Banking on the 'bank shot'

Hanging the Culture of Corruption charge around the Republican Party's neck may be the Democrats' best hope for regaining at least one chamber of congress in '06.

Making it stick -- making it stick to the Republicans that is, since it's currently attached to both parties in the public imagination -- is the central issue. It's perhaps redundant to put it this way, yet again, but the facts connecting the Abramoff scandal to the Republican party are legion while the message lags far behind.

To that end, Harry Reid released a scathing 27-page statement, charging Republicans with being on the take from Jack Abramoff, among other ethical lapses -- and naming names. 33 of them, to be exact. The statement opens: "The idea of Republicans reforming themselves is like asking John Gotti to clean up organized crime."

A day or two later, after the Republican whine machine's predictable response, Reid made a public apology: "I am writing to apologize for the tone of this document and the decision to single out individual senators for criticism in it..." The apology made headlines in the nation's most prominent papers: Senator Apologizes for Attack on Payments to Republicans, Page 1 in the NYT and Reid Apologizes for News Release on GOP, Page 4 in the Washington Post.

Of course, up until then, the scathing news release detailing Republican corruption hadn't made much of a splash in the media. No media, no message. Them's the rules.

Reid's apology on the other hand had, intentionally or not, succeeded in getting paragraphs of charges into the papers; a "bank shot."

The question raging among progressive strategists is this: Did Reid's apology, which stole the headlines, do more damage by painting Democrats as weak than it did good by listing charges against Republicans?

Headlines are not only read by a far greater number than read the actual article, but studies show that their message has a greater impact due to the peculiar syntax of headline writing. Then again, as one analyst wrote: "the whole 2nd half of the Post story was background on the Republican corruption Reid, uh, 'overstated.'"

The Note, a good gauge for the conventional DC press perspective, was amazed at the apology and believes the Republicans got the last laugh:

"Failure to find weapons of mass destruction? No apology required. Nasty research document? A thousand pardons please."
"And that different approach sums up the difference between the two parties: ...the Democratic Party leadership still has not internalized the rules of modern politics at a time of war and terror in the way the GOP has."
Further proof of this principle is no further than HERE.

Another analyst, noting The Note's take on the apology, wrote: "Just because some of the corruption information got into the 12th and 13 paragraph of a story doesn’t mean nearly as much as the blaring headline, 'Reid Apologizes,' and the knowing chuckles among the DC press corps that their belief that Democrats are wimps just got validated yet again."

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