Friday, June 10, 2005

Children, Behave!

A photo op / press conference with Sen. Harry Reid and Howard Dean turned into a press free-for-all on Capitol Hill.

The madness began at 10:30 a.m. when the media horde was invited to enter Reid’s office. Photographers poured in first, equipment slamming into the sides of a narrow doorway and — in one case — the temple of a female staffer. Reporters were invited in next, but roughly 20 reporters were unable to crowd in and were left to shout objections through the bottleneck. “You can’t start yet,” one yelled from the back. “The reporters aren’t in.”

Dean said he rather liked the idea of starting without the reporters. He meant this as a joke, sort of.


“You know,” Dean interjected, “I think a lot of this is exactly what Republicans want, and that’s a diversion.” He bemoaned the “media circus” of the last two weeks and said that he and Reid were not concerning themselves with that — only with vital things like Social Security, national defense and jobs.

“And all this other stuff is all fine and good, and we understand how exciting it all is to you,” Dean said, shaking his head.

The press chorus then devolved into a cacophony of competing screams. (And Dean knows screams!) After several seconds, a booming voice cut through the noise. It belonged to Brian Wilson, a Fox News correspondent who was standing in the middle of the crowd. He asked Dean “if people are focused on the other things that you’ve said about hating Republicans, about Republicans being dishonest and then this latest comment about the Republican Party is full of white Christians. You say you hate Republicans — does that mean you also” hate white Christians?


Someone asked whether Dean would “change his ways,” or if he planned to be “less confrontational in the future” or whether he “regrets” anything he has said. An aide to Reid announced that the photo op was over.

“We’ll decide when we’re ready,” Wilson said. Later, Durbin would recount the scene with some exasperation. He chided the media for avoiding important issues in favor of trivial matters. “Please, for a minute, get to the substance,” he said to a group of reporters. “You guys should be ashamed of yourselves.”

For the record, Howard Dean was not the first politico to refer to the Republicans as being an enclave of white Christians. That honor belongs to former Sen. John Danforth, Republican and Episcopal priest.

My advice to the Democrats who are backing water on Dr. Dean: you knew what you were getting, and there’s nothing in what he’s said that comes close to what the Republicans said about the Democrats in the past. There’s no point in playing tit-for-tat, but at least get back some short-term memory…and some balls while you’re at it.