Times Whitewashes Sen. Whitehouse's Despicable Comments, But Goes After Conservative Sen. Coburn

Covering Sunday's Senate floor debate on Obama-care, the Times quotes Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse blasting Republicans for filibusters, but not his comparison of the GOP to Nazis and Jim Crow-era racists. Yet a misrepresented Sen. Tom Coburn comment was fair game.

In a story posted on nytimes.com Sunday night, reporters Carl Hulse and David Herszenhorn found that the "Senate Debate on Health Care Exacerbates Partisanship." As usual, the Times only finds partisanship taking place on behalf of the Republican Party. Most incredibly, the two reporters either missed or ignored the most inflammatory comments issued on the Senate floor on Sunday, when Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island comparing conservative opponents of Obama care to Jim Crow-era lynchers, and Nazis: "Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds, broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from Southern trees. Even this great institution of government that we share has cowered before a tail-gunner waving secret lists."

From Hulse and Herszenhorn's report, with its emphasis on Republican nastiness:

Nasty charges of bribery. Senators cut off midspeech. Accusations of politics put over patriotism. Talk of double-crosses. A nonagenarian forced to the floor after midnight for multiple procedural votes.

The "nonagenarian" is of course Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Hulse and Herszenhorn returned to the sad plight of Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd later.

The Times actually quoted a portion of Whitehouse's nasty speech chiding the GOP, but without mentioning the odious comparisons to Nazis and Jim Crow racists Whitehouse had made less than four minutes previously:

"We have crossed the mark of over 100 filibusters and acts of procedural obstruction in less than one year," Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, said on the floor Sunday. "Never since the founding of the Republic, not even in the bitter sentiments preceding Civil War, was such a thing ever seen in this body."

Hulse and Herszenhorn must have missed this excerpt from Whitehouse's Sunday speech, caught by liberal Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank:

History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds, broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from Southern trees. Even this great institution of government that we share has cowered before a tail-gunner waving secret lists.

That's just a small sample of Whitehouse's speech, which was a solid block of high-density offensiveness. The Washington Times' Kerry Picket has more.

Hulse and Herszenhorn of the NYT blamed the GOP for partisanship now and to come:

At the same time, Democrats say the apparently unbridgeable health care divide has convinced them that Republicans are dedicated solely to blocking legislative proposals for political purposes. Several said they now realized that they would have to rely strictly on their own caucus to advance such defining issues as climate change in 2010.

After ignoring Whitehouse's revolting comments, the Times nervily took on conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, letting liberal Democrat Sen. Dick Durbin mischaracterize a Coburn comment.

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma and a leading opponent of the measure, said Sunday that a missing Democrat might be the best hope for foes of the overhaul.

"What the American people should pray is that somebody can't make the vote," he said in a floor remark that Democrats found offensive and suggestive of wishing misfortune on one of them.

"This statement goes too far," said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. "We are becoming more coarse and divided here."

Coburn released a statement explaining his comment:

Republican Sen. Tom Coburn did not wish "misfortune" on anyone when he asked people to pray that lawmakers miss a key vote on health care reform, a spokesman said Monday, rejecting suggestions from Democrats that the Oklahoma doctor was wishing ill on his colleagues.

Rather, Coburn was hoping - praying, even - that sleep-deprived Democrats would hit the snooze button one too many times and miss the vote scheduled for 1 a.m. ET Monday morning.

"If senators are napping before the vote he would not be disappointed if alarm clocks don't go off," spokesman John Hart said in an e-mail.

The Times relayed more Democratic talking points:

Republicans say that the pre-holiday legislative rush reflects an artificial deadline set by Democrats who want to force through a highly complex measure with minimal public scrutiny; Democrats say Republicans, under pressure from conservative campaigners and commentators to stall the bill, are simply unwilling to accept defeat.

Democratic tempers flared during consideration of a Pentagon spending bill, with lawmakers suggesting that Republicans were playing politics at the expense of American troops by extending debate over the $626 billion measure as way of trying to deny Democrats time needed to pass the health care bill before Christmas.

As far as Hulse and Herszenhorn are concerned, the GOP is merely engaged in "stalling tactics."

Tensions have run so high on the Senate floor, with Democrats so perturbed by Republican stalling tactics, that party leaders told senators to object to any senator who asked for additional speaking time - even the routine extra minutes that senators request to finish a sentence.