On Thursday, Harry Reid came out and did something that I never thought I'd see a Democrat do: he attacked the media. In a statement, he said it was the media who set an artificial deadline of the August recess to pass President Obama's health care reform bill:
“That is a deadline that you created,” Reid told a group of about 75 reporters. “It’s not like we don’t have a product. Significant progress has been made … The mere fact that this wasn't done by last Friday or by five o’clock doesn't mean we’re not going to get a quality product." [http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/senate-dems-blame-media-for-august-health-deadline-2009-07-30.html]
When I heard that, I didn't think Reid was telling the truth. He is a Senator after all. And, sure enough, he wasn't. Turns out Reid himself was one of the many voices who either set the time frame or went along with it, as a blog post from Trish Turner at FoxNews.com points out. [http://congress.blogs.foxnews.com/2009/07/30/dear-sen-reid-the-media-didnt-do-it/]
Reid and a few Senate Democrats also took swipes as more predictable targets: the Senate Republicans for holding up a bipartisan health care reform bill, the insurance industry for dumping millions of dollars into opposition research, doctors who opposed the health care reform bill for not understanding the severity of the problems with America's health care system.
But here's the thing: it's all one big lie, perpetuated by a small lie in Reid's case. The media didn't wake up one morning and say, "Let's set up an artificial time frame for Obama's health care plan so that when they fail we have something to talk about." If anything, the media have been one of Obama's greatest tools in getting his message out, in spite of everything that's come about within the past 2 months or so where the media have pushed back on Obama. So, why did Reid come out and attack the organ that can make or break Obama's health care bill?
Some of Reid's targets were predictable, but there's one target that is just under the surface that Reid didn't name outright, but is still a target. I think Reid did what he did as a means to blame the House Democrats and Nancy Pelosi in particular for hamstringing the health care reform bill. Although the "Blue Dog" Democrats were the prime movers behind the House bill being delayed, Reid knows there's enough criticism of Pelosi's leadership to be had. The issue became how to address it. Reid's tirade against the media provided that vehicle.
Reid had a few objectives with his press conference, but at the top of the list was to run intereference for the Obama Administration at a time when it needed help keeping the wheels on the wagon. By doing that, Reid is setting himself up as the good guy, with Pelosi being the bad guy...or gal in this case. I've said that the tension between Reid and Pelosi right now would hurt Obama in the long run because Reid and Pelosi act like a privy council from the Middle Ages. They know Obama lacks the political sophistication they've developed, so they try to guide him and shape him into the President they want him to be.
Ah, but there's a catch. Reid and Pelosi have their own agendas fused with their attempts to shape Obama's future, and those agendas put them at odds with each other. With Pelosi's failure to produce a workable health care reform bill before the August Congressional recess, Reid saw an opportunity to assert himself as Obama's "only true friend in Washington." That's where the attack on the media and his fellow Senate Democrats' attacks on doctors, the Senate Republicans, and the insurance industry come into play. By attacking those obvious targets, Reid makes himself look like a champion, while subtlely taking digs at Pelosi for her failure.
With one press conference, Harry Reid set forth a disinformation campaign that could have serious consequences down the road, especially if the House fails to pass Obama's health care reform package. But the one who stands to gain the most in either case is Reid himself. If the House passes the bill, he'll get a chance to prove his leadership. If the House fails, Reid can go back and say that it would have passed if Pelosi hadn't been so incompetent as Speaker of the House. It's a complete win-win for Reid.
And it all started with an attack on the media.