NPR's Horsley Spins the Debt Ceiling for Obama

NPR's Horsley Spins the Debt Ceiling for Obama

Scott Horsley continues to be one of the most biased reporters at National Public Radio–and that’s saying something. Horsley, NPR’s White House correspondent, described the looming debt ceiling battle on Weekend Edition on Sunday in terms that not only painted Republicans in the worst possible light but also left listeners confused as to how the controversy came about, and what is fundamentally at stake.

Horsley began, fairly enough, by comparing the debt ceiling to a household credit card limit–a ceiling on the amount that the government can borrow. However, when asked to explain why the debt ceiling had again become an issue, just two years after the last debt ceiling fight, Horsley offered a purely political explanation.

“If this is so crucial, why is it repeatedly going down to the wire?” Host Rachel Martin asked Horsley.

The obvious answer is that the federal government continues to incur new debt. That, in turn, is because the President and the Democrats refuse to offer or discuss spending cuts that move the budget toward balance. To continue the household analogy: if you keep using your credit card instead of paying it off, you are going to need to apply for a higher limit. But that’s not the answer Horsley gave. Instead, he offered the following:

Because this is such a must-do action for Congress, this is a powerful point of leverage for congressional Republicans–or at least some in the party see it that way….some in the party see this as their best opportunity to force the president to blink. Now, Obama sees that as a dangerous habit, to let one faction of one party hold the government hostage like that. So, he’s taken a hard line.

Note that Horsley failed to mention increased spending and continued high deficits under President Obama. Note, too, that he used the term “hostage” uncritically. He was describing the president’s view, but not setting it apart clearly from his own. In Horsley’s telling, the Republicans are seeking nothing but political advantage, and the president is acting purely out of concern for the national interest in preventing bad political behavior.

As Horsley well knows (or should), the other reason these crises keep recurring is that the president refuses to commit to a long-term “grand bargain” budget deal that would balance the budget. Republican leaders have accepted that the best they can do is a “modest bargain,” and even that is in doubt. As long as Obama continues to enjoy support from the media no matter what he does, these confrontations are likely to continue.