Same Old Slant: "Angry" Conservatives Attacking Poor Sen. Grassley on Health

Reporter Jackie Calmes' "Congressional Memo" for Wednesday's edition focuses on moderate Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, "G.O.P. Senator Draws Critics in Both Parties."

Last Friday, Calmes threw a curve ball by accurately calling liberals like Sen. Jay Rockefeller, liberals. He and others were fighting the more moderate health care proposal put out by Sen. Max Baucus's Finance Committee. Usually the paper is biased toward labeling right-of-center political organizations, not as "pro-family" or "pro-free market,"but with the ideological warning label "conservative" instead.By contrast, the Times generally fails to identify liberal groups as "liberal," using less divisive, more positive descriptions instead, like "labor and Hispanic groups," "civil rights group," "civil liberties group," or "women's health advocates."

On Wednesday, Calmes reverted to the paper's usual labeling pattern ,in a story about conservatives attacking Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley for being too amenable to Obama's health overhaul. Calmes used a form of the word "conservative" 11 times and twice more in quotes from others in the 965-word story, which is slanted against "angry" conservatives "who style themselves the protectors of the Reagan legacy" and for whom Obama health care isn't merely a bad idea but "anathema."

Nearly three decades ago, Charles E. Grassley was among the Republican conservatives swept into the Senate on the wave that Ronald Reagan rode to the White House. Now he is on the defensive as he seeks a sixth term, no longer conservative enough for those back home in Iowa who style themselves the protectors of the Reagan legacy.

So it was that Mr. Grassley, who often has been at the center of creating major legislation, instead mostly kept his head down on Tuesday, reading news clippings and his Kindle as the Senate Finance Committee began work on legislation to overhaul the health care system.

That effort is anathema to the conservatives who dominate the Republican Party these days, as was made clear in angry town-hall-style meetings this summer. In Iowa, conservatives had threatened to seek a primary election opponent if Mr. Grassley cut a deal with Democrats. In Washington, they openly speculated that if he were re-elected, he would lose his chance at the top Republican seat on the Judiciary Committee after 2010....Democrats wrote off Mr. Grassley in August, when at his meetings with Iowa voters he seemed to affirm conservatives' claims that Democratic proposals would create government death panels to "pull the plug on grandma," and when he vowed in fund-raising appeals to lead the opposition to health care legislation.

Calmes pushed the notion of the moderate Grassley "running scared" under unfair fire from "socially conservative ideologues."

But Democrats, as well as some Republicans and nonpartisan observers, say Mr. Grassley is running scared.

Back then, he fit right in among the economic conservatives who counted themselves as soldiers in the Reagan Revolution for lower taxes and smaller government. Now he is suspect among more socially conservative ideologues who have gained prominence.