May 4, 2014 in Opinion

Smart Bombs: War on reality targets ally

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Art Moore of World Net Daily was on the line Tuesday with a question that had been reverberating through the right-wing echo chamber. Did she really say it? Did U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers really suggest that Obamacare would probably survive?

Moore was one of several reporters from conservative media outlets who called. Reporter Kip Hill fielded several other inquiries after his April 25 article was published with the headline “McMorris Rodgers says ACA likely here to stay.”

Little did I know that as one of four Spokesman-Review representatives in the room, I was an eyewitness to an urgent political event. To me, it seemed like the usual editorial board conversation with the congresswoman, but I don’t reside in the bizarre world of Beltway politics, where perception not only trumps reality, it kicks it in its teeth.

I assured Mr. Moore that our article was accurate. When asked whether the Affordable Care Act was here to stay, she replied, “Probably.” She added that this doesn’t mean the health care debate is over and then listed a number of concerns and changes she’d like to see.

Moore asked me if I was aware that the article was being portrayed as an act of capitulation and surrender. Yes, I said, and told him that I didn’t understand that. If I predict the Mariners won’t win the pennant, it doesn’t mean I’m happy about it. It doesn’t mean the games should be canceled. It’s just a nod to reality.

I must’ve sounded so naïve. Didn’t I know that politics creates its own reality, and that what really matters is how articles might be run through the spin cycle? Any notion that this was a simple, reality-based prediction was obliterated when I checked the story online and found it had gone viral after landing on the Drudge Report. The comments were savage. A small sampling:

I guess it’s time to TEA her up, and knock her out of there.”

“Repeal, or lose your job. It is that simple.”

“Rope. Lamp Post. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Some assembly required.”

“Lock and Load. Stock up now.”

“Getting closer and closer to a civil war … these door knobs in DC need to be pitched into the Potomac never to be seen again.”

McMorris Rodgers may not think there’s a war on women, but there was a war on her.

Apparently, the blowback became so intense that her office began distancing itself with comments to conservative media that the headline did not represent all that she said. No headline conveys every facet of an article, but it did accurately convey her assessment of Obamacare’s fate.

The real problem was in how the headline was being portrayed. McMorris Rodgers spokesman Nate Hodson explained this to World Net Daily, saying it “was misconstrued by national media outlets to redefine the congresswoman’s long-standing position on a major issue to which she remains committed – the full repeal of Obamacare.”

Nevertheless, the WND headline invoked “white flag.”

To recap: The S-R headline was accurate. The article was accurate. Both were misconstrued. It shouldn’t have been a big deal, but an article on page A7 blew up our website. Call it a lesson on the hair-trigger environment of national politics.

During the editorial board meeting, I asked McMorris Rodgers about the phenomenon of “primarying,” where Republicans are targeted for removal if they aren’t deemed sufficiently pure. She replied that she tells her colleagues about our state’s top two primary, where party affiliation is downplayed. She wasn’t a fan when it was adopted, but she said she might be coming around.

Now, before another round of recriminations begins, she smiled as she said it and may have been kidding. But it made sense to me – even more so a week later.

Associate Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.


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