Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid finally appeared in a debate Oct. 14 in Las Vegas with his Republican opponent, Sharron Angle. The appearance might come as a surprise to consumers of the national media. While Angle has been pounded relentlessly by national media outlets as being both dangerously radical and ridiculous, Reid has been left alone and untouched.
But what about Harry? He's the majority leader, after all. Is he, like so many of his colleagues, simply afraid to talk about his legislative "accomplishments"? Nobody's wondered why he hasn't been making the rounds of interviews on national television. While reporters rush to report the latest "wacky" quote from Angle, the networks haven't lifted a finger to cover Reid's cascade of rhetorical stumbles and outrages, especially since Angle won the GOP primary.
We won't count Reid's remarks last year comparing opponents of health reform to supporters of slavery or his describing those opponents as "evilmongers," which he delighted in repeating and telling reporters he'd coined a new word.
There's a list of fresh gaffes, and it just keeps growing. In the past three months, Reid embarrassed Delaware U.S. Senate candidate Chris Coons by calling him his "pet." He said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is the "hottest senator," enraging feminists. He said, "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican." Just last week, a reporter asked him to nominate his "greatest living American," and the supposedly smarter candidate cited the deceased senators Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd.
On Sunday, he waxed Bidenesque as he compared President Barack Obama to the Chilean miners trapped underground. When Obama replaced George W. Bush, Reid said, Obama found himself in a "hole so deep that he couldn't see the outside world." It "was like the Chilean miners, but he, being the man he is, rolled up his sleeves and said, 'I am going to get us out of this hole.'" Oh.
None of those groaners was the subject of breathless reports on television.
For Nevada voters, the debate unequivocally exposed that it was Reid who was the candidate that came unprepared for prime time. But on the three networks, it was a different story. Though they tried to acknowledge weakly that Reid didn't win, only Jonathan Karl on ABC played a clip of a confused Reid at the podium, fumbling for his notes: "OK. Got to find my little notes here. ... OK. A lot of paper here." Karl was also the only network correspondent who, after Reid denied that he grew rich in office, featured this ridiculous line by the Democrat: "I've been on a fixed income since I went to Washington." Karl noted Reid makes $193,400 as majority leader. None of the networks used Angle's line that Reid, most unpolitically, lives in the Ritz-Carlton in Washington. Some fixed income.
But the worst part of the debate that the network Angle-bashers ignored concerned Reid's biggest and most outspoken mistake: his declaration in April 2007 that the Iraq war was lost. The debate moderator, Mitch Fox, quoted his remarks precisely: "You were quoted as saying the following: 'The war is lost, and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence.' Do you believe that your statement demoralized the troops and (was) inaccurate as judged by the success of the troop surge?"
Reid simply lied in response. He tried to suggest he merely had been restating the thesis of Gen. David Petraeus: "He said and I said the war could only be won militarily, economically and diplomatically." Reid said this, without an ounce of shame, after the moderator had just quoted him as saying "the war is lost."
But then Reid dug an even deeper trench of untruth. "After I made my statement and Gen. Petraeus made his statements, we did the surge then, not later. And it was the right thing to do."
So now Reid is taking credit for the surge? Again, the moderator had just told the voters of Nevada that Reid had declared that "the surge is not accomplishing anything." Reid didn't care about the truth of what he said. He was just recklessly, shamelessly inventing an alternate universe. History, truth, facts -- damn them all. Reid now says that "the surge worked" and that somehow, in spite of his white-flag remarks, he was supportive of the mission and the troops.
How can the "truth" detectors in TV news skip over Reid's fabrications of his own record? They can't, of course, unless they are shamelessly partisan and don't care whether politicians tell the truth or invent fiction.
Back in 2007, NBC reporter Bob Faw insisted Reid merely was "saying out loud what many say privately about Iraq." What "many say privately" (read: inside the national media) turned out to be wrong and unwise. So the reporters are not just covering for Reid. They're covering for themselves.