Democrats spent December celebrating as Sen. Trent Lott immolated himself like a Buddhist monk. And could they ever celebrate, too. They know that what applies to Republicans just doesn't apply to them.
Sen. Patty Murray - never known as one of the sharpest tools in the drawer - was having a casual chat with honor students at a Vancouver, Washington high school on December 18 when this Democrat unleashed a series of real whoppers about Osama bin Laden. "Why are people so supportive of him in many countries?" she asked. "He has been in many countries that are riddled with poverty...He's been out in these countries for decades building roads, building schools, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful."
Sen. Murray was digging herself a public-relations hole, carrying on as if al-Qaeda was an appendage of the Salvation Army serving kids breakfast, earnest servants of the poor who just happen to be killers in their spare time. Not even Osama would dare flood al-Jazeera with this sap. Plain and simple, the liberal democrat from Washington was making it all up as she went along, going above and beyond the al-Qaeda public-relations line.
But then she dug even further. Murray placed the apparently compassionate superstar terrorist on a higher moral plane than the United States. While Osama allegedly built hospitals and day care centers, "We have not done that. We haven't been out in many of these countries helping them build infrastructure. How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that, rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"
The U.S. dumps billions of dollars in aid across the largely undemocratic Middle East every year. If Osama built a hospital, the U.S. rebuilt Afghanistan. Are we to believe that Sen. Murray...forgot? And how can you measure popularity in a tyranny?
Gregg Herrington, a staff writer for the local newspaper, the Columbian, saw the gaffe as it happened. He reported the remarks the next day, and made sure readers knew that the Senator's remarks were the real deal, transcribed from a recording. The newspaper was inundated by Internet interest when the Drudge Report posted the Murray story on December 20. Talk radio, led by Rush Limbaugh, hopped on. The Washington Times followed up. Fox News nibbled on the story in snippets on "Special Report with Brit Hume," "The Beltway Boys," and "Fox News Sunday."
But where were all those national media outlets that the liberals say are now dominated by the right wing? Where were those broadcast networks that had reported so dutifully every (mis)statement by our former majority leader? ABC, CBS, and NBC had nothing to say on Murray's remarks, nothing at all. It popped up on NPR and CNN chat shows when GOP politicians brought it up, but hosts left it hanging.
What about our great print outlets? There was nothing in the news pages of The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, or USA Today. They could devote their covers to Trent Lott, but Time and Newsweek had no room anywhere for a mention of the Murray gaffe. Ditto, U.S. News and World Report.
The only liberal media outlet that noticed was The Washington Post, with a couple of paragraphs in a political roundup on Sunday, December 22. Then on Christmas Day, the Post's editorial page mustered a remarkably lame defense, headlined "Inept but Entitled to Her Say." The Posties called the reaction to Murray "the massive overreaction to perfectly useful ideas that have been badly stated or misinterpreted." Despite admitting Murray's facts were "very wrong," they claimed "it ought to be possible to discuss America's image in the Islamic world, and the kinds of mistakes the United States has made there." The problem with the Post argument is that Washington-state Republicans are now asking for precisely that - a discussion with Sen. Murray about her goofball theories - and she's not responding.
Liberals will shovel out a whole lot of arguments explaining why Murray should be spared a richly deserved bout of embarrassment. Why, she's not the minority leader (although she was Bill Frist's Democratic counterpart in raising campaign funds for Senate candidates). She wasn't caught on videotape like Lott, either. The holidays cause stories like these to be buried under the Christmas-party hangovers, don't you know.
But Republicans from George W. Bush to Jesse Helms to Newt Gingrich have been pounded for far, far less. No one can deny this. Perhaps the Republican elephants in Washington state won't let her forget as she attempts re-election next year. But for now she's safe. Most Americans still haven't heard about her outbreak of idiocy.