The Final Piece the Press Withheld Concerning Closed Sessions of Congress

As reported by NewsBusters here and here, there was a lot about the closed session held in the Senate on Tuesday that the media chose to ignore. However, now that the damage has been done, and public opinions of this issue have been formed, the Washington Post today decided to share some of the facts with its readers.

First, the decision to have a closed session is normally made with the consent of both parties:

“The rule's existence was widely known, and closed sessions had been held by bipartisan agreement as recently as 1999, regarding President Bill Clinton's impeachment. But the notion of one party springing the rule on the other party without warning was so alien that senators could not cite a previous example.”

This is a crucial piece of information that was almost universally withheld from the public on Tuesday after the doors of the Senate were closed. Of course, this quite explains why Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was so angry on camera, basically stating that he had been stabbed in the back by Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev).

In fact, as the article continued, former Democratic Minority and Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) suggested that he would never have called such a session without informing the leader of the Republican Party. Quite the contrary, Daschle opposed any closed session without bipartisan agreement:

“[Reid’s] predecessor, former Democratic leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.), had considered going into closed session to discuss intelligence use and to spur the inquiry launched in early 2004. But he wanted the cooperation of Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).

“‘For the past couple of years, Senator Frist and I had agreed to hold an executive session,’ Daschle said yesterday. But Frist ‘kept putting it off.’ Daschle said several Democratic senators ‘threatened to do it over his opposition during that time, but it never got to that point.’"

Of course, the question is why this information was largely withheld from the public yesterday. After all, the press continually talk about the contentious atmosphere that exists in Washington, D.C., and normally blame it on the Republicans. In this instance, the Democrats did something that no one could remember ever having been done, and it has acted to worsen the caustic condition of America’s Congress. Yet, the media decided to withhold from the public information that might have largely changed their view of what transpired.

For instance, what would the public’s response have been to this event if they would have been told that such sessions appear to always be called by bipartisan agreement? Mightn’t that have better explained why the Republicans were so angry?

Or, is this irrelevant? After all, the stunt seems to have helped the Democrats:

“‘My phones have been ringing off the hook’ at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Schumer said. ‘It has played far better than we had thought.’"

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Noel Sheppard's picture