Where Are Those Damned Democrats?

Yesterday, the Washington Times published a piece by Jennifer Harper arguing that “Democrats are talking trash these days” about the Bush administration. While the piece had an undeniable slant — the lede referred to “the left wing’s frantic and melodramatic insults,” and the two paragraphs that followed were given over to an RNC spokesperson, who (surprise!) ripped the Democratic Party — it was at least grounded in fact: There’s no denying that Democrats have become increasingly critical of the administration. There are plenty of Democrats Harper could have cited to support that point, from Nancy Pelosi to Al Gore. So who did she offer as evidence? A litany of people criticizing not the administration but the prison abuse scandal, some of whom — including Ralph Nader, E.L. Doctorow, Hunter S. Thompson, and Susan Sontag — would be surprised to learn they’ve been drafted into the ranks of Democratic operatives.

Harper does, in fairness, include a few substantive examples of criticism of the administration, including those by Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Sen. Tim Johnson. But she also cites Sontag’s comparison of the prison abuse to “lynching photographs” of black Americans — a comparison that could hardly be called an attack on the administration. Hunter S. Thompson and New Yorker writer Seymour Hersh are also cited as Bush critics because they compared the prison abuse photos to Nazi atrocities. Democratic Reps. Bill Delahunt and Barney Frank are included for calling the prison abuse “disgusting and disturbing” and “heartbreaking.” Nader, at least, actually criticized Bush — although, since he’s not a Democrat, it’s difficult to see how he belongs in the piece.

But Harper doesn’t let such concerns get in the way of her argument. She might have made a more substantive case for her argument — including, for example, House minority leader Pelosi’s incendiary statements from last week — but instead she falls back on misleading examples to convince readers that, in the words of the RNC spokesman quoted extensively in the piece, “anger is the only thing Democrats have been offering the American people.”

But who needs Democrats? If you’re a close reader of the Washington Times, you’re likely to be filled with plenty of anger already.

Brian Montopoli

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Brian Montopoli is a writer at CJR Daily.