Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Media Out To Get DeLay
For the old-fashioned, the definition of a "news story" is a story that is new — hence the name. But the newspeople at the newspapers the Washington Post and the New York Times have an updated definition — anything that hurts Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay on any given day.
The Times just ran a front-page article reporting that DeLay's wife and daughter receive payments from his political operations. This story might have been news if it hadn't been known for years and been the subject of a detailed report in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call on May 5, 2003 — meaning the Times did a follow-up 702 days later. And this story might have been scandalous if it weren't for the fact that having family members on the pay-roll is a common, bipartisan practice, accepted as legitimate so long as they actually do work (DeLay's daughter runs his congressional campaigns). This story can only be explained if some editor at the Times is not barking at reporters, "Get news on Tom DeLay!" but instead simply, "Get Tom DeLay!"
It's almost as if the media is working in concert with the Democratic party on this. Lowry points out that the Washington Post has gotten in on the act as well:
The same day as the Times front-pager, the Washington Post ran its own front-page article on a trip DeLay took to Russia that was ostensibly funded by a Washington think tank, but that really might have been funded by a Washington lobbyist, in violation of House rules. This might have been news if that trip hadn't taken place in 1997 and been reported in the National Journal on Feb. 25, 2005 — meaning the Post did a relatively brisk follow-up after 39 days. Most subjects of Washington scandals are undone by the steady accumulation of new allegations. DeLay might be the first brought down by the drip-drip of old allegations.
I have pointed out before that the SAEN has problems of it's own with it's reporting on DeLay, not the least of which is that the SAEN's reporting ignores Democrats guilty of the same allegation made against DeLay. Finally, Lowry warns the Democrats that they might be on the losing end on this one:
The Democratic assault on DeLay is modeled on Newt Gingrich's ethics drive against the Democratic leadership when Republicans were out of power in the early 1990s. That tack proved successful, but because it was combined with a serious intellectual and policy push. That is what's missing from the current Democratic campaign, which is all about DeLay, pure and simple. In fact, the Democrats have taken to charging that the House is being distracted from its policy work because of the DeLay controversy of their making. This amounts to saying: "Stop us before we attack Tom DeLay again!"
Of course, the substantive bankruptcy of the congressional Democratic minority is not news — however you define the term.
I am looking forward to comments from my liberal friends on this. You can read more about the campaign to get DeLay by reading this commentary by Robert Novak.
Where was Rich Lowry back when Bill Clinton needed him? Imagine if the media had followed Lowry’s advice on what is “news” back when they were doing non-stop coverage of Whitewater shenanigans and alleged affairs Clinton had while governor of Arkansas. All of it would have been deemed old news by Mr. Lowry and not worthy of coverage. In fact, the only news would have been the Monica Lewinsky fiasco which nobody would have known about if Ken Starr hadn’t been spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money snooping around for dirt on Clinton.
But Lowry also seems to think that something isn’t worth reporting if it has already been reported in another medium - thus because the story about how Tom DeLay’s wife and daughter received half a million dollars from his own political action committee (i.e. corporate donors funneling money straight into DeLay’s pocket) was already reported in Roll Call, an elite publication that only circulates around Capitol Hill, that somehow made it off limits as a story for the Washington Post or New York Times.
Or then there was the story about how one of DeLay’s junkets to Russia was funded by a Washington lobbyist contrary to House rules which was first reported in the National Journal. How convenient! A subscription to the National Journal is only $1,799 a year. I’m sure a lot of people can plunk down that kind of money.
Most subjects of Washington scandals are undone by the steady accumulation of new allegations. DeLay might be the first brought down by the drip-drip of old allegations.
News flash for Rich Lowry! There has been a “steady accumulation of new allegations” against Tom DeLay. He did not recieve an unprecedented three admonishments from the House ethics committee last year for “old allegations”. And the sleaze that has led to indictments of a number of his close political associates is not old news either.
In fact, if Tom DeLay had even an ounce of the shame that former Speaker Jim Wright had shown, he would have stepped down long ago.
I like how Lowry tries to come off as even-handed with this watered down criticism of DeLay:
There is no doubt that DeLay has gotten too comfortable with the perks of power and had a cringe-making relationship with a sleazy Washington lobbyist named Jack Abramoff.
Oh yes. It was all the fault of that sleazy Jack Abramoff. It’s always nice to have a scapegoat to take the fall for those who are in power. There is no question that Abramoff is sleazy, but it is also clear that DeLay fit right in with that crowd and even encouraged that kind of atmosphere among his staff members.
And Lowry claims that DeLay should get a pass now for this sleazy behavior because “the outrage over them is driven less by good-government zeal than frank partisanship.” Oh, I see. So if Democrats had never objected to this behavior then it would have been OK to take DeLay to task, but because Democrats are involved in the criticism that makes it unfair to criticize him and we should just let it go.
Of course, then Lowry goes on to excuse Newt Gingrich’s attacks on Speaker Wright back in the late ‘80s because “it was combined with a serious intellectual and policy push” which he claims is missing from the current Democratic campaign.
But of course that is just a lot of partisan hackery. Gingrich’s Contract on America was not a serious intellectual policy push but a PR campaign designed to ride a wave of resentment against entrenched Democratic control of Congress. Democrats certainly do have their own serious intellectual and policy push and it remains to be seen if the time is right for them to ride a new wave of resentment against another group of entrenched politicians who have been corrupted by power and have lost touch with their constituents.