In a disgusting smear published Friday morning, Politico senior editor Michael Schaffer seethed over what he saw as an egregious oversight in the obituaries of the three House Republicans who’ve passed away in the past two years: their votes objecting to the 2020 election results.
Since January 6, 2021, Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota, Jackie Walorski of Indiana, and Ron Wright of Texas have died and left behind family members, colleagues, constituents, and staff members. Schaffer, however, had different priorities that were more in line with a severe stage of Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Schaffer kvetched that while “[o]bituaries and news coverage of deaths are an imperfect form, especially when they have to double as breaking stories of a public figure’s unexpected demise,” they’re nonetheless “as close as we get to a rough draft of biography, an approximation of what contemporaries think are the key parts of the dearly departed’s permanent record.”
He further bellyached that the media have shown a refusal in this instance to follow through in ensuring “that the preservation of democracy ought to be the profession’s highest calling” even if it would dispatch with “our society-wide taboo against speaking ill of the dead” that he found irksome.
No less a figure than Mitch McConnell called it “the most important vote I’ve ever cast.” So why not treat it as similarly defining for that vast majority of legislators with careers that have been shorter than McConnell’s?
Part of what’s going on here is our society-wide taboo against speaking ill of the dead and a major-media taboo against appearing biased. The deaths of all three members of Congress were greeted with genuine sorrow by Republican allies and generous aisle-crossing statements by the likes of Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi — warm remembrances attesting to faith and friendship and devotion to public service. Why muck it up by mentioning something controversial?
Beyond the fact that mucking things up is what the news media is supposed to do, that speak-no-ill logic assumes that a vote to overturn the election was a bad thing — a statement a substantial minority of Americans disagree with, for better or worse. Presumably, if you believe the election was fatally marred by irregularities, you still agree that the vote to reject it was an important one.
“The problem is that we’ve spent years hearing about how the effort to overturn the election was not normal and must not be made to seem so,” he later added.
He complimented The New York Times for making the 2020 election vote the lede for Hagedorn’s February 2021 obit, but poo-pooed the Associated Press and his local paper (the Minneapolis Star-Tribune) for not following suit.
With Walorski, he whined that The Washington Post waited until the final paragraph and put it “below the fulsome tributes from a bipartisan array of colleagues,” “discussions of her anti-abortion politics,” and even “her committee assignments.”
The Wright tributes similarly irked him that, in February 2021, the election vote came in “the last paragraph of the AP obit, but was unmentioned in the lengthy obituary in his hometown Dallas Morning News or the news account of his death in the Texas Tribune.”
All told, he explained away the lack of dumping on the dead on “[t]he culture of Washington news reporters, like the folkways of the Hill” who are “broadly forgiving of tough votes” because “[p]eople in the game of politics know the various cross-pressures and cost-benefit analyses and assumptions about the vote’s outcome[.]”
As part of his conclusion, Schaffer channeled his inner Margaret Sullivan and Brian Stelter: “The logistical and political and social impulse to sweep things under the rug is strong, and often not motivated by ill intent. It ought to be resisted all the same.”