NPR's George Nethercutt blunder

They let a GOP lobbyist and faux populist prattle on about American anger, without saying who he is.
They let a GOP lobbyist and faux populist prattle on about American anger, without saying who he is.

Daily Kos beat me to it, but Thursday as I listened to NPR's "Talk of the Nation" in my car somewhere in Eastern Washington, I was boiling over with my own populist rage and shouting at the radio. Lynn Neary was exploring the topic of anger at health care town halls, and she was interviewing former Washington Congressman George Nethercutt. She ID'd Nethercutt as a former GOP congressman, but never said that he was now a Republican lobbyist. He weighed into the debate with one of his most important credentials hidden from public view. I thought this was outrageous, and was not alone.

And it's not like NPR didn't know. In 2005, they reported on how Nethercutt was part of the GOP revolving door, having landed at the firm of Lundquist, Nethercutt and Griles, now called BlueWater Strategies, a firm deeply connected to Bush/Cheney administration figures.

What also had me sputtering was Nethercutt's incredible hypocrisy. In the interview, he said that American anger is at a "boiling point," essentially defending the idea that these angry town halls are a true reflection of how America feels. And he rationalizes and excuses it. But there was also no discussion of the fact that George Nethercutt himself rode phony populist rage into power. He was part of the Newt Gingrich class of '94 and the former Ted Stevens aide shockingly unseated Democratic congressman and Speaker of the House Tom Foley. He did it by pledging to term limit himself to three two-year terms. Remember term limits? They were the populist rage in the early '90s.

Well practically the first person to forget term limits was George Nethercutt. Elected on a promise to step down, he broke his promise after six years in the House and won re-election. Eastern Washington, of course, is free to elect whoever it wants, which was the argument all along of people who opposed term limits: elections are themselves term limits. But Nethercutt, already a fake outsider, fell victim of that Congressional disease of coming to believe that he himself was indispensable. State voters didn't agree in 2004 when he ran for the U.S. Senate and was crushed by incumbent Democrat Patty Murray.

Lynn Neary blew a chance for a great interview: talk to Nethercutt about how the GOP is skilled at whipping up populist rage to help corporate interests, and get perspective from a genuine Beltway hypocrite.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Knute Berger

Knute Berger

Knute “Mossback” Berger is Crosscut's Editor-at-Large.