One of the few regrets I have in life is that I allowed Ann Devroy of the Washington Post to talk me into apologizing for calling David Broder "a gasbag" in 1995. My admiration for Devroy trumped my contempt for Broder. Ann, sadly, is gone, but Broder remains. She was everything Broder is not: fearless, intellectually honest, scrupulously fair, and suspicious of power.
Broder, of course, is a gasbag. The Hindenburg of pundits. But my respect for Ann knew no bounds, and she thought I was being unfair. In retrospect I was being unfair. To gasbags.
Mr. Broder has been foaming at the mouth these days. A man generally given to soporific prose, Broder has been downright venomous lately. And what has put the Benzedrine in Mr. Broder's Ovaltine? Not the fact that President Bush continues to lie about "progress" in the war in Iraq. Or that Dick Cheney continues to lie about pre-invasion links between al Qaeda and Iraq. Or that the Bush Administration has neglected our wounded warriors, ignored the victims of Katrina, potentially obstructed justice by firing US Attorneys who were pursuing GOP wrongdoing. Not even that the Bush Administration lied to the families of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch, cynically using their blood to distract from their own incompetence and dishonesty.
No, none of this raises Dean Broder's hackles.
He reserves his vitriol for Harry Reid.
Why Reid? Because Reid has been one of the few politicians with the courage to speak the plain, unvarnished truth to power, and the hallmark of Mr. Broder's career has been to suck up to power. Reid calls Bush a liar. Broder can't handle the truth.
In a radio interview Monday, Broder blasted Reid, calling him "bumbling," saying he's an embarrassment, and breaking the news that, "at some point down the road the Democrats are gonna have to have a little caucus and decide how much further they want to carry Harry Reid."
Really? And on what did the self-styled dean of the Washington press corps, base this bombshell? Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. Broder just made it up. That's not journalism, it's bloviating - aka Broderizing. In fact, real reporters on Capitol Hill chased down the Broder charge, actually interviewing Democratic senators and their staffs. They found universal support for Reid.
Lord knows we're all capable of making fools of ourselves on the radio, so when Broder let loose this screamer I bit my tongue. But now he's taken quill in hand and committed his rant against Reid to paper. In his column today, Broder actually tries to equate Reid's courageous truth-telling with Alberto Gonzales's inartful mendacity. In an unfortunate bit of timing for Mr. Broder, his attack on Reid comes on the same day the Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll says the American people agree with Reid on the war. 55% of Americans believe victory in Iraq isn't possible. Reid is right. Bush-Broder are wrong.
And so Mr. Broder lashes out at Reid, smearing and sneering at the man he calls "the leading light of Searchlight, Nev."
Mr. Broder has moved with ease from the elite comfort of the University of Chicago to the smug confines of Arlington, Virginia. And so he looks down at a man who rose from among the hard-rock miners and hard-luck hookers of Searchlight, Nevada to be the most consequential senator of his time. While David Broder was thinking great thoughts at his elite university, Harry Reid was working his way through Utah State. While David Broder was pontificating, Harry Reid was working his way through law school as a cop on Capitol Hill.
His arrogant, elitist, condescending attack on Reid is just the latest Broderian baloney. As Eric Alterman points out in What Liberal Media? "Back in 1968 [Broder] felt the anti-war activities of the likes of Robert Kennedy and Gene McCarthy were 'degrading...to those involved.'" Prof. Alterman further notes that Broder "frequently dressed down" the critics of Ronald Reagan as "quick-lipped liberals" who "pop off in opposition."
Broder heaped scorn on President Clinton, telling Sally Quinn, "He came in here and he trashed the place. And it's not his place." In Broder's mind Washington is Broder's place. The Establishment's place. And the man from Hope with a heart as big as Texas just didn't know his place. Hysterically, he said Clinton's marital infidelity was worse than Watergate.
But at the end of a career of sucking up to warmongers and Republicans, Mr. Broder has found his true hero in George W. Bush. Where others see a mush-mouthed semi-literate, Broder sees FDR: "As a counterpuncher to criticism and as a doubt-free exponent of his own beliefs, the current president is right up there with the inventor of the New Deal."
While others were shocked at Bush's callous disregard for the lives of his fellow Americans during Hurricane Katrina, Broder wrote Katrina, "opens new opportunities for [Bush] to regain his standing with the public." (Or at least those members of the public who did not drown due to Bush's incompetence and inaction.)
In February of this year, when the Bush collapse was evident for all to see, the visionary Mr. Broder saw something else. "President Bush is poised for a political comeback," he wrote.
When asked recently if Bush was the worst President in history - a view shared by many eminent historians, including Sean Wilentz of Princeton, Broder replied, "I would not venture at this point whether President Bush will leave the country in better or worse shape than he found it. Internationally, the U.S. suffered setbacks during the Carter administration...." Jimmy Carter, of course, started no wars, invaded no countries, and got our hostages out of Iran alive. But this winner of the Nobel Peace Prize is compared to George W. Bush.
Perhaps Broder's bed-wetting tantrum against Reid was spurred by the certain knowledge that while Harry Reid has been telling hard truths, Mr. Broder has been falling hard for transparent lies.
Whereas Reid called for Donald Rumsfeld's dismissal long ago, Broder vouched for Rummy, writing, "Overall, Rumsfeld left me with the impression that he is aware of the risks of war with Iraq, but confident they can be handled."
While Reid has called for investigations into allegations Karl Rove broke the law, Broder vouches for Rove: "Let me disclose my own bias in this matter. I like Karl Rove.... I have eaten quail at his table and admired the splendid Hill Country landscape from the porch of [Rove's] historic cabin...." Mighty cozy in Karl's cabin, isn't it, Mr. Broder?
I doubt very seriously that Harry Reid is bothered by Broder's comments. Reid has faced down Vegas mobsters who planted a bomb in his family car. He's unlikely to be intimidated by George W. Bush's housebroken lap-dog.
My guess is that Give 'Em Hell Harry is going to keep telling them the truth, and Mr. Broder is going to keep thinking it's hell. As George Orwell said, "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."