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Why Is Mitt Romney Picking a Fight with Big Bird?

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STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

Big Bird, far left, and other "Sesame Street" puppet characters pose next to a temporary street sign at West 64th Street and Broadway in New York City on Nov. 9, 2009 — the eve of the 40th anniversary of the initial broadcast of the children's television show

Like most professional opinion havers who watched Wednesday’s debate, I thought Mitt Romney had a good night, but I was puzzled by his volunteering that he wants to end government funding for public broadcasting.

I wasn’t surprised that he said it; it’s been a conservative goal for about as long as there’s been PBS and NPR. But I was surprised by how he said it, as he was speaking to Jim Lehrer (ironically, of PBS): “I’m sorry, Jim. I’m going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I’m going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird. I actually like you too. But I’m not going to — I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for it.”

I’ve been covering the waxing-and-waning threats to cut public-media funding long enough to know one thing. It’s the defenders of public money who bring up Big Bird — and Elmo and Arthur — whenever this happens. It personalizes the debate. It gets people worried about their favorite characters and educational TV for their kids; it conjures the specter of heartless politicians killing Big Bird.

And if you’re a conservative budget cutter or culture warrior, you do whatever you can not to cite Big Bird, or Sesame Street, or any cuddly figure that millions of people love. You talk about Bill Moyers, or a documentary you charge with liberal bias, or the elitism of NPR executives, or some show with lesbians in it. You tell voters that coastal socialist elites are taking your money to undermine your values! You only mention Big Bird, if you must at all, to say that government money or no, Big Bird will be fine.

Which is more or less true: popular shows like Sesame Street and Arthur can get a lot of money from licensing. I laid this out last year in a post that goes into it in a lot more detail, but the real disaster would be for local PBS stations in small markets — often in rural red-state areas — that provide an expensive service in poor regions. Big Bird won’t get fired; the question is whether you’ll still have a local station to bring you Big Bird. (I will, regardless, as will the Romneys and Obamas, because we’re all pampered coastal elites.)

In any case: crying “Big Bird” is usually a way of muddying the issues over public-broadcasting defunding, which would have very real but very different effects. And it usually works, which is why the government still funds public broadcasting.

So why would Romney invite Big Bird’s name into the discussion on purpose? Off the bat, he opens himself up to loaded attacks. Almost immediately, someone created a “Fired Big Bird” parody account on Twitter. The head of PBS issued a fiery statement against Romney’s proposal. And Barack Obama, diffident at the debate, was using it Thursday for esprit de l’escalier zingers: Romney was “finally getting tough on Big Bird … he’ll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he’s going to crack down on Sesame Street.”

But what Romney said was not a slip-up or gaffe. It wasn’t even new. Since the primaries, he’s used this language on the stump too. It’s an interesting tack: Romney is essentially saying, “Hey, I like the things you like too. We just can’t afford them.” It takes the debate out of the usual culture-warrior frame (liberals are using our money to undermine our values!) and puts it in a dollars-and-cents frame. (Speaking of that frame, it is true that $400 million–plus for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a teensy slice of the deficit, but that’s another, long-running argument.)

I’m not sure it’s actually a good political strategy, given that it’s set up his opponents with a fight on their preferred terms. But it’s an interesting way of changing the strategy anyway — seeing if he can win the argument by confronting the we-love-Big-Bird sentiment directly.

And it’s worth noting that the old conservative tack — NPR is liberal, Elmo will be fine — has never actually succeeded in ending public-radio and TV support. I’ve always doubted it was ever really meant to, so much as it was a reliable way to whip up the base by bundling budget anxieties and the culture war in one overblown package.

Romney’s angle may not work, and of course I don’t know who’s going to win the election. But it could be a sign that — more than past politicians demagoguing the no-tax-money-for-PBS argument — he actually intends to do it if he gets the chance.

Update: Here, my standard disclosure: I voted for Obama in ’08 and plan to do so again in ’12. To paraphrase Walter Mondale: most people who write about politics have voting preferences; the difference is, they won’t tell you theirs and I just did. To read my fuller thoughts on political writing and disclosure, click here.

238 comments
Greg
Greg

PBS is a GOP target because business interests inside the Republican Party want more access to our kids through advertising. PBS doesn't have commercials for cereal, fast food and all the other stuff that Corporate America wants to sell them and hence their motivation. Pretty sad really. . . . The Leaning Channel (TLC) was originally started in 1972 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and NASA as an informative/instructional network focused on providing real education through the medium of TV. It was privatized in the early '90's and now shows 'Honey Boo Boo' and Sarah Palin 'reality' TV shows.

Kate2378
Kate2378

I was gonna vote for Mitt Romney 100% but now that he wants to take away free tv......forget it. Just because he has his millions doesn't mean that us poor people should have to suffer more. I wish he had to live in what I do. Then he would DEFINATELY change his mind about things. I live in a trailer with no back door and my floors are rotting out and I work and I do not waste my money needlessly. I live paycheck to paycheck. If he had to do all that, he would think twice. SO it is forget Romney for me.

Kate2378
Kate2378

I was gonna vote for Mitt Romney 100% but now that he wants to take away free tv......forget it. Just because he has his millions doesn't mean that us poor people should have to suffer more. I wish he had to live in what I do. Then he would DEFINATELY change his mind about things. I live in a trailer with no back door and my floors are rotting out and I work and I do not waste my money needlessly. I live paycheck to paycheck. If he had to do all that, he would think twice. SO forget Romney for me.

far2right
far2right

Mitt may kill Big Bird.

But at least he will not eat him according to the Geneva Convention.

0bama, however, has been known to eat dogs.

plmj05
plmj05

 So you admit you are a liberal.  No kidding.  Like most liberals you live in an Orwellian make believe world where two fingers are actually three.  But at least you have a start towards coming to grips with reality.  I suggest a trip back to your therapist.  You might than actually come to the realization that all institutions including large corporate America swings left ( unlike the majority population).  I work in corporate America and there is no place for conservative ideas.   Get real.   PBS is at least as liberal as Fox is conservative but Fox is privately funded.  In a free society, having a government mouth piece supported by taxes is nothing short of Pravda like.

calivianya
calivianya

I don't see why people are so upset about Sesame Street potentially going away. I think it's a huge problem in this country that we need to have good, wholesome TV shows to teach kids how to behave because the kids' parents aren't willing to do it. How about we get rid of all children's programming and actually make them go out and exercise? Or, here's another good one - how about we make them read? I work in health care, and the hospital I work at is rewriting all of its discharge materials at the 5th grade reading level because most people can't read any better than that - even people who graduated from high school. For all of the "educational" TV shows out there, our children (and adults) are awfully stupid and illiterate. Regardless of which party wants to get rid of PBS, it isn't like having our children sit down and watch TV is doing them any favors, unless you think the rise in childhood obesity and childhood type 2 diabetes is a good thing.

Lee Stevens
Lee Stevens

If I had my way I'd ban ANY political ads on TV and radio except between the hours of 10pm-6am, NEVER during sporting events, and only on adult internet sites as that's where they belong.

 If your going to cut start with the over blown salaries of politicians, all their perks and end lobbying as it corrupts! WE do NOT need to be the worlds police force it just angers people and creates the current problems we are having with terrorists. Invest in improving this country, monstrous military spending  is breaking this country!

owl905
owl905

The pro-life party wants to kill Sesame Street.  Go figure.

beaverorduck
beaverorduck

My kids hated watching Sesame Street.  Unless you're raised in an alley I don't see how what they show relates to normal kids.

Danyz
Danyz

never mind...

Alchemical Magician
Alchemical Magician

I'll laugh if  Romney loses the election bc of Big Bird. Obama and Big Bird 2012!

kramartini
kramartini

Why doesn't Big Bird get a job? Kermit the Frog did.

Remember that Kermit also started on Sesame Street and then made big bucks on

the big screen. Perhaps Big Bird should call Kermit's agent...

SuperSamBam
SuperSamBam

I'm totally for cutting things we can't afford, but why cut services people actually use.  PBS is watched by millions everyday, but the military gots stuck in two wars by one person  because they had Daddy issues.  Cut the military back, which Romney wants to expand, and keep PBS. 

henrietta11
henrietta11

The choice is not between keeping the country safe and Big Bird.PBS is a tiny fraction of the budget and we need an educated population,starting with childhood.

Repubs want an uneducated and uninformed people who adhere to their reactionary and mean-spirited beliefs,cloaked in "Christianity" and Patriotism.We don't need to protect the US from Big Bird but many believe that we do.

Let this be a rallying cry for all the PBS represents.

BTW PBS and NPR are not actually Liberal,exept in contrast to other venues.

lucelucy
lucelucy

Interesting how we perceive things.  GoOg's "sheepish and befuddled" struck me as "oh, Lord, this shit is so deep, where do I even start?"  So Obama

won as far as I was concerned. Maybe not on showmanship points, but on

general policy points and demeanor. Romney, who seems to have struck many

people as "engaged," looked to me like some over-excited

window-peeper, with his oily, smirky smile. If I knew nothing about him

at all and saw only that video with no sound, I would say "Ick."As for PBS, even more than saving Big Bird I would go for an even larger commitment to PBS, saving us from forcing local stations to sponsor constant telethons with annoying self-improvement gurus and ADS.  Because what else do you call those little museum pieces of Paul Revere and Sacajawea for Liberty Mutual?

pafaye
pafaye

Guess I just can't stand blatent stupidity. With all the programs that Romney could have cited that lose money, he mentions Big Bird by name, a character around since 1969, that many think of as a national treasure; and Jim Lehrer, who although retired from the station is fondly remembered by many. Here's the scoop -

“Over the course of a year, 91 percent of all U.S. television households tune in to their local PBS station. In fact,the service is watched by 81 percent of all children between the ages of 2-8. Each day, the American public receives an enduring and daily return on investment that is heard, seen, read and experienced in public media broadcasts, apps, podcasts and online — all for the cost of about $1.35 per person per year.”

Is this the best that Romney could do? On the biggest stage of his life, he insults my intelligence (and your's too) by singling out this station. Thanks Mitt, with the savings that the government will reap from eliminating funding for Sesame Street, we'll eliminate the national debt and put a Ferrari in everyone's driveway.

The choice of singling out Big Bird was Romney's. Am I to vote for a guy who insults my intelligence to such a degree? Yes, we must shut down departments of the government that are no longer needed, but Sesame Street? lol.

I sincerely worry about what decisions Romney might make when confronted with dire problems!   

Dr Sam
Dr Sam

DID OBAMA REALLY LOSE—OR WAS HIS PERFORMANCE PART OF AN OVERALL DEBATE STRATEGY THAT HE WILL DEPLOY IN THE FUTURE?

It is so easy to conclude that Obama lost in the last debate or for Obama’s antagonists to claim that he can’t debate. Sen. McCain cautions against such assumptions, saying Obama should not be under-estimated by his opponent. Let us recall that Obama did quite well in many debates as he sought the Presidency in 2007-2008. Now, here is my take on Obama’s debate encounter with Romney on September 3, 2012:

As it unfolded, I, like almost everyone else, was puzzled, frustrated, even angry about Obama’s performance. Upon further reflection long after the event, I have come to the following conclusions:

1. At that debate, Obama was feeling his opponent out, trying to draw him out knowing there are future debates. That partly explains Obama’s smiles and smirks as the debate went on. So, he let Romney exhaust himself on his main arguments, talking points and spins, some would say on his many prevarications, about-faces and falsehoods. He made these statements before a huge national. He can’t retract or correct them in future without losing credibility—and, by pundits’ count, Romney made about 28 mendacious statements that night. He has already tried to correct one—that his own health care law in Mass. has a provision for pre-existing condition.

2. Therefore, since the debate, Obama has gone on the offensives debunking or making fun of Romney’s false and misleading assertions. Expect him to do so even more aggressively in the second debate! He would be hammering Romney on his false logic, bad math and deliberate lies, though he may not outrightly call them “lies.”

3. At the debate, Obama revealed little of himself. So Romney has little to work on. At the debate, Romney was out to prove himself and reverse a bad trend. Obama simply watched—at the end he said ominously that he “enjoyed it.” Obama did not even get into Romney’s disastrous 47% comments. Thus, he denied Romney the opportunity to pedal back before a national audience.

4. Having set Romney up, Obama would be ready for the kill in the next encounter! He knows and can anticipate Romney’s well-rehearsed answers. Obama will do his home work on all of those. Romney can’t on Obama’s; he doesn’t know.

5. The final debate on foreign policy is uniquely Obama’s territory. Romney know little that is meaningful here except what former Bush aids would feed him. But Bush is toxic for this election season. Here, Romney would receive his final body blow!

6. Finally, the new job report bodes well for Obama. It takes the wind out of Romney’s sail. It undercuts severely his main selling point. Obama wins!

gbknits
gbknits

 I also don't know why my comment was flagged for review. I reposted w/o any difficulty above, word for word, letter for letter....

Geonew
Geonew

The strange ideology of the Right which wants to make our government and society into a military security state while opposing infrastructure investment, health care for its citizens, and anything that provides a service for ordinary Americans.  Advanced societies provide cultural support and outlets.  PBS in itself isn't as important as the necessity of preserving and enhancing traditional culture.  No one wants to face the extreme expense of our military and how it is burdening our society.  If this military budget continues to explode it will swallow everything until it weakens and siphons off all the vitality of the society ultimately causing the military and the nation to decline.  Read Eisenhower's warning about military expenditures.  Of course, he was behind building the interstate highway system, big government in action, when conservatism meant building things, not tearing down our country.

Nancy Kessler
Nancy Kessler

I paid pretty good attention to the 2008 election promises.  I am hearing Obama repeating much the same promises in 2012 as in 2008.  I am neutral, and have not made a decision yet who to vote for.  I have not heard anything to motivate me to either side as of yet.  Obama has had 4 years to convince me he will make good on the election campaign promises. I would be considered middle class, and my husband have seen our insurance premiums, insurance co-pays and deductibles soar in the last two years.  We both work fulltime jobs, and have longevity in our jobs.  I am in the medical field, husband is an Expeditor at local company.   We go to work everyday, while there are so many others sitting at home collecting a check from the government......while we continue to hear, there will be no SS for my age group when we retire..............   Obama has not told me anything to give us encouragement yet......................

aRareSaneOne
aRareSaneOne

If PBS had succeeded as an 'government investment', they would have PAID BACK their Investors and not STILL be on the Public dole. IF it was a good investment, the investors get all their money back 10x over. 

Time for Big Bird to PAY the FED BACK, they sure seem successful, their CEO makes a MILLION a year. 

Mitt is right, cut them lose. I go further: I say make them 'repay' our 'investment'. The Railroads of the 1800s Obama talked about sure have. We need to stop subsidizing everything.

aRareSaneOne
aRareSaneOne

Hey Obama stop with the lies. There is no regulation of Wall St under you or anyone else. You sure rake in the dough from them too!

D_Bob
D_Bob

Yes, if he can stare down Big Bird, he can certainly look Putin in the eye. 

Don Ramsey
Don Ramsey

My take on the mention of  Big Bird was different. I think he dared the third rail strictly as a brazen demonstration of his intention to tackle the "tough decisions". It was Willard's attempt at an act of bravado. Firing Big Bird is about as extreme as his thinking will allow.

smjhunt
smjhunt

How absurd.  He wants to unseat Obama because he thinks he's not doing enough about the jobs or deficit.  And his plan for cutting the deficit is to cut NPR ?   By cutting a program that represents .0001% of the budget  and that a large percentage of the population finds value in.  On this very page of time.com is an article about the Navy's new LCS ships which costs 700 million each  and which other countries appear to be creating something more effective for a fraction of the cost.  Romney plans on giving the military even more money.  Just shaving the excess costs off of one of these ships would likely fund a 1000 NPRs

Paul1096
Paul1096

The only reason that Romney wants to get rid of PBS and NPR is that they don't broadcast the hard-line GOP party-line message as does FOX.  If you can't control the message, get rid of the messenger.   The GOP has been trying to get rid of NPR and PBS for more than 20 years.

Mas_que_tu
Mas_que_tu

Interesting insight....but, I'll give you more.  The Republican primaries forced Romney to pretend to be something he is not; a Right Wing ideologue.  I wont defend that comment, his long documented history of flip-flopping argues for me.  Mitt Romney has neither been a Right Winger, nor a 'cultural warrior.'   All Romney has ever been is a successful, ambitious man.  (Wow, that was hard to type).  I dont think Romney really cares or understands why the 'Cultural Warriors' in his party want to 'can' Oscar the Grouch (get it?);  I doubt he cares why.  Mitt, it isnt the fiscal conservatives who want to get rid of Big Bird!   It is the 'cultural warriors' who want to get rid of PBS. So what?Well, like Romney's "47%" comments, here we have another window into his heart and soul.  It is so 'alien' for Romney to Kowtow to the Conservatives in his party.... he doesn't even know why they want to defund PBS and fire Big Bird!  Said another way, Mitt Romney doesnt even know why he is running for President, he just wants to be President!The savings are almost inconsequential Mitt.  It is PBS's perceived 'cultural' bias that your party's blow-hards want to fire 'The Big Fella'.Now try to get it right next time Mitt.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

This is because everyone knows PBS bankrupted the economy.

TruthTrust777
TruthTrust777

BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the Impact segment tonight, we deserve a break today.NPR has announced the latest -- the largest, I should say, donation in itshistory. The widow of the guy who founded McDonald's has given thepublicly-funded radio network $200 million. -- $200 million!

Now there is no truth to the rumor that this happened because NPR'sombudsman sided with me in the dust up with that outfit. Joan Kroc (search), itseems, just liked NPR and rewarded it in her will. So now with all thatmoney, shouldn't NPR get out of the government subsidy business? With usnow is Congressman Anthony Weiner, a member of the Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus (search). So look, $200 million. Let's get them off the dole,right, and save money for the taxpayers.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, I'm not sure I understandthe reasoning. We also got hundreds of millions of dollars from Microsoftto help New York City schools. That doesn't mean we reduced funding toeducation...

O'REILLY: Yes, but...

WEINER: ...but the fact of the matter is...

O'REILLY: ...there's a little bit of difference between the kids and,you know, some pinheads at NPR spouting what they spout. Not that I objectto that, but why don't they just compete? You got $247 million endowment.That's going to last them a couple of years. And if they invest it wisely,it could last them forever.

WEINER: Well, actually, NPR doesn't get much money from the federalgovernment. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting gives almost all ofits money to individual radio stations around the country to help themoperate.

O'REILLY: Right. And what do they carry?

WEINER: And NPR, which...

O'REILLY: They carry NPR.

WEINER: Yes, but NPR only gets about $1 million to $2 million. Theyget -- they compete for grants.

O'REILLY: But this is a shell game because they use publicfacilities. A lot of them on state campuses. It's a shell game.

WEINER: The radio stations do.

O'REILLY: Yes, the radio stations do.

WEINER: Yes, the radio -- well, you're not opposed to funding theradio stations. You just don't like the programming.

O'REILLY: I'm opposed to any government funding of the media. Letthem compete. Let them get out in the marketplace. Why do I need my taxdollars and your tax dollars, because you guys just got a raise so you haveto pay more now, going to Bill Moyers to tell me why it's good to be asocialist? I mean, that's ridiculous.

WEINER: I think that's fair. In that case, maybe we should chargeFox for its license.

O'REILLY: Why? Where a tax...

WEINER: You get $500 million in revenue in one year advertising.

O'REILLY: Whoa, we pay taxes on that.

WEINER: Do you know how much you pay for your license? 

O'REILLY: We pay taxes on that.

WEINER: Zero, Bill. You pay zero.

O'REILLY: But hold it, hold it. I pay taxes. Fox pays taxes. OK?

WEINER: Right.

O'REILLY: Moyers is a foundation, tax-free. And he doesn't -- NPRdoesn't pay any taxes. Neither does PBS.

WEINER: Listen, if you want...

O'REILLY: Come on.

WEINER: ...everyone to compete on the level playing field...

O'REILLY: I do.

WEINER: ...in that case, Fox should pay for the license it gets fromthe federal government. Is that fair? That's fair, isn't it?

O'REILLY: All right, look, then you charge everybody the same and Foxwill be on board. But you're dodging the question...

WEINER: Wait a minute, hold on a second. Everyone's -- you mean thatyou think Fox should be charged for its license. You make $500 million ayear.

O'REILLY: What you're doing is you're doing the shell game that thepublic broadcasting is. You're diverting the issue. They got $200 millionat NPR. They don't need our tax money. PBS doesn't need our tax money.

WEINER: The station with radio stations...

O'REILLY: Let them compete.

WEINER: ....get our money, not the programmers. The radio stations,the individual radio stations...

O'REILLY: It's the same thing. We don't need individual radiostations funded by the government.

WEINER: They're actually a very small portion of the government.

O'REILLY: It doesn't matter if there are two of them. We don't needit.

WEINER: You don't think public radio is a good bargain?

O'REILLY: No.

WEINER: You don't think that 30 cents per American to have all thesepublic radio stations that...

O'REILLY: They can have them in...

WEINER: ...that don't -- hold on -- that don't have to yield tocommercial interests, that can put on unfettered...

O'REILLY: What commercial interests?

WEINER: ...well, obviously...

O'REILLY: Unfettered?

WEINER: Unfettered by corporate considerations.

O'REILLY: It's largely left wing diatribes that are going on.

WEINER: Listen, you might not like what's on there, and that is yourfreedom. Some people think they're a right wing diatribe...

O'REILLY: Why do I have to pay for it?

WEINER: On this? Well, we're paying for this. It's the samereasoning. If you don't like public radio, that's fair. NPR, you don'tlike the programming of NPR, that's fair. But the funding the tax dollarsgoes towards is the radio stations, not the content.

O'REILLY: All right...

WEINER: And that is...

O'REILLY: I don't want you guys...

WEINER: It's a public resource.

O'REILLY: ...funding radio stations. I want the radio stations tocompete. And now with Joan Kroc giving $200 million, then they have theseed money in which they can compete. So you looking out for thetaxpayers...

WEINER: Overwhelmingly...

O'REILLY: ...want to bring down government spending, as I know you dosay look, thank you, Joan. Now they can compete.

WEINER: Overwhelmingly, that is they're funded by membership, bypeople who write...

O'REILLY: Let them all be funded by membership.

WEINER: In that case, don't be a phony. Fox should pay for itslicense. That is a license to print money. Fox doesn't do it. And you'renot getting on...

O'REILLY: Neither does CBS or NBC or ABC.

WEINER: Exactly.

O'REILLY: They don't have to pay.

WEINER: Yes, but don't say oh, government subsidies are terrible formedia when you're getting the biggest one of all.

O'REILLY: We're not getting any subsidies, because we pay corporatetaxes.

WEINER: It's huge. I know, but you make enormous profit at thepublic expense.

O'REILLY: How many taxes does NPR pay?

WEINER: They're not making a profit, Bill.

O'REILLY: Because...

WEINER: You're making...

O'REILLY: ...they are just taking and not giving.

WEINER: Let me give you the numbers. $500 million is what Fox soldin ad space in the last year. They paid for that right to broadcast.Zero. Do they pay taxes on that? Sure...

O'REILLY: Of course.

WEINER: ...but they made enormous profits at the U.S. governmentsupport.

O'REILLY: All right, here's the bottom line on this. If Fox didn'tmake the profits, we couldn't have given you the raise. If you'redependent on NPR, you'd be broke.

WEINER: No, we're funding NPR because it's a good thing for ourconstituents, like a lot of other things we fund.

O'REILLY: I'm a constituent. I'm not asking you for any dough.

WEINER: You're getting it.

O'REILLY: All right.

WEINER: You're getting it now.

O'REILLY: There you go. Anthony Weiner, ladies and gentlemen, tryingto divert the issue. Thanks. We always enjoy talking to you, Congressman

Randall
Randall

Pandering to the neanderthal right: check...

Plus let's be honest - the REAL reason Republicans hate PBS has minimal to do with childrens' programming. It's because PBS busts them on their lies, which the Republicans perceive as "hostile" or "a liberal bias."  ....The idea that "maybe they shouldn't lie so much in the first place" never occurs to them...

TruthTrust777
TruthTrust777

BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  In the Impact segment tonight, we deserve a break today.NPR has announced the latest -- the largest, I should say, donation in itshistory. The widow of the guy who founded McDonald's has given thepublicly-funded radio network $200 million. -- $200 million!

Now there is no truth to the rumor that this happened because NPR'sombudsman sided with me in the dust up with that outfit. Joan Kroc (search), itseems, just liked NPR and rewarded it in her will. So now with all thatmoney, shouldn't NPR get out of the government subsidy business? With usnow is Congressman Anthony Weiner, a member of the Congressional Public Broadcasting Caucus (search). So look, $200 million. Let's get them off the dole,right, and save money for the taxpayers.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Well, I'm not sure I understandthe reasoning. We also got hundreds of millions of dollars from Microsoftto help New York City schools. That doesn't mean we reduced funding toeducation...

O'REILLY: Yes, but...

WEINER: ...but the fact of the matter is...

O'REILLY: ...there's a little bit of difference between the kids and,you know, some pinheads at NPR spouting what they spout. Not that I objectto that, but why don't they just compete? You got $247 million endowment.That's going to last them a couple of years. And if they invest it wisely,it could last them forever.

WEINER: Well, actually, NPR doesn't get much money from the federalgovernment. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting gives almost all ofits money to individual radio stations around the country to help themoperate.

O'REILLY: Right. And what do they carry?

WEINER: And NPR, which...

O'REILLY: They carry NPR.

WEINER: Yes, but NPR only gets about $1 million to $2 million. Theyget -- they compete for grants.

O'REILLY: But this is a shell game because they use publicfacilities. A lot of them on state campuses. It's a shell game.

WEINER: The radio stations do.

O'REILLY: Yes, the radio stations do.

WEINER: Yes, the radio -- well, you're not opposed to funding theradio stations. You just don't like the programming.

O'REILLY: I'm opposed to any government funding of the media. Letthem compete. Let them get out in the marketplace. Why do I need my taxdollars and your tax dollars, because you guys just got a raise so you haveto pay more now, going to Bill Moyers to tell me why it's good to be asocialist? I mean, that's ridiculous.

WEINER: I think that's fair. In that case, maybe we should chargeFox for its license.

O'REILLY: Why? Where a tax...

WEINER: You get $500 million in revenue in one year advertising.

O'REILLY: Whoa, we pay taxes on that.

WEINER: Do you know how much you pay for your license? 

O'REILLY: We pay taxes on that.

WEINER: Zero, Bill. You pay zero.

O'REILLY: But hold it, hold it. I pay taxes. Fox pays taxes. OK?

WEINER: Right.

O'REILLY: Moyers is a foundation, tax-free. And he doesn't -- NPRdoesn't pay any taxes. Neither does PBS.

WEINER: Listen, if you want...

O'REILLY: Come on.

WEINER: ...everyone to compete on the level playing field...

O'REILLY: I do.

WEINER: ...in that case, Fox should pay for the license it gets fromthe federal government. Is that fair? That's fair, isn't it?

O'REILLY: All right, look, then you charge everybody the same and Foxwill be on board. But you're dodging the question...

WEINER: Wait a minute, hold on a second. Everyone's -- you mean thatyou think Fox should be charged for its license. You make $500 million ayear.

O'REILLY: What you're doing is you're doing the shell game that thepublic broadcasting is. You're diverting the issue. They got $200 millionat NPR. They don't need our tax money. PBS doesn't need our tax money.

WEINER: The station with radio stations...

O'REILLY: Let them compete.

WEINER: ....get our money, not the programmers. The radio stations,the individual radio stations...

O'REILLY: It's the same thing. We don't need individual radiostations funded by the government.

WEINER: They're actually a very small portion of the government.

O'REILLY: It doesn't matter if there are two of them. We don't needit.

WEINER: You don't think public radio is a good bargain?

O'REILLY: No.

WEINER: You don't think that 30 cents per American to have all thesepublic radio stations that...

O'REILLY: They can have them in...

WEINER: ...that don't -- hold on -- that don't have to yield tocommercial interests, that can put on unfettered...

O'REILLY: What commercial interests?

WEINER: ...well, obviously...

O'REILLY: Unfettered?

WEINER: Unfettered by corporate considerations.

O'REILLY: It's largely left wing diatribes that are going on.

WEINER: Listen, you might not like what's on there, and that is yourfreedom. Some people think they're a right wing diatribe...

O'REILLY: Why do I have to pay for it?

WEINER: On this? Well, we're paying for this. It's the samereasoning. If you don't like public radio, that's fair. NPR, you don'tlike the programming of NPR, that's fair. But the funding the tax dollarsgoes towards is the radio stations, not the content.

O'REILLY: All right...

WEINER: And that is...

O'REILLY: I don't want you guys...

WEINER: It's a public resource.

O'REILLY: ...funding radio stations. I want the radio stations tocompete. And now with Joan Kroc giving $200 million, then they have theseed money in which they can compete. So you looking out for thetaxpayers...

WEINER: Overwhelmingly...

O'REILLY: ...want to bring down government spending, as I know you dosay look, thank you, Joan. Now they can compete.

WEINER: Overwhelmingly, that is they're funded by membership, bypeople who write...

O'REILLY: Let them all be funded by membership.

WEINER: In that case, don't be a phony. Fox should pay for itslicense. That is a license to print money. Fox doesn't do it. And you'renot getting on...

O'REILLY: Neither does CBS or NBC or ABC.

WEINER: Exactly.

O'REILLY: They don't have to pay.

WEINER: Yes, but don't say oh, government subsidies are terrible formedia when you're getting the biggest one of all.

O'REILLY: We're not getting any subsidies, because we pay corporatetaxes.

WEINER: It's huge. I know, but you make enormous profit at thepublic expense.

O'REILLY: How many taxes does NPR pay?

WEINER: They're not making a profit, Bill.

O'REILLY: Because...

WEINER: You're making...

O'REILLY: ...they are just taking and not giving.

WEINER: Let me give you the numbers. $500 million is what Fox soldin ad space in the last year. They paid for that right to broadcast.Zero. Do they pay taxes on that? Sure...

O'REILLY: Of course.

WEINER: ...but they made enormous profits at the U.S. governmentsupport.

O'REILLY: All right, here's the bottom line on this. If Fox didn'tmake the profits, we couldn't have given you the raise. If you'redependent on NPR, you'd be broke.

WEINER: No, we're funding NPR because it's a good thing for ourconstituents, like a lot of other things we fund.

O'REILLY: I'm a constituent. I'm not asking you for any dough.

WEINER: You're getting it.

O'REILLY: All right.

WEINER: You're getting it now.

O'REILLY: There you go. Anthony Weiner, ladies and gentlemen, tryingto divert the issue. Thanks. We always enjoy talking to you, Congressman

Anatole Pushkin
Anatole Pushkin

Mitt Willard is a vampire poised to take over the biggest blood bank in the world.

Big Bird is the first casualty.  A dry run of sorts.

DavidLHagen
DavidLHagen

Return to moral prudent stewardship

Romney highlighted the critical challenge – what must we do to help and provide for our children?

NOT dump another $50,000 of debt on each one as Obama has been doing!

I strongly support Romney's key policy: “I’m not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to payfor it.”

It is immoral to put our children in debt (effective slavery) to China to entertain them.

Obama has added $5 trillion debt onto our children – on frivolous government spending rather than investing it into productive businesses that create new jobs.

Romney's

“Hey, I like the things you like too. We just can’t afford them”

is disarming. Yet it is also a good negotiating strategy – give the other party something small they will fight for and can say they won – while ensuring that you win the key issues.

Anatole Pushkin
Anatole Pushkin

Mitt's mood swings between being a wimp and being a bully.  Alone with Rachel Maddow, he giggles at his gaffes leike a silly girl.  In the debate, with the support of his rah-rah Mormons and his fellow old GOP fogeys, he was the ultimate bully.

His greed for money made him do it, to increase his campaign take.  And so he picked a fight with Big Bird who was not around, and figuratively gelded the moderator so he could spin his lie;s  Romney the Wimp is a closet Oscar Wilde.  He lives Wilde's kind of amoral relative morality.  "For each man kills the things he loves..."  Romney is a con hedonist.  He is not an artist.  He is a dilettante.

wwin
wwin

Big Bird is 43 years old, in good health, educated, and lives off welfare.  Why shouldn't he (or she, whatever) be cut loose?  If Kim Kardasian can get private funding for her show, Sesame Street should be able to do okay in the private market.

Mallory Pickering
Mallory Pickering

It makes sense to get rid of non-essentials first when you are cutting a budget. I'm with Mitt on this one. Plus, why do we need the gov't for television anyway?

Chuck Conover
Chuck Conover

There are some things that are political minefields.  Obama would like to ban assault rifles, but he won't touch it because too many people are against it.  That's just smart.  Big Bird is another one.  But Romney's not as smart, politically.  Some wars you shouldn't fight because you can't win or the cost is too great.

far2right
far2right

And that's good enough for me.  C, C, C.

Sesame Street takes in so much money it could have it could rival the Disney Channel.

Time to let Big Bird get a real job.

Danyz
Danyz

Nothing like slamming millions of human beings as alley rats. Your kids sure had a glowing exemplar of humanity to model themselves on... 

Mike P
Mike P

"cut them lose"...another dumbcluck who can't seem to use "lose" or "loose" in the right context. maybe you should have watched Sesame Street when you were a kid.

beaverorduck
beaverorduck

Maybe, but at least I didn't raise them in an alley.

Danyz
Danyz

Actually, I do apologize for the nasty remark. In this kind of format, where so many people do insult each other, it becomes a temptation, but one we should resist. Constructive comments or critiques are always the best. I'm sure you did a very good job in the demanding role of father.