George Graham

“Think Tank” Flacks Make a Mockery of Political Debate on TV

wolfI used to think Wolf Blitzer (photo at right) was a pretty good reporter. That was back in the days of the first Iraq War. There he was, with that bristling beard and terrier-like bark, braving the heat of battle to bring us the latest dispatches from the front. Wolf is a real journalist. He paid his dues. You would think he has too much sense to be taken in by hucksters. So what are we to make of his current practice of tapping “think tank” representatives for opinions on the issues of the day?

Last night, he was talking about Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius being appointed as President Obama’s health secretary, and he brought on some guy from the Cato Institute to tell viewers whether she would succeed. Does Wolf know what the Cato Institute is and who founded it? What did he expect his guest to say? After all, the Cato Institute is nothing more than a Libertarian propaganda mill. It was founded by Edward H. Crane, who was the Libertarian Party’s national chairman from 1974 to 1977, and it is funded by right-wing billionaires with a mission to maintain the law of the jungle in America. The last thing the “think tank” flack was going to advocate is national health insurance.

coorsscaifeNot just Wolf but other TV hosts seem ignorant of the real mission of most “think tanks.” I see representatives from the Heritage Foundation on television all the time, masquerading as academics. Can’t these TV hosts browse the Internet? If they did they would find that the Heritage Foundation is nothing but a propaganda outlet for far-right conservatives. It was founded by the late Joseph Coors of beer brewing and fascist-leaning fame (photo above, left), and its contributors have included Richard Mellon Scaife (above right) and the Olin, DeVos and Bradley families. If you don’t believe me when I say these are right-wing activists, you should look them up yourself on the web.

Rob Kall, editor of, reports that right-wing crusaders have “spent more money on think tanks than they have on elections,” while “the left has spent next to nothing.” He adds that the goal of the right-wing think tanks is to bring about a conservative “devolution,” and to make that happen, “they come up with goals for what they want to accomplish – policies, actions, legislation, organizations to be formed, demographic groups to be converted ….”

John Chuckman is another writer who looked into this blight, and he found that while the think tanks profess to serve as centers for research and analysis of important public issues, “in reality, many think tanks are little more than public relations fronts.” He calls them “phony institutes where ideologue~propagandists pose as academics … [into which] money gushes like blood from opened arteries to support meaningless advertising’s suffocation of genuine debate.”

If you have time and would like a real eye-opener, click on:

Scroll down to “United States” and then click on the names of the various institutions listed in that section. You will find out where these “think tanks” get their money, and that should help you figure out what conclusions their “research and analysis” will inevitably produce.

About the author


I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for