Monday, November 15, 2004

Reading Reid.

According to the New York Times, Harry Reid is an "atypical choice" for Senate Democratic Leader because he is "a teetotaling Mormon, a former Capitol Hill police officer who opposes abortion and was a cosponsor of the constitutional amendment banning flag-burning." That the Democrats chose him shows "his party may need to reposition itself, both ideologically and geographically, for the difficult years ahead."

More likely, it shows that when the leader retires, the whip succeeds them. In the House, examples include Hale Boggs, Tip O'Neill, Tom Foley, and Nancy Pelosi. In the Senate, examples include Scott Lucas, Lyndon Johnson, Michael Mansfield, Robert Byrd, and now Harry Reid.

But the media must cut the story to fit the script. The Democrats lost in 2004, so the script is, the "party may need to reposition itself, both ideologically and geographically," and thus Harry Reid becomes an example of that "need," even if he would have been the leader regardless of the outcome.

But what if the Democrats had won; how would the media have cut the story then? Would they have pointed to Reid's labor record, better than Daschle's, and said he was chosen for that? Would they have pointed to Reid's environmental record, also better than Daschle's, and said he was chosen for that? Would they have pointed to Reid's support for fair trade, stronger than Daschle's, and said he was chosen for that?

Or would they have written the same story, and noted that victories for conservative Democrats in North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Colorado, and Alaska had demanded that the party "reposition itself," despite the victory?

I don't know. But they wouldn't have written this: "Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada, will succeed Tom Daschle as Senate Minority Leader. Currently Minority Whip, his succession will continue a trend of party whips succeeding party leaders upon their retirement. He is more liberal than his predecessor on some issues, more conservative on others, but he was chosen for his legislative acumen." Because that wouldn't fit the script.