisan pundit on full display, Roberts showed us how the commentariat heads off challenges to the status quo: by policing the boundaries, in public discourse, of what’s reasonable and what’s beyond the pale.
When Totenberg eulogized her colleague, multimillionaire, A-lister at Sally Quinn’s dinner parties, and fond friend of Bush Senior, as “always the voice of people with less power,” listeners familiar with Roberts’s reliably smug, often snide dismissal of any candidate or policy proposal a millimeter to the left of D.C. orthodoxy rolled their eyes so hard they could barely dislodge them. Roberts “never met a liberal to whom she could not condescend,” asserts Eric Alterman in What Liberal Media?, a critique of the conservative canard that the media tilts left.
For a “founding mother” of “liberal” NPR, Roberts had an incurable addiction to uncritically swallowing and regurgitating conservative bunkum …