Friday, December 10, 2004

Tavis Smiley is a disgrace

I know there's been a lot of gnashing of teeth ever since Mr. Smiley said he was leaving NPR, but as far as I'm concerned, good riddance. In addition to being a blowhard and a suck-up, he was just a terrible host of a news-talk program.

The clincher that made me never come back? On Oct. 14, 2004, he had J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio's (black) Secretary of State on the program -- for, as far as I can tell -- only the second time. And what did they talk about? The third presidential debate. Now, anyone who had followed the news up to that point knew that Mr. Blackwell was embroiled in a hell of a controversy. He had issued an edict that was widely seen as an attempt at voter-suppression by enforcing an archaic rule about registrations and the THICKNESS OF THE PAPER of those registrations. If the paper was too thin, the registrations would be thrown out.

So Mr. Smiley has this guy on the show for four minutes, and spent the first two sucking up to him about the debate. Then, we get into the meat, about two minutes in, and he allows Blackwell to filibuster for half that time, and when it's all done, we're left even more confused than when we started. And check out the questions Tavis asks. They're groaners, every one of them.

SMILEY: OK, I gotcha. I gotcha. Now let me ask you a couple of questions, 'cause--and I'm not raising anything you're not well aware of.

Sec. BLACKWELL: Right.

SMILEY: Voters'-rights advocates in your state are criticizing you pretty aggressively of late for two recent decisions that they say in the Buckeye State--this, a battleground state--will unfairly limit some people's ability to vote November 2nd in Ohio. You've asked county election officials, I'm told, to follow two legal provisions strictly; one requiring Ohio voter registration cards be printed on thick, 80-pound-stock paper; two, the other, ordered officials to strictly interpret the rules regarding provisional ballots. What's happening here in Ohio?

Sec. BLACKWELL: Well...

SMILEY: And why are you being criticized for these decisions?

Sec. BLACKWELL: Well, first, let's talk about the registrations. We, in fact, went in partnership with thousands of groups across our state. We have record voter registration in the state of Ohio. We, in fact, have right now, and counting, 700,000 new voter registrations. We worked in partnership with unions, churches, civil rights groups, you know, housing groups; you name it, we were working with them. Our Expect More in 2004 campaign was successful.What we had said and have said for over a decade is that we encourage people to do voter registration forms on heavyweight paper, because we had an experience over the last 10 years where we had most of those--not most of them, but many of the self-mailers ripped to shreds coming through the Postal Service. The Postal Service said, `Look, have folks do this on a heavier bond paper.' What we experienced in the last 90 days at the Postal--most of these things coming in through the mail, they were coming in over the top. We relaxed that standard and, in fact, we have record numbers.Now on provisional ballots, we have the same law in Ohio that they have in Washington, DC, in the District of Columbia. We have the same law in Ohio that they have in New York and Texas. There's no lawsuit. As a matter of fact, we have the same provision that 27 other states have...

SMILEY: Let...

Sec. BLACKWELL: this country. It is a provision that was just upheld by the Missouri federal District Court...

SMILEY: Mr. Secretary...

Sec. BLACKWELL: ...on Tuesday.

SMILEY: ...I hate to cut you off, but I wanted to give you a chance to respond to that. I'm out of time now. We'll have to do it again. I'm sure we will between now and Election Day, November 2nd. We'll talk to you again. Thank you for your time now. I appreciate it.

Sec.BLACKWELL: Good to be with you.

SMILEY: My pleasure.Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.

Permalink posted by Jonathan : 5:39 PM

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