Thursday, June 1, 2006

Reid On…

Paul Kiel has more on the AP’s John Solomon once again making it sound like Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) did something wrong in attending a boxing match as a guest of the Nevada boxing commission.

…the AP released a new story on Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). It purports to show Reid admitting that Solomon was right all along, that Reid mistated senate ethics rules when he initially defended himself against Solomon’s piece — and now he’s coming clean.

We were pretty surprised to see Reid admit that. And as it turns out, he didn’t.

Solomon just arranges the lead in such a way as to mislead readers into thinking Reid said something he didn’t.


Solomon’s piece begins with the following lead:

Reversing course, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid’s office acknowledged Wednesday night he misstated the ethics rules governing his acceptance of free boxing tickets and has decided to avoid taking such gifts in the future.

99% of readers – and the AP has many, many readers – will read that lead paragraph and interpret it to mean that Reid has admitted that he misstated Senate ethics rules when he said they allowed him to accept the tickets. He’s chastened and he’s agreed not to do it again.


Reid’s argument has been that Senate ethics rules provide an exception for accepting stuff from state agencies as opposed to private entities.

In an interview that appeared in Wednesday’s The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Reid said that the exception for state agencies only applied to Senators from the state in question. Therefore, the exception applied to him and not Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who paid for his seat, because he was from out of state.

That’s wrong.

It has nothing to do with what state you’re from. The AP caught that and brought it to Reid’s people. They admitted the AP was right on this point and Reid was wrong. And that’s how Solomon can write that Reid “acknowledged Wednesday night he misstated the ethics rules governing his acceptance of free boxing tickets.”


But let’s be clear: What Reid was wrong about wasn’t whether he was allowed to take the tickets. He was wrong about whether McCain was allowed to because he was from out of state. On the larger question, whether he was permitted to accept the tickets, Reid didn’t admit to being wrong because he wasn’t. Zinging Reid on his error would certainly be in order.

But for Solomon, what Reid actually goofed on wasn’t good enough. So he takes Reid’s incorrect statement about McCain and twirls it a lead which has Reid saying what Solomon really wants him to say: that Solomon was right all along. Reid was wrong. And he won’t do it again.

You’re probably wondering why I and several other bloggers are making such a big deal over this seemingly innocent and innocuous event. So the Senate Minority Leader is accused of taking a gift from a group over which he was considering legislation. Big deal. Just another politician getting a special deal. Happens all the time, right?

The righties are all chortling because now the Democrats can’t campaign on the Republicans and their “culture of corruption” because they’d be hypocrites. But this is exactly how the truth gets distorted and the Republicans or the Religious Reich get away with their shit. On the surface it sounds like Sen. Reid did something underhanded, especially if you have read nothing but what the AP’s John Solomon has written. But the facts are that Sen. Reid not only complied with the rules at the time of the event, he ended up voting against the interests of the people who got him the credentials to the boxing match in the first place. So it is time to call them on it and not, as has happened so many times in the past, let it go because we naively thought it would go away. Just ask John Kerry about the Swift Boaters or Bill and Hillary Clinton about Whitewater.

It’s time — actaully long past time — to stand up to the lies and distortions that are the tools of the trade of the campaigns of personal destruction, and we’re not going to take it any more. As Josh Marshall notes,

If you’re going to take a berm on the mountain range of congressional ethics and cut corners, omit key facts and get other facts wrong to manufacture a false appearance of balance, we think it’s right to call you on every single distortion and error. And we’re going to keep on doing just that.