by Scoobie Davis
I'm too busy to blog but Eric Boehlert isn't:
During an October 22 profile of House Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on CBS' 60 Minutes, correspondent Leslie Stahl was busy fretting over Pelosi's uncivil rhetoric and wondered how the Democratic leader could possibly work with President Bush if her party prevailed in November. Reading back some of Pelosi's quotes about the Bush administration being "failed" and "arrogant" and -- gasp -- even criticizing the government's inept response to Hurricane Katrina, Stahl insisted, "You're one of the reasons we have to restore civility in the first place." Read the whole thing
Pelosi disagreed, noting that rhetoric is the everyday language of political debate in this country. And plus, she said, it was accurate. But an overly anxious Stahl was unconvinced. "How does this raise the level of civility?" she pressed.
Stahl is hardly alone when it comes to current-day hand-wringing over how Democrats -- and Pelosi in particular -- will respond if they recapture control of the House after 12 years in the minority. Time magazine worried that some Democrats "would undoubtedly try to use their majority power to exact revenge for Republican overreach" in recent years. And MSNBC host Norah O'Donnell went one better, demanding Democrats go "on the record" and "promise" that if they seize control of the House, they would not issue subpoenas to the White House and make "the president's final two years in office a living hell."
The flood of unsolicited advice about etiquette and manners coming Democrats' way from Beltway insiders -- from the "make-nice crowd," as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls them -- rings hollow. The press seems spooked that a Democratic victory would mean Congress would then become too political, too partisan. Yet this is coming from the same Beltway press corps that yawned while polarizing, partisan House Republicans, led by Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), discarded generations' worth of bipartisan Capitol Hill traditions and protocol in order to radically alter the way the legislative branch functions. But only now, with the specter of a Democratic majority looming, do journalists consider partisanship to be a newsworthy (and disturbing) issue.
The trend highlights two distinct media double standards on clear display during the run-up to November. The first suggests that when Republicans are in power, partisanship, even the jacked-up kind on steroids, is dubbed healthy hardball. But if Democrats practice any (or even contemplate it), that's deemed to be bad for democracy. The second is that Democratic Party leaders are routinely held to a different press standard; a standard usually constructed by Republican smears.