Kathleen Parker

Veteran political columnist David Broder set off a firestorm recently when he called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid an ``embarrassment'' for declaring the Iraq War ``lost.''

From the assault subsequently directed at Broder -- from other journalists, political operatives, left-wing bloggers and even the entire 50-member Senate Democratic Caucus -- you'd have thought Broder had had an intimate encounter with an intern.

Or, in the spirit of bipartisanship, had broken into Democratic National Committee headquarters.

Broder committed no such dastardly deed, but merely did what he has done for the past 35 years. He called it as he saw it -- just as Reid claims to have done, and that his defenders seem to find so refreshing.

Nevertheless, the 50 Democratic senators felt compelled to respond. Doesn't the U.S. Senate have more important matters to attend to than David Broder?

In a letter to The Washington Post that had the unmistakable whiff of a powder room manifesto, otherwise known as a hissy fit -- as opposed to a ``bed-wetting tantrum,'' as Paul Begala described Broder's column -- the senators asserted that their leader is a ``good listener,'' who has an ``amazing ability to synthesize views and bring people together,'' and who also demonstrates a ``mastery of procedure.''

It is perhaps admirable, and certainly reassuring to Reid, that his fellow senators came to his defense. But this kind of overreaction to a columnist is rare, if not unprecedented, and betrays a disturbing hostility to legitimate criticism.

Though Broder is a great political writer, he is not the president of the United States. He doesn't command an army or meet routinely with heads of state to negotiate planetary alignment or even global heating and cooling. He's a commentator.

And what, exactly, is a commentator supposed to do if not comment? When he or she makes a point -- from the perspective of an observer with more than 50 years' experience in Broder's case -- does disagreement necessitate a movement?

Outrage has become such a predictable response to any difference of opinion that it's lost its heat. When everything is outrageous, nothing is.

In fact, what Broder said was not remotely outrageous. It's hardly crazy to think it inappropriate when the leader of the most powerful governing body in the world declares in the midst of a war that the war is lost.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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