"GOP Senators Add Heat on Spying" is the headline in The Boston Globe. In the New York Daily News, the headline is "GOP Pols Prod Bush to Alter Spy Tactics." The lead of NPR's story this morning is "Several Republicans joined Democratic senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday in questioning the legality of secret wiretapping authorized by President Bush."
Maybe I'm reading too much into this, but sometimes I get the feeling that no opinion really counts in our political life unless it's held by a Republican. Samuel Alito? He's not really controversial -- the only people who think so are those Democratic kooks. This? This is different -- Arlen Specter and Lindsey Graham say so.
Obviously, GOP objections in the present case are newsworthy because Republicans are the majority party and Democratic initiatives go nowhere unless Republicans break ranks; also, obviously, it's a man-bites-dog story. But I think there's more going on. I don't think the Beltway believes Democrats' opinions have any moral weight.
I started feeling this way back when Trent Lott praised the racist 1948 presidential campaign of Strom Thurmond. Atrios and Josh Marshall were all over the story -- but theirs weren't the opinions that counted. As The Christian Science Monitor told us on December 17, 2002,
... it has been more the reaction of conservative Republicans, including some Web commentators, like David Frum, that has kept the story alive.
Which is how I remember it -- the mainstream press paid attention only when conservatives piped up.
The contrast, of course, is that in the '90s Republicans alone could build a drumbeat of outrage about Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky or "renting out the Lincoln Bedroom" or Lani Guinier or a hundred other things; sure, for much of the '90s the GOP had congressional majorities, but the GOP built those majorities on successful outrage campaigns conducted when they were in the minority -- against the Clinton health-care plan, say, or against the Democrats involved in the House banking scandal.
The president is unpopular. The GOP-led Congress is wildly unpopular. Most Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction, after five years with the Republicans running everything in Washington. Why isn't liberal and Democratic anger treated as the sound of a potential majority? Why, when there's no Republican assent, is it invariably treated as the squealing of the impotent?