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A couple of media clunkers from last week deserve a moment in the spotlight, and I’ll follow the classic advice to open with a laugh.
That would mean a look at the Metro, the free commuter tabloid that ran a story Friday about the amazing progress shown by Arizona Democratic state Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head Jan. 8 and is well on the way to what might be a total recovery.
The Metro’s headline was:
You might expect this of a technology-based blog or even a website looking to pick up search hits — some terms, such as “Apple” and its products, “Palin” and (separately) “naked” are just enduring Google gold — but in a paper whose base is in print, especially in one where the reference is justified by less than half a sentence, it comes off looking less opportunistic and more odd. Sort of a “Ford assassination attempt made by woman in Levi’s” kind of a thing, or, in the words of longtime Boston journalist Joe Mont,
Gunman shoots three, self
Neighbors describe “quiet, loner” who enjoyed refreshing taste of Coke Zero
The other item is more likely to anger than amuse, once you stop to think about it. That it comes from David Brooks, of The New York Times, isn’t so unusual— he’s usually cast as a reasonable conservative and almost always has some sort of weird agenda underlying and undermining his reasonableness. In this, an apologia published Friday for retiring U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, you be the judge whether Brooks is culpable this time. If he is, he may share blame with Ezra Klein of The Washington Post, because Brooks bases what he writes in part on an item by the liberal Klein.
Lieberman has angered Democrats repeatedly by flirting with Republicans — even speaking for that party’s 2008 candidate for president, John McCain, at the GOP National Convention.
Brooks writes that for that “some Democrats wanted to strip him of his chairmanship of the homeland security committee. Lieberman, an independent, said if that happened then he might not be able to vote with the Democratic caucus.”
But by a broad majority, Democrats followed President Barack Obama’s lead and let Lieberman stay in his leadership position, unpunished. Brooks goes on:
If Lieberman had not been welcomed back by the Democrats, there might not have been a 60th vote for health care reform, and it would have failed.
There certainly would have been no victory for “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal without Lieberman’s tireless work and hawkish credentials. The Kerry-Lieberman climate bill came closer to passage than any other energy bill. Lieberman also provided crucial support or a swing vote for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the stimulus bill, the banking bill, the unemployment extension and several other measures.
Only in U.S. politics, one hopes, would this line of thinking pass without question.
Brooks — and Klein to a lesser extent, since Klein isn’t directly praising Lieberman — doesn’t stop to address this bit about how if Lieberman felt he was being punished for his betrayal “he might not be able to vote with the Democratic caucus.”
So he gets credit for acting as though he has a conscience because, when threatened for acting unhelpfully on vital issues, he threatens to keep doing it?
That doesn’t make him a good Democrat when it counts. It shows him to be utterly lacking in conscience or the courage of his convictions, which is undoubtedly why he’s retiring now: His constituents find him to be a typically revolting example of the nakedly opportunistic yet endlessly sanctimonious politician. (Although Lieberman may be the most sanctimonious politician in office.)
A PPP poll near the end of last year found Lieberman to be the least-liked senator expected to run for re-election. He had a 53 percent disapproval rating among constituents and would have to make up a 14 percent gap to beat his likely opponent for the seat, an actual Connecticut Democrat named Chris Murphy.