Given the honor of the eulogy, my friend’s son offered some of his dad’s likes and dislikes. Among the listing of little things that brighten a day or darken it, one name stood out. Our recently deceased friend couldn’t stand Tom Daschle.
Say what? Why in the world would a retired corporate executive in his mid-70s from suburban Texas have strong feelings one way or the other for a senator from South Dakota? Tom Daschle? How was this run-of-the-mill politician from a tiny state on anyone’s radar?
Then it occurred to me. With Republicans in charge in Washington, Daschle was arguably the top elected Democrat, a dubious distinction roughly equal to being the best player on a winless football team. No one ever confused Daschle with Lyndon Johnson, who earned the title “master of the Senate” through a mixture of persuasion, coercion, charm or bullying.
With a target on his back, Daschle was trashed by Rush Limbaugh, who likened the senator to the devil and went so far as nicknaming him “El Diablo.” To Karl Rove and others in the Bush White House, Daschle was Washington’s “chief obstructionist.” All of this antipathy was reserved for a politician — no better or no worse than most — who was filling the role of loyal opposition in our two-party system.
Of course, these Republican talkers and strategists don’t have Daschle to kick around any longer. In 2004, he lost his Senate seat to a handsome Republican named John Thune. Out of office, Daschle took the one bipartisan option always accepted in official Washington; like Democrats and Republicans before him, he cashed in and became a D.C. lobbyist.
While Daschle has ambled off the public stage, his detractors have not.
In the 2012 election, Rove, Limbaugh and others aimed their sights on fresher targets. They suggested Barack Obama was un-American (in some cases literally and, in others, in the president’s orientation). They claimed unfavorable polling numbers were a conspiracy to dishearten Republicans. Likewise, they said analysts forecasting an Obama victory were horribly biased. They complained that fact-checkers had it in for them. Some even hinted that a recent small dip in the unemployment rate was a White House trick.
Election Day was a great clarifying moment. A majority of U.S. voters favored Obama, who won a decisive victory in the Electoral College. The polls were proven accurate. Exit polling revealed very bad news for the GOP brand.
On the day after the election, Conor Friedersdorf, a staff writer at The Atlantic, identified a culprit. “It is easy to close oneself off inside a conservative echo chamber. And right-leaning outlets like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's show are far more intellectually closed than CNN or public radio,” he wrote.
“If you're a rank-and-file conservative, you're probably ready to acknowledge that ideologically friendly media didn't accurately inform you about Election 2012,” he added.
I would suggest anyone who truly believed one South Dakota senator was the embodiment of evil had also fallen victim to this same disinformation campaign. I don’t mean to speak harshly of our late friend. After all, all he wasted by believing this ruse was a little mental energy. In 2012, Rove separated several super-PAC contributors from hundreds of millions of dollars by selling the same sort of bunk.
Bob Davis is associate publisher/editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or bdavis@EditorBobDavis. Twitter: @EditorBobDavis.