WaPo's Dana Milbank: 'The Senate Really Has 100 Blanche DuBoises'

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To say that there's good reason not to be impressed with a quite a few U.S. Senators is to state the obvious.

But I really hope that Dana Milbank either hasn't read or really doesn't remember A Streetcar Named Desire. Because in his coverage of the Senate vote last night to go forward to debate on its health care bill, the alleged journalist stooped well below the level of most of the blogosphere by in essence calling the United States Senate the House of 100 Prostitutes -- and worse.

Yes he did -- in a column the Post put on the top of the front page.

After observing the opportunistic, advantage-taking machinations of Democratic Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas in return for the final two "yes" votes needed for passage, Milbank wrote the following:

Landrieu and Lincoln got the attention because they were the last to decide, but the Senate really has 100 Blanche DuBoises, a full house of characters inclined toward the narcissistic.

The health-care debate was worse than most. With all 40 Republicans in lockstep opposition, all 60 members of the Democratic caucus had to vote yes -- and that gave each one an opportunity to extract concessions from Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid.

In Streetcar (plot overview here), Blanche DuBois's past in Laurel, Mississippi, before arriving in New Orleans at the play's start, involved far more than narcissistic inclinations:

.... Blanche moved into a fleabag motel from which she was eventually evicted because of her numerous sexual liaisons. Also, she was fired from her job as a schoolteacher because the principal discovered that she was having an affair with a teenage student.

If Milbank wants to make a case for Senators prostituting themselves based on last night's activities, he would at a minimum have to stop at 60, because the other 40, some of whom surely have surely heard buy-off overtures in previous months, refused to give in.

But much more to the point, Milbank engages in stereotyping, up to and including, (based on his invocation of DuBois) willingness to engage in adult-child sex under the right conditions, of the kind he would be likely be among the first to decry if he heard it anywhere else, especially if written or uttered by an eeeeeevil conservative.

How would Milbank and Post management feel if someone wrote that "the Washington Post really has hundreds of Walter Durantys"? Or Janet Cookes?

Milbank's intemperance in what is supposed to be one of the newspapers of record is reprehensible, and cries out for an apology and disciplinary action. It also makes one wonder where the Post's layers of fact-checkers and editors were.

There is precedent from 2003 for dishing out some discipline:

Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan was suspended for one month without pay after saying on television that the wife of New Jersey Nets guard Jason Kidd, who was allegedly the victim of domestic abuse, needed someone to "smack her."

"Bob Ryan's comments were a clear and egregious violation of the standards of The Boston Globe," editor Martin Baron said in a statement. "Bob has been told in no uncertain terms that his remarks were offensive and unacceptable."

The columnist was also barred from appearing on radio or television for one month.

Ryan was "only" referring to one woman's situation (the fact that Kidd's wife was a domestic abuse victim is really irrelevant to the offensiveness of the comment). Milbank has slandered 100 Senators -- yes, including those like Landrieu and Lincoln who deserve intense criticism for putting a price on their votes.

If Milbank really remembers Streetcar, and really believes what he wrote in describing all 100 U.S. Senators, I would suggest that the Post consider finding someone else who can actually see that there really are politicians legitimately interested in serving their constituents and their country -- not enough of them by any stretch -- and who hasn't been totally blinded by cynicism.

So will the Post, which frequently in its own pages decried the supposedly overheated rhetoric from the right, do the right thing?

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.