It's quite amazing what spurious nonsense a politician can get away with saying in Washington -- if there's a "D" next to his or her name. Rep. Jim Moran can claim the Iraq war's all the fault of the Jewish lobby. Rep. Marcy Kaptur can compare Osama bin Laden to Ethan Allen and the Founding Fathers (religious nuts all, apparently). The most powerful Democrats can make outrageous, spit-take gaffes or drop-dead serious insults, and do so with abandon, knowing the press will let them get away with it.
On Monday, March 17, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle spoke softly, then whacked George W. Bush in the face with a big stick: "I'm saddened, saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war, saddened that we have to give up one life because this president couldn't create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country."
Republicans were furious. They sent e-mails around noting Daschle's remarks from last September, when he suggested the looming war should not be a political football for Karl Rove and other GOP strategists because we "ought not politicize the rhetoric about war and life and death."
But the network news stars suggested this was a sad and regrettable moment ... for Republicans! The TV spin did not center on how Daschle showed breathtakingly stupid political judgment, coupled with dazzling mean-spiritedness, for blaming any imminent combat deaths on President Bush on the brink of war. Instead, the ridiculous media spin was that censorious Republicans won't allow anyone to raise questions of any kind about Bush. When the anchormen finally arrived on Daschle's death talk on Tuesday night, more than 24 hours (a media lifetime) after the offending remarks, their coverage looked as if it was being directed by James Carville. All squinty eyes of disdain were ordered to be shot at the GOP.
ABC's Peter Jennings reported Republicans were "going after" Daschle for "criticizing President Bush's war plans." Over at NBC, Tom Brokaw found all the harshness at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: "At the White House today there were lots of harsh words directed at Democrats on Capitol Hill. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in particular." NBC reporter Campbell Brown relayed the talking points from the DNC: It was a pre-emptive strike, orchestrated by the White House, to try to intimidate Democratic dissent before war even started.