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August 24, 2016

A PolitiFactoid.com Critique of...

Louisiana Flooding Puts A Lot Of Rep. Grave's [sic] District Under Water

as reported by David Greene, NPR Morning Edition, August 23, 2016
(click here for the interview at NPR.org)

For several days in mid-August 2016, extremely heavy rains led to devastating floods in and around seven or eight parishes in southeastern Louisiana, killing 13 people and leading to severe damage or total loss of approximately 40,000 homes, with a total of about 110,000 homes impacted to some degree, not to mention widespread loss of personal property and businesses.

The flooding is being called the worst natural disaster in the U.S. since the post-tropical cyclone known as Superstorm Sandy struck several northeastern states in 2012, primarily New York and New Jersey.

Yesterday, NPR's Morning Edition host David Greene interviewed U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-Louisiana). The headline and sub-headline on NPR's website suggest the interview focuses on the flooding and its devastating effects on persons living through the disaster in Louisiana.

However, less than halfway through the interview, NPR's Greene turned the interview into an attack on Republicans and fiscal conservatives, with a side order of Trump-bashing, and he seemed to have no qualms about misrepresenting reality to do it.

This is a good example of how leftists and the left-leaning mainstream media are always trying to score political points whenever possible, even when the backdrop is a devastating natural disaster involving untold volumes of human suffering.

See below for the critique, embedded amid excerpts from the interview, in dark blue, indented type.

Morning Edition Host David Greene:
When President Obama touches down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, later today, it will have been 11 days since the flooding began in that state. Obama has critics who say he should've cut his vacation short and gotten there earlier. Louisiana's Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards is not one of them. Here he is on MSNBC last week.

Sound bite from Governor John Bel Edwards:
In all honesty, if he's going to visit, I would just as soon it be a week or 10 days, 14 days from now. To take hundreds of local first-responders, police officers, sheriff's deputies, state troopers, to provide security for that type of visit, I'd just as soon have those people engaged in the response rather than trying to secure the President.

Greene opens by going out of his way to defend President Obama from criticism Obama has received over his handling of the Louisiana disaster. The flooding occured while Obama was on a 16-day vacation in Martha's Vineyard, where he managed to play 10 rounds of golf.

Much of the criticism compared Obama's response (or lack thereof) to that of the George W. Bush Administration's handling of the flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Bush was widely criticized for allegedly failing to engage in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath and for a slow overall response and alleged ineptitude during efforts to help New Orleans recover.

The critics to which Greene referred have also chided media pundits for failing to criticize Obama's vacation in the same way Bush was continually raked over the coals by the mainstream media following Katrina. (By the way, if you're interested in that aspect, click here or here for further details.)

Now, one person trying to become president, Donald Trump, visited late last week. That also brought its share of security and logistical wrangling. Neither Trump nor Obama are as familiar with this part of the country as Congressman Garret Graves. The Republican represents Louisiana's 6th District, much of which remains underwater this morning. He's on the line from his home in Baton Rouge.

This story was supposed to be an interview of U.S. Rep. Graves. However, before Greene even started interviewing Graves, he first spent time defending President Obama from his critics, and he also threw a subtle dart at Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, by making sure to tell us Trump's visit to Louisiana in the wake of the flooding "brought its share of security and logistical wrangling."

However, I can find no evidence of that in news reports. Greene also failed to report that, two days before the interview, Governor Edwards told CNN that Trump's visit was helpful, but Greene chose not to mention that, for some reason. In fact, regarding the Trump visit, Greene had a choice of three options:

  1. Don't mention the Trump visit at all, since it's not relevant, or
  2. Tell listeners that Trump's visit was helpful, according to Louisiana's governor (a Democrat), or
  3. Tell us that Trump caused security and logistical problems with his visit, which is an unsubstantiated claim designed to take pressure off of President Obama and make Trump look bad at the same time.

Greene chose option 3, of course. The mainstream media can never resist the urge to malign Republicans, even if reality must be skewed in the process, and especially when they're trying to counterbalance bad news or criticism about one of their left-wing heroes (like Barack Obama).

Greene, to U.S. Rep. Garret Graves:
Congressman, we've been thinking of everyone in your state, and thanks for taking the time in what I know has been an awful stretch for you.

Representative Graves:
No, I appreciate y'all doing this and bringing more attention to what's going on here.

That comment by Graves leads me to believe that his impression of the interview's purpose would be to illustrate the extent of the disaster and the dire consequences facing Louisianans whose lives have been devastated. I can easily imagine such an impression being bestowed upon Graves by whoever it was at NPR who set-up the interview. Graves might not have agreed to the interview if he knew Greene would use the occasion to shamelessly attack him and the Republican Party.

Do you feel like you haven't gotten enough attention, as much as you should be getting?

There's really only one way Rep. Graves could answer that question. Greene used the question to create a premise that he will later use to attack Republicans and fiscal conservatives. That premise is "You feel like this disaster in your congressional district has not been given enough attention."

Representative Graves:
I do. And I know this isn't a hurricane where you have days that lead up to this disaster. But it's really amazing. The devastation is profound and just goes for tens and tens of miles in every direction. It's a pretty incredible disaster.

What does it look like, as you look at those miles and miles?

Representative Graves:
You can literally get into a car, and I could take you on a ride for probably 30 or 40 miles. And all you would see is 10-foot piles of debris in front of every single home and business in our community.

So, what are you telling constituents as they deal with just, devastation, like that?

Representative Graves:
David, I'll tell you. I don't think I've cried since I was a kid, and the number of times that I've embraced people with tears in my eyes over the past several days is – it's just amazing – ya know, people standing there saying, 'I just lost both of my cars. I lost my home. I lost all my clothes. I lost my appliances. I lost all my family heirlooms and pictures. What do I do?' And, I've got to tell you, it's really difficult giving them a good answer because the traditional response to a disaster like this simply doesn't address even the fundamental needs that many people in this community have right now.

We're now 2 minutes and 38 seconds into the interview, and Greene has just asked two softball questions: (1) What does the devastation look like, and (2) What are you telling constituents. These are basic, boilerplate questions, which Greene seems to be using as filler, to have at least something in the interview that doesn't attack Republicans.

Perhaps Greene asked those softball questions to fully disarm Graves before launching his attack, which began with the very next question and endured throughout the remaining 3 minutes and 11 seconds of the interview.

You say "traditional response." I mean, there is some aid money that's automatically comes through, but a lot of people are saying the federal government needs to do a lot more, and I just wonder – I mean, it's, ya know, it's Republicans – your party – who are often very wary of federal spending in times of disasters and other times. What are you telling your fellow Republicans right now?

Here we go. Greene quickly shifted from softball to hardball and specifically created another premise: "Republicans are often very wary of federal spending in times of disasters." This second premise painted Republicans in a negative light, by claiming Republicans don't like spending money on much-needed disaster relief, and then Greene asked Graves a question based on that premise.

This is a favorite tactic continually used by mainstream media when dealing with conservatives and Republicans. If the person being interviewed answers the question outright, they're basically giving validity to the premise and agreeing that it's true, simply by answering the question that relies on the premise.

Most people are unaware of this tactic and don't think about questioning the premise before answering. As you'll see below, Rep. Graves makes the mistake of proactively agreeing with the premise, seemingly unaware that Greene is using it to attack him and the Republican Party.

Representative Graves:
Look, you're right, and I want to be clear. I'm a fiscal conservative as well. However, in this situation, when FEMA comes in and offers folks – I think I've been told, on average, two to three thousand dollars for a situation like this. Let me be clear – you have traditional disasters, and I've been through oil spill, flooding, hurricanes. I've worked all those. This is just very different in that this... We had 31 inches of rain in some of these areas. That is the annual average national rainfall, meaning that's the average rainfall in a year's time for the United States...

Greene, interrupting:
No, it's just a stunning number.

Representative Graves (cont.):
...and we got it in just a couple days.

Well, can I ask you – I mean, if we look back a few years to Superstorm Sandy, there were members of Congress in the Northeast who were begging for federal funding, and I know you were not in Congress at that point, but there were members of the Louisiana delegation who joined others in stopping that federal aid. Does that give you a credibility problem now, as Louisiana's really asking for help?

With this question, Greene has moved on to his next line of attack, which was to remind us that many Republicans in the U.S. House (including three from Louisiana) opposed a $50.5 billion spending bill that was originally designed to provide relief funding to northeastern states that suffered flooding from Superstorm Sandy.

This portion of the discussion, in my view, was the whole purpose behind Greene's decision to interview a Republican member of Congress from Louisiana. Without that angle, I doubt NPR and Greene would have conducted the interview at all.

Furthermore, it's obvious Greene had prepared himself to ask this question. He stated unequivocally that "members of the Louisiana delegation" opposed the Sandy relief bill, which means Greene researched ahead of time in order to use that fact against Graves and his fellow Republicans. Greene did not make up this question on the spot – this attack was an ambush that was planned ahead of time.

Representative Graves:
Ya know, look, I don't want to pretend to understand everything that was in the Sandy package to know that if it was overly funded or not, if it was over-funded or not. But, I will tell you that whenever someone has a tragedy like this, like Hurricane Sandy, I do think that Congress has an obligation to step in to tailor the response to that disaster. And, ya know, again, it's easy for me to sit here and say, give you an answer right now, but I do think I would've supported that based upon my understanding of the impacts in that area.

Greene's attack forced Graves to adopt a defensive posture at this point, and Graves actually did a pretty good job of fending off the attack. Graves made two main points: (1) He alluded to the notion that the Sandy relief bill might have been "over-funded," and (2) He asserted that Congress has a duty to tailor a response to the particular disaster at hand.

Notably, Greene completely ignored Rep. Graves' allusion to the "over-funding" of the Sandy relief bill. There was 1 minute and 9 seconds left in the interview at this point, so Greene could have acknowledged that issue if he'd wanted to. However, he would never do that, because the idea that Louisiana Republicans might have had good reason to oppose the Sandy relief package did not support the narrative that Greene was trying to advance, so of course he ignored it.

I cannot ignore it, however, and neither would any responsible journalist who wanted to draw a valid comparison. A quick Internet search produces many hits about the Sandy "over-funding" situation. Click here or here for two examples.

In a nutshell, the final version of the Sandy relief bill was stuffed full of pork-barrel spending on projects that had nothing to do with Sandy relief. That's why many Republicans didn't support it and ended up voting against it.

However, as The Los Angeles Times points out, Louisiana Republicans did vote for an initial $17 billion package for Sandy relief but later refused to vote for the final bill after many billions in pork had been added. Greene notably omitted these two very pertinent but inconvenient facts.

In doing so, Greene did a huge disservice to his listeners, Rep. Graves, and the other Louisiana Republicans in question, by hiding these facts during the interview, even after Rep. Graves alluded to the bill's "over-funding." Omitting these pieces of the story created a false impression of reality in the minds of listeners, and that false impression was used by Greene to attack Republicans. Whenever NPR or anyone else in the mainstream media does this sort of thing, it always serves left-wing interests.

Lastly, NPR's Greene indicated that Louisiana lawmakers "joined others in stopping that federal aid." That did not happen. Even though many Republicans voted against the unnecessarily pork-laden Sandy relief package, the bill still passed both the House and the Senate and was enacted. The federal aid was not "stopped."

So, not only did Greene turn this interview into a biased attack on Republicans, he even went so far as to mislead NPR listeners to advance his narrative, and he did it more than once.

Does this, does seeing this in your home state make you a little less of a fiscal conservative?

With that question, Greene continued his attack against fiscal conservatives. The question was based on a combination of the two premises Greene had created earlier: "You feel like this disaster in your district has not been given enough attention," and "Republicans are often very wary of federal spending in times of disasters."

On what basis did Greene formulate that second premise? He gave no evidence to support it. His only example (the Sandy relief bill) doesn't hold water. As I pointed out above, opposition to the final version of the bill was caused by all those billions of non-Sandy pork, not the bill's funding for Sandy's victims – a fact that Greene purposefully chose to hide from us.

This question from Greene seems designed for the sole purpose of portraying Graves and other fiscal conservatives as hypocrites who abandon conservative spending principles when the money in question would be spent in their own backyards. However, it didn't fly. Graves' answer (below) was probably the best answer any fiscal conservative could have given.

In any event, the question had nothing to do with the devastation caused by the flooding and the impact it's having on the people of Louisiana. By this point in the interview, Greene had dropped all pretense of even remembering any of that. He was focused 100-percent on attacking Republicans and fiscal conservatives.

Representative Graves:
I don't think so because I actually look at it like this. If someone is upside down on their mortgage, if someone doesn't have cars, if their job is underwater, these people are likely on a trajectory to become a federal responsibility through different poverty programs, and I look at it like the most fiscally appropriate thing to do is to help them get back on their feet right now, to avoid them becoming a long-term liability under many of these programs.

Wow. With that answer, Graves did a terrific job fending off Greene's latest assault. Graves pretty much hit a home run with this answer, so much so that Greene moved on to a different angle with his next question.

And, Congressman, we just have a few seconds left. I just wonder – What is your take on when presidents and presidential candidates come to visit? Is it a distraction?

Greene was down to his final question, and he used it to (once again) address the issue of high-profile visits to disaster-stricken areas. Remember, Obama had been criticized for failing to visit Louisiana in a timely manner. On the other hand, Trump actually came out looking pretty good by visiting the area before Obama did.

Those outcomes were probably difficult for the left-leaning mainstream media to accept. Greene seems to have been bothered quite a bit because he touched on the issue twice during this piece.

This time, Greene used the "distraction" element as the basis for the question, which tacitly implies that Trump created a distraction while Obama, in his wisdom, chose not to.

Greene specifically chose this angle. He could have asked, "Is it a distraction or is it helpful?" That would have given equal weight to both the positive and the negative. That wasn't Greene's goal, it seems. Neutrality would be counterproductive to Greene's left-leaning narrative, so he chose to frame the question in a negative sense, of course.

Once again, however, Rep. Graves handled the question well (below).

Representative Graves:
Ya know, number one, I think when Trump came, it certainly brought national attention...

Greene, interrupting:

Have you ever noticed that, during an interview, whenever someone gives or starts to give an answer to one of these MSM reporters that the reporter doesn't like, the reporter will often interject a little "Mmm-hmm" or "Okay" into the answer, trying to throw off or hurry the respondent. This happens quite a lot when a Republican or conservative is being interviewed.

Representative Graves (cont.):
...and, in a case like this, I don't think that people in Washington can really understand what is going on down here and really help us tailor a recovery package without seeing it first-hand...

Greene, interrupting:
Okay, Congressman...

Representative Graves (cont.):
It really is profound...

Instead of following Greene's lead, Rep. Graves separated Trump from Obama and then praised Trump while pointing out that a president really must visit a disaster-stricken area in order to truly understand everything. That was a well-worded answer because it was not an outright criticism of the President, but it maintained the context of criticism that's been directed toward Obama's failure to cut his vacation short and visit Louisiana promptly.

After Rep. Graves successfully fended off Greene's final, loaded question, Greene brought the ambush – I mean interview – to an end.

Sadly, we're out of time. We'll be thinking of the people of Louisiana. Congressman Garret Graves of Louisiana. Thank you, sir.

Representative Graves:
Thanks, David.


The Bottom Line:

This interview by Morning Edition host David Greene was just one example of left-wing bias that peppers NPR's reporting all the time. I haven't kept count of all the many times I've noticed NPR's leftist leanings come to the surface, either subtly or in less subtle forms. Sometimes you see it in sympathetic and supportive handling of liberal politicians, activists, or causes. Other times, you see it in unfair portrayals, or even overt attacks, of conservatives or conservative schools of thought. It happens quite frequently. I don't have time to document and critique each and every occasion, unfortunately.


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