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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP’s Free Ride on Obstruction of Hagel Nomination Shames Press

The title of Eric Boehlert’s HuffPo post, “Press Yawns While Partisan Republicans Shred Cabinet Confirmation Process” sews it up nicely. But read on to get the full outrage it ought to provoke in all Americans who believe that both parties have an obligation to negotiate in good faith a reasonable bipartisan consensus. You know, like congress used to do back in the day before the GOP groveled at the feet of its unhinged wingnuttiest flank. Here’s some of what Boehlert has to say:

By launching a drawn out campaign against Hagel, Republicans have torn up decades worth of tradition on the Senate Armed Services Committee in terms of working across party lines to confirm secretaries of defense. But according to Politico it’s the Democratic chairman who faces a “conundrum” over the lack of “bipartisan spirit” in the Senate. It’s the Democrat who has to deal with the “damage” done by Republican maneuvers.
Sometimes it seems the Beltway press will do anything to avoid blaming Republicans for their wildly obstructionist ways. It’s a pattern of timidity that has marked Obama’s time in Washington, D.C. Indeed, the press for years now has insisted on providing no framework with regards to the radical ways that now define the GOP.
By refusing to hold Obama’s opponents accountable, and by actually making media stars out of the ones who actively obstruct, the press simply encourages the corrosive behavior. (By the way, this is the same Beltway press corps that has routinely blamed Obama for not successfully changing the tone in Washington.)

To be fair, there are some fine reporters and columnists inside the beltway who call out the GOP’s obstructionism on a regular basis. But overall, Boehlert is right that way too many reporters and their editors, inside the beltway and out, have either bought into the Republican’s false equivalency memes or are too lame or lazy to take a stand.
Too many Americans have been numbed by the obstructionism and shrug it off as business as usual. But the problem is actually deepening, as Boehlert explains:

Both in terms of Republican obstructionist behavior and the press’ unwillingness to call it what it is, the trend has reached its pinnacle with the current confirmation mess. And it’s getting worse. Fox News this week reported Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was threatening to block a confirmation vote on Jack Lew, selected by the president to be the next secretary of treasury.
Discarding centuries worth of advise-and-consent tradition (i.e. the winning president picks his cabinet), Republicans have radically rewritten the cabinet confirmation rulebook while journalists have stood quietly by, not bothering to inform news consumers about the dramatic shift taking place. Instead, the press treats it all as being commonplace; as just more partisan bickering.
And when not downplaying the ramifications or erroneously suggesting Obama’s “picking fights” with “controversial” cabinet picks like Hagel, journalists have bungled the story altogether, giving Republicans political cover in the process.

Boehlert provides other examples and puts the problem in historical context, but adds, “it’s never been done with this frequency before in modern American history…We’ve never seen anything like the coordinated, dubious efforts by outside conservative groups and Republican members in Congress to block Hagel’s confirmation. (Or to make sure Rice was never nominated.)…But if you turn on cable news you’ll hear a Beltway editor claim “everybody does it.”
However, concludes Boehlert, “They didn’t. Until now.”

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