Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

December 8, 2009

THEY'RE ONLY PRETENDING.... Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) put opposition to health care reform in a historical context. Conservatives' approach -- which he labeled "Slow down, stop everything and start over" -- isn't new, Reid said. We saw the same attitude from the right during the debate over the Family and Medical Leave Act, women's suffrage, the Civil Rights Act, and slavery.

Republicans are picking up on that last one and doing a fine job of pretending to be upset.

Republicans on Monday were quick to pounce on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, for comparing the battle over health care to the battle over the legacy of slavery.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee purchased a Web ad on the popular Drudge Report asking readers: "Do you agree with Harry Reid?"

Those who click on the ad are taken to an NRSC Web site called "Health Care Task Force," which asks readers to sign a petition and "stand up to Harry Reid and his insulting remarks."

Atrios noted last night, "Hey, Republicans throw hissy fit. Media covers hissy fit. You'd think this would get old."

We should be so lucky. That Republicans aren't really offended, and are only throwing a tantrum because it's easier than debating health care policy, never seems to enter the picture.

If we're to believe the faux-outrage, the reference to slavery was the rhetorical element that went too far. But this, apparently, is a new concern -- the right has been far more direct in making the same comparison. Harry Reid was talking about key moments in history in which the right was wrong, but Michele Bachmann recently called the Democrats' legislative agenda "nothing more than slavery," and no one said a word. Indeed, conservatives routinely insist that the left is trying "enslave" America, and the political mainstream just shrugs its shoulders in response.

This is not uncommon. In 2005, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described the Bush administration's torture policies and system of secret prisons as being reminiscent of "Soviets in their gulags." At the time, the media and Republicans were apoplectic about Durbin's remarks, sparking a week-long frenzy. Several conservatives called on the Senate to censure Durbin, and Karl Rove, at the time a high-ranking White House official, argued that Durbin's quote was evidence that liberals are traitors. Durbin eventually offered a tearful apology.

But notice that just a few days ago, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Republican leadership, called Medicaid a "health care gulag." Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) recently called Dems' health care reform efforts "Soviet-style gulag health care." Neither reporters nor other members of Congress batted an eye.

Also note, when Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said Republicans are promoting lethal health care policies, it was a huge national controversy. When Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the same thing, no one seemed to care.

Part of the IOKIYAR phenomenon is the media's willingness to embrace the double standard, and part of it is the result of Republicans' more aggressive media operation.

But I also wonder if the instances of the GOP's rhetorical excesses don't generate as much attention because Democratic officials just don't care the same way. Isn't it at least possible that Dems just have other things they want to talk about, and Republicans don't?

Steve Benen 8:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (22)

Bookmark and Share

Isn't it at least possible that Dems just have other things they want to talk about, and Republicans don't?

Yes it is, but as Somerby keeps pointing out, the way the game is played is the ones who want to have a tantrum get all of the attention in the press. The ones who talk about something else get ignored, or worse, made fun of.

Posted by: martin on December 8, 2009 at 8:49 AM | PERMALINK

Democratic officials just don't care the same way

Uh, I think it's that Dim officials fall down and beg forgiveness for daring to irk and upset the tres tres sensitive Repugnants.

Every. God damn. Time.

Posted by: neill on December 8, 2009 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

It sure is nice to think so . When someone is stealing your lunch money the time to take a stand is when you still have your lunch money .

Posted by: FRP on December 8, 2009 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, I don't know why you even waste valuable server space pointing out the obvous. Even adding comments pointing out said faux outrage gives it media staying power.

You should nobly turn the other cheek, and say, "there is nothing to see here" and move on.



Posted by: ChrisNBama on December 8, 2009 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

.... and part of it is the result of Republicans' more aggressive media operation.

Steve, that's all of the phenomenon. The Republican party isn't a political party. It's a country club with a media operation.

Posted by: about time on December 8, 2009 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

If one knows one's history, slavery, the Holocaust, and Hitler are off the table for any decent, civil debate in the world's foremost democracy.

No one in a suit and tie working for our legislative bodies can even fathom the decrepit, misery-ridden fate of innocent people suffered under cruel, inhumane conditions perpetrated upon them from egregious authoritarian systems.

And, so, any politico using such comparisons should be called out no matter the side of the aisle s/he is representing! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on December 8, 2009 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

Nailed: Slime to the wall

Superb job documenting this phenomenon Steve.
You've left little wiggle room for a counter argument here...

Posted by: koreyel on December 8, 2009 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

If I remember my history, the Republicans were on the right side of the slavery debate. So Reid isn't necessarily pointing to historical GOP intransigence. Funny how the modern GOP, when Reid mentions slavery, automatically assumes he meant them.

Posted by: Daryl P Cobranchi on December 8, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

"Hey, Republicans throw hissy fit. Media covers hissy fit. You'd think this would get old."

Even the Tiger Woods story is starting to take on an Obama-by-proxy-derangement-syndrome, isn't it? I expect to see the "Character Matters" billboards any day now.

Posted by: Danp on December 8, 2009 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

I'm sick and tired of this constant whining about how the game isn't being played fairly. You know that. I know that. Every damn reader in this blog knows that. And every time I hear it I get more and more pissed at the Democrats! This country is disfunctional and rapidly slipping into fascism. And the god-damn congress-critters are posturing for political gain and keeping their jobs.

Posted by: Chopin on December 8, 2009 at 9:26 AM | PERMALINK

Durbin eventually offered a tearful apology.

And therein lies the problem. Republicans NEVER apologize, NEVER admit to being wrong, or making mistakes or lying.

Posted by: ckelly on December 8, 2009 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Durbin sat right beside Cornyn while he made his gulag remark and never batted an eye. He could have laughed and told Cornyn that comparing something to the Soviet gulag gets you raked over the coals by the media. Of course that isn't true but it reminds Cornyn and Wallace of what happened to Durbin and points out that he has not forgotten. Alas, Durbin sat and smiled like the good little wimp he is.

Posted by: Th on December 8, 2009 at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK

I am soooo tiredof the constant expressions of surprise by observers on the left that MSM continually and in many ways, tilt towards the right. Years and years ago a survey revealed that most reporters were registered Democrats, and ever since we have had to endure the myth of liberal media. The more salient observation is that the overwhelming majority of OWNERS of mainstream media adhere to much more conservative beliefs. Republicans may be over-represented in this group. So, IF YOUR BOSS IS CONSERVATIVE, AND YOU VALUE YOUR JOB, you leave your center-left beliefs at home, neatly folded out of view. This is subtler than what Fox News did, which was push out the Democrats. Instead of referring to these media as “mainstream” we should begin to call them “Republican-owned media”, then maybe we can hear less puzzlement from our leftwing punditocracy.

Posted by: Keeping Track on December 8, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

"Durbin eventually offered a tearful apology.

And therein lies the problem. Republicans NEVER apologize, NEVER admit to being wrong, or making mistakes or lying."

And the Republicans are fully supported by their base and the media in all instances. The base rallies and the media covers the righteous indignation of the base as their story. Look no further than Joe "You lie!" Wilson. Democrats get little support from their base and often are abandoned and the media is always corrosive to them. And not just Fox News. Huffington Post has become the official bash and blame Obama outlet. It's become sickening to even go on there now.

Dick Durbin is a good example. His remark was completely legitimate. The media fostered the Republican hysteria and Durbin was left hung out to dry by Democrats.

Posted by: SaintZak on December 8, 2009 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

Hmmm. What have Conservatives been against? Here's what history tells us:
They were against the abolition of slavery.
They were against suffrage for women.
They were against desegregation and ending Jim Crow.
They were against open housing laws.
They were against Social Security.
They were against separation of church and state.
They were against universal health care.
They were against Medicare.
They were against the New Deal.
They were against collective bargaining for labor.
They were against ending child labor laws.
They were against the 40 hour work week.
They were against paid vacation and overtime.
They were against funding AIDS research.

Please add to the list!

Posted by: crinky on December 8, 2009 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

"Please add to the list!"

They were against Minimum wage protections.
They were against Clean water.

Too many to list.

Posted by: wbn on December 8, 2009 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

One small problem, kevo: the US is not only no longer the world's greatest democracy, the US is no longer a democracy.

Posted by: rbe1 on December 8, 2009 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

"Isn't it at least possible that Dems just have other things they want to talk about, and Republicans don't?"

Exactly. What comes to mind is two kids during break. One is standing around yelling, insulting, trying to attract attention; the other is sitting on a bench trying to do homework but drawn into making lame responses to the first kid instead. First kid gets D minuses, second kid gets B minuses. If the second kid would only quit reacting, ignore the first kid, and find a quieter place to work, he'd get A's while the first kid gets thrown out.

Posted by: pw on December 8, 2009 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Well plainly Dick Durbin's comment was more outrageous than all the "health care gulag" comments because his comment rang true and he plainly actually meant it. Republicans we have just come to expect to be buffoons and take no more offense to their ravings than those of random people on street corners yelling about Zionist plots.

Speaking of ravings of lunatics on street corners, rbe1, please elaborate on the US not being a democracy.

Posted by: Eric L on December 8, 2009 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

There are different kind of people in this world
and so there are many people who just pretend but they dont really mean that they said.

Posted by: Mio Navman Spirit S500THF on December 8, 2009 at 11:57 PM | PERMALINK

Very Nice website. I recently built mine and i was looking for some design ideas and your website gave me some. Did you develop the website alone?


Posted by: Libby Stanton on November 14, 2010 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the article. I thought it was interesting.

Posted by: dart combos on December 15, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly