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David Broder Is Ready For His Close-up

Thursday, October 12, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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The Washington Post’s David Broder is one of the most highly esteemed Beltway journalists, but at 77 he no longer feels the need to pretend to objectivity. Today’s column is a plea for voters to elect Democrats.  Fine.  If a tree falls in the woods….

Broder’s diagnosis is that the Congressional majority has failed to act and needs replacing.  “The failure of this Congress to act meaningfully on immigration, energy, health care or other vital needs has left the public frustrated,” Broder concludes, “and members of Congress feeling embattled.”

Set aside the fact that the immigration debate was concluded with a huge appropriation for border security and the construction of a fence, and instead ask why the Congress did not bring forth legislation in the areas Broder cites.  Drilling in ANWR was obstructed by Democrats in the Senate.  Social Security reform was obstructed by Senate Democrats.Tort reform which could bring down health costs was obstructed by Senate Democrats.  All of these proposals had majority support in Congress.  A minority in the Senate obstructed them.

The dishonesty in Broder’s analysis is that he assumes the remedies he wants –presumably the tired, old lefty approaches, Hillary-care, amnesty, you name it– are the ones voters want.  If in fact the public wants action from the Congress in the direction of exploration for new energy supplies, the end to plaintiff lawyer abuses, strict border security and continued lower taxes, then turning out the majority will be exactly the wrong thing to do.

To get the Congress moving requires more, not fewer Republicans.  Paralysis would only increase with the arrival of Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Murtha, Majority Leader Reid and Chairman Leahy.

David Broder knows this.  Why doesn’t he say it?  He knows what a Democratic majority means in the House –endless investigations and gridlock.  He knows what it means in the Senate –a return to Judiciary Committee gridlock and no hope whatsoever of comprehensive immigration reform.  But he pretends that voting Democratic will fix the institution when it will only lead to retreat in the war, in a slow replay of ’73-75.  Why not spell it out?

Because it would ruin his point, which is to damage Republicans.  But a Broder column ain’t what it used to be.  Broder’s desire is strong, but his reach is very, very limited.

David Broder scorns the GOP and probably Pesident Bush.  Like most Beltway MSM superstars, Broder must feel cut out by Bush and the Republican majority.  This Administration and most of the Congressional majority  –exclude John McCain here– just doesn’t care what the entrenched punditry/reportorial class thinks, and the country certainly doesn’t.  This indifference combined with the revolution in new media has effectively demoted David Broder and his colleagues.  They just don’t matter much anymore.  His columns don’t raise the majority’s blood pressure or even eyebrows.  Mostly, if read at all, they result in a rolling of the eyes, like E.J.’s, or laughter, like Eugene Robinson’s.  People used to watch “Washington Week In Review,” and the Sunday shows mattered.  A Broder column was a big deal; a Broder book sold.  People listened.  Politicians listened.  Even presidents listened.

No more. 

Rooting for a sweep by the Democrats is to be expected from the D.C. scribblers and talkers, especially the older ones unused to being ignored.  “Perhaps if we can get back to pre-1994, we’d be back,” they wrongly assume.  “Iran-Contra, Watergate, Vietnam –the salad days of D.C. journalists: Maybe they could come back with a Democratic majority.”

When Sunset Boulevard gets remade in a D.C. setting, the Norma Desmond role should be a Beltway journalist/pundit, muttering that “They took the idols and smashed them, the Murrows, the Cronkites, the Andersons! And who’ve we got now? Some nobodies!,” and “We didn’t need facts. We had opinions!”

How long will it take for the new media revolution to sink in inside the Post?  Perhaps never.  Not that it matters.

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