It’s pledge drive week on PBS. All of your favorite PBS shows are being interrupted so that a couple of smiling faces can beg you to donate some of your hard-earned income to your local public station. Of course, those who pay federal taxes are already subsidizing PBS, albeit involuntarily and indirectly through the federally-chartered Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
It’s not always easy to get folks to part with their money, so PBS is doing more than simply offering a mug to anyone who gives $75 or an umbrella to those who donate $100. They are also aggressively touting their own programming, trying to remind viewers of how much they gain by watching. On Wednesday evening, the pledge drive during the NewsHour attempted to use liberal Mark Shields and quasi-conservative David Brooks as selling points for the network. [Video below. MP3 audio here. ]
On-air personality Patty Kim proclaimed that Shields and Brooks had won a prize for “civility in public life” given by Allegheny College, a small school in western Pennsylvania. Kim explained, "The award recognizes two voices of politics and political journalism, one from each side of the political spectrum, who fight for their respective ideological beliefs while maintaining respect and civility for opposing views."
Hold on. She said “one from each side of the political spectrum.” In what alternate universe? David Brooks is supposed to be the conservative counterweight to Shields, but he has a long history of attacking Republicans and maligning right-wingers.
Let’s look at some examples. Just two weeks ago, as the sequester deadline was approaching, Brooks called Republicans “mindless anti-government fanatics”  for supporting sequestration, even though it was the president’s idea. After the State of the Union last month, Brooks proclaimed that Republicans needed a new message , because if their “whole story” was economic liberty, they were “really not offering much.”
On Inauguration Day, Brooks exclaimed that Obama’s inaugural address was one of the best of the past 50 years  because of its liberal slant. Shortly after the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi last year, Brooks joined the liberal media in attacking Mitt Romney’s response rather than questioning how the attack could have happened in the first place.
Brooks is not a conservative voice. This is a quasi-conservative at best, a liberal at worst. PBS and Allegheny College should not advance the notion that Shields and Brooks sit on opposite ends of the political spectrum. During their weekly segment on the NewsHour, they do not have many fundamental disagreements. That is how they won an award for civility. It’s easy to be civil when you almost always agree with your sparring partner.
Here is the complete segment:
PATTY KIM: In 2012, PBS Newshour political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks won the first prize for civility in public life from Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. The award recognizes two voices of politics and political journalism, one from each side of the political spectrum, who fight for their respective ideological beliefs while maintaining respect and civility for opposing views. In presenting the award, Allegheny College president James H. Mullen Jr. said, "Every week Mr. Brooks and Mr. Shields come together on the PBS Newshour to vigorously debate the issues of the day, always respecting each other as they do so. They show us that civility does not require one to be tepid. Mr. Brooks proudly argues from the right; Mr. Shields, from the left. But they advocate their views with steadfast civility."
-- Paul Bremmer is an intern for the Media Research Center.