NPR figure tells of listening to America

Tuesday, February 17, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 7:01 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

National Public Radio’s Linda Wertheimer has talked to American Democrats throughout the country, and one overriding message has come through for the future, still undecided, Democratic candidate.

“American people are saying we don’t care what you do, just do what works,” Wertheimer said.

Wertheimer, NPR’s senior national correspondent, spoke Monday night at a packed Cornell Auditorium on MU’s campus as a part of the Lloyd B. Thomas lecture and performance series kicking off MU’s Arts and Science week. Her lecture was titled, “Here it Comes: Another Presidential Election.”

Wertheimer has covered elections for the past three decades with NPR, reporting on four presidential elections, eight congressional elections, 10 presidential nomination conventions and 12 election nights. She is probably best known for her 13 years hosting NPR’s “All Things Considered,” one of the top five shows on U.S. radio. In 1998, Vanity Fair named her one of America’s 200 most influential women.

 “She’s very engaging,” said MU journalism professor Michael Grinfeld, who attended the lecture. Her book, “Listening to America: Twenty-Five Years in the Life of a Nation as Heard on National Public Radio” celebrates NPR’s history and is in tune with what she does on an everyday basis: She listens to America.

On the campaign trail

Wertheimer spoke of her recent experiences in various states talking with Democratic voters about their possible candidates for president. While many had differing opinions on certain issues, almost all were united on the front to oust Bush from the White House.

Wertheimer gave various examples of Democrats around the nation hoping for a candidate with some clout.

She spoke to an airline pilot in New Hampshire who really loved Howard Dean’s politics but, after the Iowa Caucuses, switched to support Sen. John Kerry. 

“I am still fascinated about the Dean phenomena,” Wertheimer said. “He really ran two campaigns. One in person and one on the Internet. The two didn’t really meld, though.”

As for the other candidates, it just wasn’t their year. Wertheimer did say that Sen. John Edwards may have a chance in the future. 

“Right now, Edwards is really No. 1 on the B-list,” Wertheimer said.

Kerry is predicted to win the Wisconsin primary today unless voters there come out with a surprise.

“Kerry is the default candidate and the best bet to beat Bush,” Wertheimer said. “This thing is about to be over, and the final say will come from the Cheeseheads.”

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