All politicians try to spin the news of the day to their advantage, but – as with lying – the GOP has raised spin to a high art. Senator Trent Lott, former GOP leader deposed for making indiscreet remarks at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party, was elected to the post of minority whip yesterday, winning with only one more vote than his opponent.
“One thing that this proves is that the United States Senate, like the American public, likes a comeback story,” said Lott’s opponent, Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander. Arizona Senator John McCain added: “We all believe in redemption, thank God.” Think too of how heavily the GOP jumped on a botched joke by Sen John Kerry – not even a candidate this election – to tar the Democrats once again as failing “to support our troops.”
Meanwhile, Democrats in the House engaged in a heated contest between two candidates for Majority Whip. They finally chose Rep Steny Hoyer of Maryland by a substantial margin over Rep John Murtha, favored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The GOP response was predictable. “I can’t believe they are self-destructing before they even get started,” said Illinois GOP Rep Ray LaHood. “Everyone on our side is giddy.” To make matters worse, California Democratic Rep Ellen Tauscher complained during the race: “It’s four days that we haven’t talked about our message and built on the euphoria. We had such perfect pitch last week.”
Now that the elections are over, Democrats continue to point fingers and make recriminations. Larry Gates of Kansas commented: “This is what we Democrats do. A little bit of success, and we start to fight.” Donald Fowler of South Carolina wailed: “We’re nuts! We’re all nuts!”
Democrats have got to learn to stop washing their dirty linen in public. They need to line up together once decisions are made. They must win the PR battle to prove to Americans that they can set Congress on a new, better direction. To do so, they must learn the virtues of party discipline and the art of spin if they are going to keep the GOP from successfully painting their achievements as failures.