Friday, November 17, 2006
You can feel it out there. The tone in both the mainstream media and the blogosphere is changing. Two weeks ago, the ReThugs controlled the Congress and the puppet of the Prince of Darkness sat in the White House, and now, even before it has actually happened, the Democrats are in charge at one end of Pennsylvania Avenue and a crippled duck sits in the Oval Office.
At the time -- that would be nine days ago -- I wondered if the shift in power would alter the tone of the blogosphere, making lefties more concerned with policy and righties more overtly partisan. I can't prove that has happened, but it sure feels like it might be. The right, in particular, is learning how to play offense. I haven't read enough lefty blogs in the last week to know whether the partisan bloggers will turn into sober policy analysts, but I expect to see some movement in that direction.
The mainstream media, however, has changed course at Internet speed. The honeymoon is already over for the Congressional Democrats at the New York Times. The Grey Lady humiliates Nancy Pelosi on its front page this morning ("Pelosi Rebuffed Over Her Choice For House Post," illustrated with a photo of her with a hilarious shit-eating grin in the embrace of Steny Hoyer, the man she had opposed), and it doesn't stop there. The editors rake her over the coals for her leadership failures one week into the job:
Nancy Pelosi has managed to severely scar her leadership even before taking up the gavel as the new speaker of the House. First, she played politics with the leadership of the House Intelligence Committee to settle an old score and a new debt. And then she put herself in a lose-lose position by trying to force a badly tarnished ally, Representative John Murtha, on the incoming Democratic Congress as majority leader. The party caucus put a decisive end to that gambit yesterday, giving the No. 2 job to Steny Hoyer, a longtime Pelosi rival.
But Ms. Pelosi’s damage to herself was already done. The well-known shortcomings of Mr. Murtha were broadcast for all to see — from his quid-pro-quo addiction to moneyed lobbyists to the grainy government tape of his involvement in the Abscam scandal a generation ago. The resurrected tape — feasted upon by Pelosi enemies — shows how Mr. Murtha narrowly survived as an unindicted co-conspirator, admittedly tempted but finally rebuffing a bribe offer: “I’m not interested — at this point.”
Mr. Murtha would have been a farcical presence in a leadership promising the cleanest Congress in history. Ms. Pelosi should have been first to realize this, having made such a fiery campaign sword of her vows to end Capitol corruption. Instead, she acted like some old-time precinct boss and lost the first test before her peers.
As incoming speaker, Ms. Pelosi will be dogged by skepticism — from within the party and without — about her political smarts and her ability to deliver a galvanized agenda.
If I weren't in the throes of schadenfreude I'd feel sorry for her. In any case, the New York Times is already more readable than it has been at any time in the last, er, six years.