PATRICK MCVAY

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That's Worse Than Losing Your Head

I like Robert Siegel of NPR fame because he never sounds condescending or smug, even when he’s interviewing an idiot. He laughs only at things that are actually funny, and although clearly not a native French speaker, still manages to impart passable French without mangling the accent (helpful during the Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan attacks).

However, he is not perfect. Whenever he introduces someone he is about to interview, his voice starts out at normal volume and then kind of peters out. “Well now joining us from his high horse in Texas is Senator Ted Cruz, Mr. Cruz welcome…”

“Thank you…”

“…to the program.”

I tend to listen to All Things Considered in my car when it would be impossible for me to hear Siegel utter those final three words in the tiniest of voices, but it’s so common for him to add the phrase after getting thanked that I know he’s used it yet again.

Otherwise, he seems never to err, except this week, when he made a goofy verbal faux pas. It was during an interview with Richard Atwood of the NGO The International Crisis Group, who wrote in a report that assassinating top Al Qaeda and ISIS leaders is a tactic of limited value. Seigel pressed him: “It doesn’t hurt a group to lose their leader or their number two?”

What was most surprising in the exchange was that the interviewee Mr. Atwood didn’t lose his own proverbial number two and burst out laughing, as I was doing in my car.

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