As it takes control of the new Congress, the Democratic Party apparently plans to break its campaign pledge to restore greater openness and to expand minority party rights. It's a story the Washington Post found worthy of the front page on Monday.
But New York Times political reporter Anne Kornblut's "Washington Memo" Tuesday is a news-deprived paean to "Pelosi-palooza" -("A Party, With Pelosi Front and Center").
"In a three-day stretch of whirlwind events beginning on Wednesday, Mrs. Pelosi will celebrate her heritage (at the Italian Embassy), her faith (in a Roman Catholic Mass), her education (at Trinity College), her childhood (in Baltimore) and her current home (in a tribute by the singer Tony Bennett, of 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco' fame).
"She will embrace her status as the first female House speaker with a tea for women. She will highlight her pull among Democrats with a $1,000-per-person fund-raising concert. And she will welcome visitors to the halls of Congress in an open-house tour."
"Supporters of Mrs. Pelosi said she had every right - an obligation, even - to underscore her new role, given the historic nature of her rise to power. Thus the week is planned to project much more than an ordinary handoff of power in Congress. It is intended to leave a firm imprint of the new House leader's style and substance on the national consciousness, reminding voters that Mrs. Pelosi is both the first woman to take the job as well as a Catholic mother of five with Italian, blue-collar roots.
"'It is an introduction of her to the country - and certainly who she is, as an outgrowth of her family, her growing up in Baltimore, where she went to school, and the values and the roots she had in that community,' said Representative George Miller, Democrat of California and a close Pelosi ally.
"In other words, she is not the liberal extremist her detractors have tried to depict (one Republican advertisement during the midterm election cycle warned that 'liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi' would embrace illegal immigrants and reward them with welfare, ominously asking, 'How do we stop her?')."
So is reporter Kornblut actively defending Pelosi against the "liberal extremist" charges? It sounds like it, unless she's just clumsily encapsulating Democratic arguments.
Congressional reporter Carl Hulse's Wednesday story "Democrats Plan First 100 Hours, Give or Take a Speech," also avoids the issue of Democratic pledges: "House Democrats intend to kick off their new regime with a 100-hour legislative blitz that would allow them to post a series of quick victories before President Bush even delivers his State of the Union address toward the end of this month."
Midway through the story, Hulse briefly addresses Republican complaints: "At the same time, House Republicans, forced to the Congressional sidelines for the first time in 12 years, were growing increasingly agitated about the Democratic timetable. They said that the rush by Democrats to force through legislation on national security, the minimum wage, student loan costs and energy without a full slate of hearings - and with limits on the ability of Republicans to offer alternatives - undercut the pledges of Democrats to run things in a more transparent, collegial way than the Republicans had when they were in power."
But Hulse again makes excuses for Democrats shafting the GOP: "House Republicans, who were not known for giving Democrats much say on legislation when they ran the House, began an orchestrated campaign on Tuesday to pressure Democrats to allow full committee review of the 100-hour legislation."
The Washington Post was less reflexively pro-Democrat in its front-page story on New Year's Day. The Post plays the reversal prominently in the headline ("Democrats to Start Without GOP Input") and the third paragraph: "But instead of allowing Republicans to fully participate in deliberations, as promised after the Democratic victory in the Nov. 7 midterm elections, Democrats now say they will use House rules to prevent the opposition from offering alternative measures, assuring speedy passage of the bills and allowing their party to trumpet early victories."