They’re only pretending

THEY’RE ONLY PRETENDING…. Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) put opposition to health care reform in a historical context. Conservatives’ approach — which he labeled “Slow down, stop everything and start over” — isn’t new, Reid said. We saw the same attitude from the right during the debate over the Family and Medical Leave Act, women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights Act, and slavery.

Republicans are picking up on that last one and doing a fine job of pretending to be upset.

Republicans on Monday were quick to pounce on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, for comparing the battle over health care to the battle over the legacy of slavery.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee purchased a Web ad on the popular Drudge Report asking readers: “Do you agree with Harry Reid?”

Those who click on the ad are taken to an NRSC Web site called “Health Care Task Force,” which asks readers to sign a petition and “stand up to Harry Reid and his insulting remarks.”

Atrios noted last night, “Hey, Republicans throw hissy fit. Media covers hissy fit. You’d think this would get old.”

We should be so lucky. That Republicans aren’t really offended, and are only throwing a tantrum because it’s easier than debating health care policy, never seems to enter the picture.

If we’re to believe the faux-outrage, the reference to slavery was the rhetorical element that went too far. But this, apparently, is a new concern — the right has been far more direct in making the same comparison. Harry Reid was talking about key moments in history in which the right was wrong, but Michele Bachmann recently called the Democrats’ legislative agenda “nothing more than slavery,” and no one said a word. Indeed, conservatives routinely insist that the left is trying “enslave” America, and the political mainstream just shrugs its shoulders in response.

This is not uncommon. In 2005, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) described the Bush administration’s torture policies and system of secret prisons as being reminiscent of “Soviets in their gulags.” At the time, the media and Republicans were apoplectic about Durbin’s remarks, sparking a week-long frenzy. Several conservatives called on the Senate to censure Durbin, and Karl Rove, at the time a high-ranking White House official, argued that Durbin’s quote was evidence that liberals are traitors. Durbin eventually offered a tearful apology.

But notice that just a few days ago, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a member of the Senate Republican leadership, called Medicaid a “health care gulag.” Rep. John Shadegg (R-Ariz.) recently called Dems’ health care reform efforts “Soviet-style gulag health care.” Neither reporters nor other members of Congress batted an eye.

Also note, when Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) said Republicans are promoting lethal health care policies, it was a huge national controversy. When Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the same thing, no one seemed to care.

Part of the IOKIYAR phenomenon is the media’s willingness to embrace the double standard, and part of it is the result of Republicans’ more aggressive media operation.

But I also wonder if the instances of the GOP’s rhetorical excesses don’t generate as much attention because Democratic officials just don’t care the same way. Isn’t it at least possible that Dems just have other things they want to talk about, and Republicans don’t?