Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 24, 2009

BRODER'S A HARD MAN TO PLEASE.... For the ostensible "dean" of the media political establishment, David Broder's take on the health care debate seems oddly detached from actual events.

What should have been a moment of proud accomplishment for the Senate, right up there with the passage of Social Security and the first civil rights bills, was instead a travesty of low-grade political theater -- angry rhetoric and backroom deals.

Um, Mr. Broder? Angry rhetoric and backroom deals were very much a part of the passage of Social Security and the first civil rights bills.

There's blame enough to go around. Start with the 40 Republicans, not one of whom was willing to break out of the mold of negative conformity and offer a sustained working partnership in serious legislative effort.

But even those Republicans who were initially inclined to do that -- and there were at least a handful of them -- were turned away by the White House and the Senate Democratic leaders, who never lifted their sights much beyond the Democratic ranks.

I hate to be a stickler for detail, but the White House and the Senate Democratic leaders all but begged Republicans to be a part of the process. The entire initiative was put on hold for months so the bipartisan "Gang of Six" could hold fruitless backroom talks, but the negotiations were nevertheless endorsed by the White House and the Senate Democratic leadership. More recently, just a week ago today, President Obama spent an hour and a half reaching out to Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) directly, followed up by a half-hour phone call. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine was sought out nearly as much. In April, President Obama met with GOP leaders in the White House, and started talking about the kind of concessions he was prepared to make as part of a bipartisan compromise. He asked what Republicans might be willing to do in return. They offered literally nothing.

Dems "never lifted their sights much beyond the Democratic ranks"? Reality suggests otherwise.

It would help a lot if [President Obama] reached out personally to those few Republicans who might still want to improve the bill rather than sink it.

What does Broder think the president has been doing the last several months? Has Broder been traveling outside the country since the spring?

The entire column is almost pretty much what one would expect, given the columnist. Broder blames "both sides" and urges policymakers who disagree to put aside their differences and come together, letting the country know reform has "bipartisan support." Sigh.

The truth is, David Broder should be thrilled with the Democratic plan, in that it addresses all of his purported concerns. It was the result of extensive compromise between liberals and conservatives; it incorporates ideas from the left, right, and center; it's the most ambitious cost-cutting measure Congress has considered in at least a generation; and it's a fiscally responsible policy that brings down the deficit considerably in the coming years.

Isn't this the kind of policy and process Broder claims to love?

Steve Benen 9:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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I think the Dean is looking back to those halcyon days of his youth, when wise men agreed to disagree, played golf afterward and pretty much did nothing but dispense bromides about Our Great Country.
You know, like "Advise and Consent". He's probably got that thing on a loop at home.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on December 24, 2009 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

If the exact same thing had happened since January, only with the opposite party affiliations, Broder would be praising the bill to the skies, predicting a thousand-year republican reich, and condemning dems to eternity minority hellfire for refusing to make the repug bill unanimous.

Broder loves only things that repugs do. He is the Dean of IOKIYAR, INOKIYAD.

Posted by: Yellow Dog on December 24, 2009 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Broder had the respect of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson in those halcyon days. I wish there was a way we could swap those two scribblers.

Thompson could always see and smell the reptiles from a mile away, and Broder has simply become one...

Posted by: neill on December 24, 2009 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

Now our job is to finish reconciling health reform legislation and keep the Republicans from re-writing history about how this finally came about.

On health reform the Republicans made a very different bet on history. Now they must deal with the consequences.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on December 24, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

If we're going to change the dialogue in Congress, the first thing we have to jettison the use of "fair and balanced" to mean having the Republicans create chaos and then blame both parties for lack of unity.

Posted by: MichMan on December 24, 2009 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Here's a holiday sentiment on which we can all agree
whatever our differences on the health care bill: FUCK YOU, BRODER!

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on December 24, 2009 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Two words, explaining the Broders of the world: Parallel Universe.

(A crowded one, filled with Pundits, Denyiers, the MSM, and Michelle Bachmann. . .)

Posted by: DAY on December 24, 2009 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, I take it you don't watch Faux News. For months, the Republican Cable Channel has been claiming that the nasty Democrats refused to give Republicans a seat at the health care table. Broder is simply echoing the Republican meme.

As for anything significant out of Broder, well he stopped being insightful as part of his retirement 30 years ago. Apparently that is how you tell when a Villager columnist retires. Same for that other well paid piller of the obvious Cokie Roberts. She stopped reporting when she retired in about 2000.

Posted by: Ron Byers on December 24, 2009 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

I have yet to read of a single Republican bottom line(i.e. put this in the bill or take it out and I'll vote for it) other than Olympia Snowe's, "It's just too, too fast" mantra.

A modest suggestion: Create, if only on paper and not on the ballot, a "Progressive Democrat" Party and a "National Democratic" party. Those parties can compromise with each other. (Some would say the "Progressive Democrats" compromised too much but that's another story.)

That way the sacrifices made by one faction of the party would be celebrated as unity, rather than be condemned as partisan ship.

But the media have to get past the philosophy that it's not bi-partisan if John McCain's not involved.

Posted by: art hackett on December 24, 2009 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

broder is a republican political hack. He's proved that repeatedly and undeniably for the past 9 years at least. what he says isn't worth a bucket of spit.

Posted by: gak on December 24, 2009 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

Insofar as Broder is not simply mendacious, he's harking back to the days when he could be deemed wise and influential by simply murmuring sweet nothings into the ears of moderate Republicans. The problem is that moderate Republicans are an extinct genus, so Broder's behavioral repertoire is obsolete.

Posted by: MattF on December 24, 2009 at 9:43 AM | PERMALINK

Yep, more of that "Both Sides" journalism that has become so disconnected from political reality.

Posted by: sjw on December 24, 2009 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Someone at the White House needs to go have a real talk with this navel gazing moron.

Posted by: Lance on December 24, 2009 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

And they wonder why newspapers are losing their audience. If this guy is the "Dean", God help us.

Posted by: Patrick Starr on December 24, 2009 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

As art hackett points out, the Democratic party is now two parties in one, similiarly to what it was in the days of the Dixiecrats. The difference is that the Dixiecrats are now Republicans and the centrist wing of the Republican party has joined with the more centrist/conservative wing of the Democratic party to become known as Blue Dogs. As the rump Republican party has become more right wing, many of the centrists and moderate conservatives who would have been Republicans 20 years ago are now Democrats.

This is good in the sense that our party is bigger and theirs smaller, but it also means we will be increasingly "negotiating with ourselves."

Posted by: Virginia on December 24, 2009 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

I think a clarification is in order. Broder being the "dean" of the media political establishment is a badge of shame, not honor.

Posted by: km on December 24, 2009 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder what Mr. Broder made of the so-called 'bipartisanship' of the previous administration/Congress, which consisted of no compromise, but threats to vilify "the handful" of conservative Dems (which, of course, they'd do anyway).

Posted by: jhm on December 24, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Noam Sane on December 24, 2009 at 10:51 AM | PERMALINK

If you just see Broder as a ridiculous old man, everything he says makes sense.

Posted by: hells littlest angel on December 24, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

It has been amazing and sad to watch David Broder devolve into a caricature of pomposity. He has one column to write -- a pox on both your houses rah-rah for a chimera of bipartisanship -- and keeps writing it again and again even as the facts shift beneath him. It is as if he does not know what is happening in the politics of the nation. If he is the "Dean of the DC press," that tells you all to know about the decline of this part of our newsmedia.

Posted by: Theda Skocpol on December 24, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

So, Republicans are to blame according to Broder because not one was willing to break out of their lockstep negative position, but Democrats are to blame for turning down an agreement that could have been had with, who exactly? A handful of Republicans willing to deal? But who were they exactly, since not one was willing to break out of their lockstep negativity.

Posted by: Ted Frier on December 24, 2009 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

Interesting alternative points of view...

Paul Starr on Monday's edition of the Brian Lehrer Show (24:35):

In a longer historical perspective, this is really a bipartisan bill. If you look back to the earlier decades when there were debates over health insurance, back to the Truman era, back to the 1970's, many Republicans put forward proposals in those days for the government to subsidize private insurance.

At that time Democrats were calling for what is now known as a 'Single Payer' plan -- that was the Truman proposal, that's what Ted Kennedy favored in the 1960's and 70's.

And this was the Republican alternative. Actually, what Democrats are moving ahead with now is much closer to what Republicans favored in the past.

So this is a bipartisan compromise. It's just a bipartisan compromise with an old Republican Party that no longer exists.

The whole interview is worth listening to. They go on to discuss how the Democratic Party functions both as the moderate _and_ liberal party in American politics today.

Even Dave Ross, the king of knee-jerk cheap shots has seen the light:

If the Republicans had wanted to stop all this special treatment, they could have. Maybe they still can.

Remember -- it's basically a Republican bill now anyway!

No public option, no federal financing for abortion, protection for insurance industry and drug industry profits -- the thing is so conservative you have liberals like Howard Dean actively campaigning against it.

So suppose a Republican Senator offered to vote yes... on condition that the bill be stripped of the expensive giveaway that Ben Nelson got for Nebraska? And suppose another Republican offered to vote yes on condition that the bill be stripped of the giveaway Mary Landrieu got for Louisiana.

You'd still have 60 filibuster-proof votes, except they'd be bi-partisan votes, and the bill would be a lot cheaper. [transcript here].

Posted by: leo on December 24, 2009 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

This asshole has been wrong about everything since at least 1962, when he was saying how good it was going to be for California for Richard Nixon to become governor. If you read "Nixonland" you can find out they thought Broder was the easiest guy to roll of any pundit in the country, and if you look at his articles there is one consistency: all his talk of "bipartisanship" is always couched in having the Democrats cooperate with the Republicans and follow their leadership. In 1969, he wrote a big memo to Democrats telling them that Nixon had his finger on the pulse of the country and that the majority was backing his Vietnam policy, so the Democrats should stop opposing things and get on board if they wanted to remain political relevant in the future. How wrong-headed is this? I think the past 40 years will tell you just what a moron he was then and is now.

That the otherwise-unemployables of the "media" in the village think he's someone to listen to and take seriously proves only what drooling morons they are.

Posted by: TCinLA on December 24, 2009 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

David Broder is 80 years old. Much of his career has been distinguished; most of comments here about him are at the least unkind and sometimes way out of line.

He is as wrong as wrong can be and has been for most of his 70s. It is extremely unfortunate that his "deanship" seems to have led the dominant press narrative to the silly conclusion that the blame for partisanship is evenly divided. But Helen Thomas is just as much a dean, and her left-leaning views (in her opinion pieces) haven't led very many journalists in her direction, so perhaps it is not fair to single Broder out for this fault.

"Fuck you," that famous Cheneyism, is out of place when addressed to an 80-year-old in almost any case and especially to someone who has served his profession and the country to the best of his ability, which has regrettably become impaired.

Compassion and decency have their place, even in the cut and thrust of politics. Yes, he is wrong and his influence these days is pernicious.

But for godsakes, we are all getting older, and we may need help and consideration ourselves. No one deserves death by verbal stoning.

Posted by: Steve High on December 24, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

He is many things, but not a leading "asshole," to quote another Bush-Cheneyism, nor has he been "wrong about everything."

There is much to agree with in this interview when was Broder was aging, but not geriatric:


Posted by: Steve High on December 24, 2009 at 12:24 PM | PERMALINK

Funny how easy it was to please Broder when Bush held office and went into an expensive and useless war.

Posted by: Jymn on December 24, 2009 at 12:32 PM | PERMALINK

When I lived in Boston, I remembered seeing Globe columnist Pat Oliphant while walking through thebT station. I wish sometimes in DC I would get a chance to encounter David Broder and tell him how dumb his columns are to his face.

Posted by: Tyro on December 24, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

If David Broder didn't already exist, somebody like Haddon Sundblom would have had to invent him.

Broder probably sees all this as a Christmas card . . . jolly Republican senators dashing through the snow, laden with goodies for those across the aisle. Gee, I'll bet that's where Jim Bunning was . . . down in the basement wrapping the gifts.

Silly old bastard.

Posted by: Squeaky McCrinkle on December 24, 2009 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, he is wrong and his influence these days is pernicious.

But for godsakes, we are all getting older, and we may need help and consideration ourselves.

What a very contradictory pair of sentences...comically juxtaposed.

When Broder stops influencing the public discourse for the worse, he will be welcome to my consideration, and perhaps even my help. Meanwhile, his advanced age earns him no special leeway, nor should it. He is, by his choice, a public figure who is trying to remain a political player rather than going into a long-overdue retirement.

As such, he can damned well take his medicine when he fucks up to this degree. There is far more at stake here than being gentle on an old man's ego -- even if that old man were remotely operating in good faith, as David Broder most certainly is not.

Posted by: shortstop on December 24, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I may be excessively tender because of my own advancing years. Here's a little poem I thought extremely funny and a propos as a boy:

I'm proud to be an American
I'm proud that I am free
I wish I were a little dog
And Eisenhower was a tree

This of the 80-year-old gentlemen who had saved western civilization when I, even then as cynical and irreverent a little snot as ever breathed, rode my bike to the shopping center to hand out "Draft Adlai" bumper stickers to try to frustrate Joe Kennedy, Nazi fan, from buying the top job for his kid.

So I agree. Fuck Broder where he breathes.

Posted by: Steve High on December 24, 2009 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

a few months back i heard bob dole interviewed about the need for health care reform. he fully supported the idea and talked about the democrats putting together a bill that would attract a dozen or so republican votes. in dole's day, that could be done; in today's senate, never. i think broder has the same nostalgic view of congress, where at least a sizable handful of republicans could be counted on to do the right thing for the country if the other side reached out to them. of course those days ended sometime during the clinton administration. the news hasn't caught up to broder.

or maybe i'm just being kind to the dude and he's really just a turd.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on December 24, 2009 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Which republicans does Broder think the Left should have worked harder with? He never gives names. Does he mean the ones that claimed there would be death panels? The ones that claimed there would be forced abortions? The ones who said old people would be judged by their worthiness to society? How about the ones who claimed the bill would be used to deny medical care to republicans? Or the ones who claimed you would go to prison if you didn't comply?

Which one of these republican gems were just waiting for for Obama to come calling in the spirit of bi-partisanship?

Posted by: JR on December 24, 2009 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

We could make allowances for Broder because of his age, but...

My 92 year old mother. who is not affected by the bill at all (she has both Medicare and CHAMPUS, which together add up to gold-plated coverage) has a better understanding of these issues - and most others - than Broder does.

Too bad. Once upon a time (back when Wapo was a great paper - yes children, there was such a time) he deserved all the credit he got. No more... no more...

Posted by: efgoldman on December 24, 2009 at 3:00 PM | PERMALINK

When Nixon suggested that the Post muzzle itself during Watergate, the paper's management responded, "fuck you!"

I still think we should be nicer to each other. Even though this is one of my favorite word, together with its nominative and adjectival derivatives, when speaking (or even thinking) of the Republicans.

Enough about this old bastard. I guess we can still speak ill of him as long he can get still reach the water glass to get his teeth from in the morning.

Fuck him, his aluminum walker, his Medicare doughnut hole, and all of his misbegotten descendants.

Can I be with popular kids now?

Posted by: Steve High on December 24, 2009 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

Broder is an asshole.

Posted by: Bill on December 24, 2009 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

I received my first personal loans when I was not very old and that aided my business very much. But, I need the term loan again.

Posted by: GAYAlfreda33 on November 23, 2010 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Not easy to say thank you, me english not so good - but these really good. Good read to practice English.

Posted by: Chiriqui Panama on December 5, 2010 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK



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