In an “even for Washington” moment, the head of the Republican Party calling the Senate’s Democratic leader a “dirty liar” seems to have crossed some kind of rhetorical line.
So even in Washington, there’s a bit of shock about the episode — even if the whole fracas is a bit of political theater, and the event was caused by a Democratic allegation that appears backed by no evidence whatsoever.
Short form: U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he was told that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney hasn’t paid income taxes for years, presumably because of tax dodges. Reid appears to care little about evidence, and doesn’t seem to have any: He’s a loose cannon that the Republicans have loaded by Romney’s decision to release only a bit of his tax records.
Leaving aside this specific dispute, is this “dirty liar” episode just more of the same or something different?
For the bad news, Stuart Rothenberg in Roll Call suggests the name-calling that has been escalating all summer will have a long-term effect, whoever wins the presidential election. “The past two years could seem like a period of bipartisanship compared with the next two,” Rothenberg said.
“Even if a scorched-earth campaign bent on crippling Romney’s credibility yields a victory, (President Barack) Obama is almost sure to encounter a new Congress with a shrunken popular-vote mandate, an even more narrowly divided Senate, and a House majority even more ideologically antagonistic than it is now, if that is possible,” wrote Major Garrett in National Journal.
Some in the fray disagree. “I don’t think the campaign will impact the sense of urgency of addressing the problems after the election,” U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., told National Journal. “What it will affect is who wins. The campaign is going to be scorched earth on both sides. The difference is Obama will still be president.”
If this cheering-on of the piling-on is correct, the dirty liar becomes a lamb laying down with the lions once the election is over? With the nation so closely divided, does it matter how low the politics gets?
We wonder if there is a failure of governance built into today’s political rhetoric. The spirit of compromise might be of great importance to the nation, but far down the list of politicians still bitter about the arguments of this election year.