David Broder, Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

If you read the left-wing blogs, you quickly learn there is no journalist or commentator more despised than David S. Broder, the “Dean” of Washington columnists.  In recent writings, Broder has been less than thrilled with the performance of the new Democratic Congress and its leadership.  To the netroots, it’s still the honeymoon phase; but here’s this old guy, an uncle you sort of have to listen to, standing at the back of the reception saying “You stink!”

What they despise about Broder is his reputation as a liberal, which derives in part from his position at the Washington Post.   The netroots disagree that the Post is actually all that liberal, or that Broder is “one of them,” and it really steams them that Broder’s critical comments about the Democratic party are seen as coming from a sympathetic corner.  

Rush Limbaugh, Hugh Hewitt, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter leave no mark; they’re dismissed easily as right-wing crackpots.  But Broder disrupts what the netroots repeatedly call “the narrative.”  When a liberal says what conservatives say, the conservatives’ viewpoints are legitimized.  The netroots don’t really enjoy debating conservatives; they’d rather dismiss them from the debate entirely. It’s harder to do that when they can cite liberals like David Broder as agreeing with them. 

I’m beginning to think David Broder likes provoking the netroots.  What else would explain today’s column, in which he compares Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to…omigod!… Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez!  

The column was prompted by Reid’s much-criticized comment last week that “this war is lost.”

…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.

Given the way the Constitution divides warmaking power between the president, as commander in chief, and Congress, as sole source of funds to support the armed services, it is essential that at some point Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi be able to negotiate with the White House to determine the course America will follow until a new president takes office.

To say that Reid has sent conflicting signals about his readiness for such discussions is an understatement. It has been impossible for his own members, let alone the White House, to sort out for more than 24 hours at a time what ground Reid is prepared to defend.

Instead of reinforcing the important proposition — defined by the Iraq Study Group— that a military strategy for Iraq is necessary but not sufficient to solve the myriad political problems of that country, Reid has mistakenly argued that the military effort is lost but a diplomatic-political strategy can still succeed.

The Democrats deserve better, and the country needs more, than Harry Reid has offered as Senate majority leader.

Broder’s comparison with Gonzalez is, in fact, quite apt.  The problem with Sen. Reid is that he is an incompetent Senate Majority Leader.  As Michael Dukakis said, “It’s not about ideology. It’s about competence.”  The AG is manifestly unfit for his job, and so is Reid.  Reid can’t manage his own mouth; how can he be expected to manage the U.S. Senate? Vice President Cheney’s stinging retort to Reid drew blood because he mostly just quoted Reid’s own incredibly contradictory pattern of statements about the war over the past few months.

But to the netroots, even pointing out obvious incompetence screws up “the narrative.”  Here’s what diarist mcjoan says on Daily Kos regarding Broder’s column:

It’s just so sad, so disconnected from anything even remotely resembling reality. We had ample warning that it was coming, but maybe somehow didn’t think it could really, really be as bad as expected. It is. You can go read it, if you like. But there’s really hardly any point any more.

I do have to give this to the Dean. He is somehow adroit enough to hammer the final nail into the coffin that holds all that was left of his ability to reasonably comment on current events. What more is there to say?

And here is what Greg Sargent, a TPM Cafe blogger, says:

Boy, oh, boy. Will Broder really argue that Reid is as inept as Gonzales, despite the fact (or perhaps because of the fact) that Reid has refused to back down on Iraq while simultaneously maintaining public approval of his approach? He’s also maintained a respectable 46% approval rating — far higher than Bush, who Broder says is on the verge of a comeback. What is it that’s so profoundly threatening about Reid’s success to the Broders of the world?

In the respective comment threads, the “blogswarm” goes on a Broder-bashing spree.  Kos himself weighs in:

 What more is there left to say? (22+ / 0-)

That finally it’s clear as day that Broder is simply another run-of-the-mill beltway partisan hack. Once upon a time, he convinced everyone in DC that he was a non-partisan arbiter of conventional wisdom. That fiction is now blown apart. Broder is no better or different than Sean Hannity or Bill O’Reilly. An inglorious conclusion to a career in hackdom.

by kos on Wed Apr 25, 2007 at 10:56:27 PM PDT

Here’s one from Sargent’s thread:

Its time for the blogshere to do some investigative reporting on Broder and the like.

It’s pretty clear that the Bushies/necons will do anything to advance their cause, protect themselves and manipulate public opinion.

Why has Broder nor Wapo disclosed Broder’s close relationship with Rove?

Broder is either being paid off financially or blackmailed. Cayman Island bank accounts, junkets, or compromising personal information. All of the above?

Posted by:erict
Date: April 25, 2007 08:26 PM

And how about this one from the Washington Post’s own comment thread:

Take the package, Mr. Broder. Retire now before you shred what reputation you have left any further. Old windbag. If the war is so great, why arent your kids and grandkids there? Harry Reid is right. The war is lost. Its time to come home and stop playing cowboy with American lives, which is just making everything in Iraq worse. Bush is the worst disaster in the history of the United States, and Broder was one of his sycophantic cheerleaders after nine one one. The emperor never had any clothes.

By snoopydc | Apr 26, 2007 12:32:42 AM |

Throughout the comments you find the view expressed that Reid’s “war is lost” comment is true, and that polls show the public agrees with it.  What they are overlooking is the American public doesn’t prefer to lose this war.   Reid seems to be egging on that result, especially when he says things like this:

“We’re going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding.”

Broder isn’t a hack, and he isn’t on the take.  He has a memory.  Memory curses dreams like the netroots’.  

Here’s an inconvenient analysis that draws on my own memories.

At the end of the Vietnam War, the Democrats facilitated the final defeat, denying President Ford’s request for funds to fulfil the promises the U.S. made after we pulled out. In 1975, the politics of that move looked pretty good; the public was sick of Vietnam.  In 1976, Carter beat Ford — but it should have been a landslide because of Watergate, and instead it was a squeaker.  Why?   In 1978, Republicans reversed most of the gains the Democrats had made in Congress in 1974.  In 1980, Reagan clobbered Carter, and the Republicans took the Senate. 

I believe the atrocities that followed the ignominious end to the Vietnam War, and the U.S.’ impotence to stop mass genocide and annihilation of our former supporters fueled those Democratic setbacks.  For the first time in decades, Republicans started talking about an aggressive stance toward the Soviet Union, and after the horrors of postwar Southeast Asia, the message resonated.

Losing Iraq would be another bloody business. It’s not hard to imagine.  Suicide bombings would increase. Civil war would widen. Any Iraqi individual or institution committed to democracy would be targeted for murder. Al Queda could well end up effectively in charge of parts of Iraq. 

And Harry Reid thinks this will help the Democrats win elections?  It’s absurd.  And he’s incompetent for thinking so, much less saying so.


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