Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer on Friday smacked down PBS's Mark Shields in a discussion about late Rep. Dan Rostenkowski's legacy.
As the conversation on this week's "Inside Washington" turned to the passing of the former powerful Democrat, Shields swooned liked so many of his colleagues:
Danny Rostenkowski was a throwback...he worked across the aisle. I mean, he was just phenomenal that way. There was no ideology to him. And, you want to know how politics has changed? Danny Rostenkowski used to go back to Chicago by car. You know who rode with him? Bob Michel, the Republican leader rode with him and back, and Henry Hyde, the conservative leader, and they were friends.
With the ball nicely set up on the tee, Krauthammer ripped a monster drive down the middle of the fairway (video follows with transcript and commentary):
When former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) passed away this week, Fox Chicago News's political editor Mike Flannery described the late Ways and Means committee chairman as 'a giant of Chicago politics, remembered and beloved for negotiating legislation that helped create projects all over the state." Rostenkowski did indeed bring home the pork. But Flannery also writes that the congressman "was as responsible as anyone but Ronald Reagan for the 'Reagan tax cuts' of (the) early '80s."
In an accompanying video on Fox Chicago's Web site, Flannery recalls (at about 4:30) speaking to Rostenkowski and House Speaker Thomas P. O'Neill (D-MA) in the first days of Reagan's presidency. They said that Reagan had been elected and "we're going to give him what he wants. He told us the number one thing is this tax deal and they said we're going to work with him."
Wednesday evening, Brent Baker at NewsBusters noted that two of the Big Three television networks failed to tag Dan Rostenkowsi, the former long-time congressman from Chicago who was ousted from his seat in 1994 over corruption charges and ended doing prison time, as a Democrat. Rostenkowski (RIP), who was 82, died yesterday.
At the five major wire services whose reports I reviewed -- The Associated Press, Reuters, UPI, AFP, and the business-oriented Bloomberg News -- Rosty's Democratic affiliation made at least one appearance. But the prominence and directness of those appearances varied widely.
Not surprisingly, the Associated Press and writer Don Babwin did the worst job of identifying Rosty's party, waiting until the eleventh paragraph to directly tag him (the eighth paragraph contains a generic reference to the "Chicago Democratic machine"), and poured it on the thickest when referring to the supposedly beloved bygone days of bipartisanship:
Dan Rostenkowski (?-Ill), 1928-2010. Reporting the passing of Dan Rostenkowski, the ABC and NBC anchors on Wednesday night managed to gently note his ignominious departure from public life while also including a humanizing anecdote about his life (NBC: He “went back to live in the same house he grew up in in Chicago's north side,” ABC: “In 1985, he famously asked Americans fed up with the tax system to write him”), but neither identified him as a Democrat. Nor did any on-screen graphic mark his party.
In contrast, filling in as anchor of the CBS Evening News, Erica Hill managed to accurately describe the late Congressman as “a product of Chicago's Democratic political machine.”
Handling the anchor duties on ABC's World News, George Stephanopoulos, a Democratic House staff member when Rostenkowski was at the zenith of his power, announced:
We have a high profile political death to note tonight. Dan Rostenkowski was steeped in Chicago politics from the start. Elected to Congress at the age of 30, he served there 36 years, 13 of them as Chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee before a scandal that saw him serve time on fraud charges. In 1985, he famously asked Americans fed up with the tax system to write him.