AP Item on Boehner's Carrot-Free, Stick-Free Persuasion Ignores 2007-2010 Democrats' Opposite Actions

August 4th, 2011 9:45 PM

It seems that every time I see something possibly redeeming put forth by the Associated Press, they figure out a way to ruin it.

Take Larry Margasak's report this afternoon on John Boehner's attempts at persuading House Republican members to support his various attempts at debt-ceiling legislation during the few two weeks. (I've made my general unhappiness with the ultimate result pretty plain here, and that is not the topic of this post.)

Maragasak notes Boehner's refusal to engage in "carrot-and-stick" persuasion, observes that it's "a major transformation from the not too distant past," and spends the rest of the report comparing the Republicans under Boehner to the Denny Hastert-Tom Delay regime. It's as if the years from 2007 through 2010, featuring the Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid regime's Louisiana Purchase of Mary Landrieu, the Cornhusker Kickback to Nebraska's Ben Nelson, the $3.5 billion "clean energy" boondoggle to Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, and so many, many others, never happened and don't exist. What a journalistic disgrace.

Here are several paragraphs from Margasak's misguided missive:

Debt ceiling votes herded without carrots, sticks

Speaker John Boehner was desperate in his search for votes from his party to prevent a first-ever government default. But despite what a GOP freshman called "hour by hour by hour" pressure from the Ohio Republican leader and his lieutenants, rank-and-file holdouts said they were neither offered carrots nor threatened with sticks to change their minds. That's a major transformation from the not too distant past.

There were no promises of new bridges or campaign help. No threats to boot members off coveted committees. And, if some of those tactics had been tried, it's unlikely that many House Republican tea party supporters would have been swayed. They came to Washington disdainful of such wheeling and dealing and promising to fix what members of both parties had come to describe as a culture of corruption.

Boehner, who has risen, fallen and risen again in the House GOP hierarchy, has long shunned earmarked "pet projects" and had no objection when more conservative deficit hawks succeeded in getting them banned.

One GOP holdout on the debt bill, Rep. Connie Mack of Florida, recalled a time early in his career when he was withholding his vote from the Republican leadership and saw "The Hammer" - then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay - walking toward him in the House chamber.

"He came over with a finger pointing at my chest," the four-term lawmaker said. "He was telling me what I'm going to do and why. He said, `You won't make it long in this town'" by defying the party leadership.

Mack doesn't remember what the issue was, but he remembers not budging.

... That doesn't mean there wasn't pressure, especially when Boehner had to postpone a vote on his legislation last week for lack of Republican support, and faced questions about his hold on the speakership.

... "I didn't see or hear any of that," he said. "I thought they would break my knuckles and twist my arm. I saw the speaker in the cloakroom. He raised his eyebrows, to say Where are you at?' I said, 'I support you, I just don't like your bill.' He said, 'That's what I thought. I'll leave you alone.' There was no 'I got a deal for you.'"

I guess in Margasak's mind, referring to "the not too distant past" gave him journalistic permission to skip over the four years Nancy Pelosi was House Speaker and Harry Reid was Majority Leader. That's not what less-informed readers will infer. They'll instead infer that corruption was only a problem the last time Republicans controlled Congress. It sure looks like that's what the AP reporter wants people to think -- or he would have covered the tactics of Pelosi lieutenants like Steny Hoyer and not simply skipped back to Tom Delay.

One other bias note while I'm thinking of it: Last week, Columbus Dispatch reporter Joe Hallett, using completely unnamed sources, tried to claim that Boehner was punishing fellow Buckeye State Congressman Jim Jordan for his intransigence on voting for anything short of the "Cut, Cap and Balance" legislation which originally passed the House, even alleging that Republicans were figuring out a way to carve up Jordan's district in the redistricting process.

Hallett's piece as originally filed is no longer available at the Columbus Dispatch (the link in the previous paragraph is from Google's cache). In a later version (also not available, but quoted here at the Hill), the Dispatch reporter added a response from Boehner which says a lot about the man (Boehner, not Hallett, the supposed dean of Ohio political journalists, who from this vantage point is about as weaselly as they come), even if you don't think he did a particularly good job in the debt-ceiling debate:

"Jim Jordan and I may not always agree on strategy, but we are friends and allies, and the word retribution is not in my vocabulary," Boehner said in a statement. "I look forward to continuing to serve with him in the U.S. House after the redistricting process in Ohio is complete, and for many years to come.”

There was never any substance to Joe Hallett's story. Don't look for an apology or retraction any time soon.

One thing you can say: "Retribution" is in Nancy Pelosi's vocabulary.

Another: If fairness and balance are present at the AP, it would appear to only be in its sports coverage -- maybe.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.