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CHIP On Their Shoulder

"When are the cable nets and the Capitol Hill press and the pundits going to dig into the role that GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell played in pushing the smear of the Frost family?

"It needs to be said that reporters like Time's Karen Tumulty and The New York Times's David Herszenhorn did a decent job knocking down the original winger smear of the Frosts. But since then, the story's moved forward considerably, and it's gotten really good. And neither these media worthies nor any others have followed suit . . .

"It's key to keep in mind that this isn't just some GOP City Councilman from Nowheresville. It's the GOP leader in the Senate. His office tried to get reporters to join Michelle Malkin and the rest of the wingnut hounds to join in the chase of a 12-year-old boy who'd been severely injured. McConnell knew about this, and then lied about knowing about it.

"I know, the 'let's imagine if a Dem had done this' game is a cliche. But let's play it anyway. Imagine if a top communications staffer for Harry Reid tried to get mainstream reporters to follow the lead of lefty bloggers who were digging into the background of, and harassing, a young boy who had appeared in a GOP ad for some policy initiative or another -- and then imagine if Reid were caught lying about it."

Digby sees the process as business as usual for the Beltway press corps:

"Journalists will say that using political 'oppo research' is a legitimate way to get tips, as long as they always check them out before they run with them. Fair enough. But what they fail to acknowledge is that this allows the best story-planters to set the agenda for coverage, and the best story-planters are those who know how to get the media interested.

"And after watching them for the past two decades very closely, I think it's obvious that what interests the media more than anything is access and gossip and vicious little smears piled one atop the other. And why not? They are easy to report, require no mind numbing shuffling of financial reports or struggling through arcane policy papers. In fact, the press has made a virtue of the simple-mindedness by calling what used to be known as gossip, 'character issues', which are used to stand in for judgment about policy.

"The press, therefore, will go to great lengths to protect the people who give them what they crave, most of whom happen to be Republicans since character smears are their very special talent. There was a reason why Rove and Libby used 'the wife sent him on a boondoggle' line. Stories about Edwards and his hair and Hillary and her cold, calculating cleavage are the coin of the realm.Why we see so little of the same kind of feeding frenzies on the other side isn't hard to fathom. Nobody is spoon-feeding them to the press with just the kind of cutesy meanness they prefer."

I agree that leakers often get to set the story line, but I also know that Democrats are not unfamiliar with the practice. (Remember the Bush DUI leak just before the 2000 election?) And those who leaked information about domestic surveillance, Abu Ghraib and secret CIA prisons also had an impact.

As for the veto override, which fell 13 votes short:

"This time," says the L.A. Times, "House Republicans resisted a two-week publicity blitz in favor of the children's legislation by groups ranging from major labor unions to the American Medical Assn. Many GOP lawmakers echoed Bush's concern that the bill would go too far in giving states the option to also help some middle-class families.

"Though the president and his senior advisors have pledged to negotiate with Congress to extend the program and avoid any breaks in coverage, it's unclear if they will be able to strike a deal."

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