Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Dean of Washington Journalism Needs A Refresher Course in Fact-Checking

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Two days ago, David Broder called Sen. Harry Reid "the Democrats' Gonzales." Among other things, he went on at length about how sick and tired Democrats in Congress were of Reid's "ineptitude":

Here's a Washington political riddle where you fill in the blanks: As Alberto Gonzales is to the Republicans, Blank Blank is to the Democrats -- a continuing embarrassment thanks to his amateurish performance.

If you answered " Harry Reid," give yourself an A. And join the long list of senators of both parties who are ready for these two springtime exhibitions of ineptitude to end.
Hailed by his staff as "a strong leader who speaks his mind in direct fashion," Reid is assuredly not a man who misses many opportunities to put his foot in his mouth. In 2005, he attacked Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, as "one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington."

He called President Bush "a loser," then apologized. He said that Bill Frist, then Senate majority leader, had "no institutional integrity" because Frist planned to leave the Senate to fulfill a term-limits pledge. Then he apologized to Frist.

Most of these earlier gaffes were personal, bespeaking a kind of displaced aggressiveness on the part of the onetime amateur boxer. But Reid's verbal wanderings on the war in Iraq are consequential -- not just for his party and the Senate but for the more important question of what happens to U.S. policy in that violent country and to the men and women whose lives are at stake.

Two days before Broder wrote the above in his WaPo column, he called Reid an "embarrassment" who has had to apologize every six weeks "for the way in which he has bungled the Democratic case." He told XM Radio's Bob Edwards that Reid "should learn to engage mind before mouth opens," and advised Reid's colleagues in the Senate to “ 'have a little caucus and decide how much further they want to carry Harry Reid' and his 'bumbling performance.' ”

Well. It looks as though David Broder is the embarrassment who should apologize -- for bungling the facts and the truth like the hack that he is. Via Glenn Greenwald, a letter was published in yesterday's Washington Post, signed by all 50 Democratic senators (exclusive of Reid himself) in response to Broder's attacks on Reid:

We, the members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, contest the attack on Sen. Harry Reid's leadership by David S. Broder in his April 26 column, "The Democrats' Gonzales."

In contrast to Mr. Broder's insinuations, we believe Mr. Reid is an extraordinary leader who has effectively guided the new Democratic majority through these first few months with skill and aplomb.

The Democratic caucus is diverse, and Mr. Reid has worked tirelessly to make sure that the views of each member are heard and represented. No one ideology dominates the caucus, so that a consensus can be reached and unity achieved. It is hard to imagine a better model for leadership.

Because Mr. Reid has the support of members of the caucus, is a good listener and has an amazing ability to synthesize views and bring people together, the Senate has accomplished a great deal during his time as majority leader. Armed with his years of service in the Senate and with a mastery of procedure, Mr. Reid has led the chamber with a slim majority and a minority that is, at times, determined to stop legislation with which it disagrees.

In the first 100 days alone, we made great strides under his leadership on long-neglected legislation concerning stem cell research, the Sept. 11 commission's recommendations and the minimum wage, to name three. In addition, under Mr. Reid's leadership, we have fulfilled our obligation, left uncompleted by last year's Republican-led Senate, to fund the federal government. He has accomplished all of this in the face of stiff opposition and with a commitment to giving ideas full opportunity for debate.

Finally, in this age of scripted politicians speaking only to their base or claiming that they "don't recall" anything, the fact that Mr. Reid speaks his mind should be applauded, not derided. His brand of straight talk is honest, comes from the heart and speaks directly to the people.





Greg Sargent has more:

... what on earth basis is there for suggesting that Reid's been an "embarrassment"? He currently has an approval rating of 46% -- a heck of a lot better than Bush.

Finally, it looks as if Broder completely butchered his facts in asserting that Reid has had to apologize "every six weeks." I just checked with Reid's office, and they told me in no uncertain terms that Reid has not apologized for any of his remarks during his first four months or so as majority leader. He certainly hasn't apologized for the "war is lost" comment.

Doesn't the Dean of Washington journalism check his facts?

Cross-posted at Shakesville.

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