Compare the following two statements currently floating ’round the blogosphere:
“I’m saddened, saddened that this President failed so miserably at diplomacy that we’re now forced to war. Saddened that we have to give up one life because this President couldn’t create the kind of diplomatic effort that was so critical for our country.” (Tom Daschle, March 18)
“The last seven months have involved six months of diplomatic failure and one month of military success. The first days after military victory indicate the pattern of diplomatic failure is beginning once again and threatens to undo the effects of military victory.” (Newt Gingrich, April 22)
Here’s what happened following Senator Daschle’s comments: Republican Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert issued a statement saying that they “may not undermine the President as he leads us into war and they may not comfort our adversaries, but they come mighty close.” Republican National Committee chairman Marc Racicot termed them “divisive and brazen political posturing” and said it was “disheartening and shameful” that the Senate minority leader would “blame America first.” Senate majority leader Bill Frist added that he considered the remarks to be “deeply disappointing,” even “irresponsible.” Daschle’s likely opponent for re-election, former Representative John Thune, tried his hand at wit, observing that Daschle sounded like he came “from the south of France, not from South Dakota.”
These Republican attack dogs are not merely the primary shareholders of a political party. They are also the proprietors of much of the cable-television/talk-radio universe, where their comments were faithfully rehearsed. From stage far right, as if on cue, Fox’s Sean Hannity called Daschle’s remarks “disgraceful.” Fox’s idea of a liberal, Morton Kondracke, called them “totally unconscionable.” Fox’s idea of a moderate, Bill O’Reilly, announced, “The South Dakota senator finds himself in the same position as Trent Lott. His credibility is finished.” Fox fellow-traveler (and frequent Republican funder) Lou Dobbs, speaking on CNN, intoned, “Senator Daschle has every reason to be saddened, but by his own words and deeds.”
Things got so bad for Daschle, and the media voices in his defense were so few and far between, that his re-election committee felt compelled to send out a mass e-mail (later reprinted in Salon) begging supporters to “take the time to defend Senator Daschle from his critics.” “Please speak out,” the authors pleaded.