As someone who has been involved in politics and media nearly all my long adult life, I get really pissed when others who practice either craft use it badly. Last week was a two-fer.

First it was Harry Reid – Senate Majority Leader – as he spoke on the Senate floor. The gist of his remarks – for the official Senate record – was that an unnamed someone – who may or may not have been involved with Bain Capital – told him “privately” Mitt Romney had not paid federal taxes on his huge income for a decade. The media dogs pounced on the unsourced red meat rumor and created the second chapter of my – until now – silent rage.

For the record, it’s my understanding any member of Congress can say damned near anything on the floor in either house and be exempt from any charges of libel or slander – that there is immunity for whatever reason. History in both chambers is replete with such groundless, baseless and totally crazy statements and accusations from day one. Even a death threat or two and challenges to a duel or two. I’m sure authors of such rules had their reasons in the name of “liberty” and “free speech,” but common courtesy, respect for the rights of others – and too often truth – suffer in such an environment. Especially now with near-immediate, worldwide reproduction of the words.

Rules of exemption to the contrary, in my backwoods judgment, Reid was dead wrong and practicing rumor-mongering of the highest order. Had I been a Republican on the Senate floor that day, I would have asked to be recognized, then said “an unnamed source” told me recently that Sen. Reid was a principal in a shadowy company which owned several brothels in his home state of Nevada. Imagine the response!

While Reid’s fact-free charge may have been “acceptable” under the aforementioned rules of congressional speech, it was inflammatory and senseless. In a political climate already aflame with lies and damned lies by all, Reid just poured gasoline on the mix.

My guess is he was being the “bad cop.” With four-plus years to go on what’s likely his last term in the Senate, Reid has a certain “protection” so he can be a bulldog for Democrats top to bottom. He can make groundless charges in a protected congressional environment to needle Romney and other Republicans – put them off their game a bit. Maybe he CAN do that. Maybe that’s his role. But it certainly is wrong by any standard you and I practice in our daily lives.

As I said, this was a “two-fer” week for my angst. After Reid came – wait for it – the national media. I read several political columns daily – watch a number of TV political opinion squawkers – see several newscasts. It’s like eating sawdust without asking for water but it’s what I do.

In none of the viewing and reading – none – did I hear anyone right, left or middle castigate the Senator from Nevada for his irresponsible speech. Not O’Reilly. Not Cooper. Not Mathews. Not Burnett. Not Maddow. No one. All of them walked right past a direct challenge to try to ferret our Reid’s source – if such source exists – to focus instead on what Romney may be hiding in his unreleased tax returns. Each failed a basic journalistic tenet of confirming fact, opting instead to wallow in a swill of unsupported charges.

It’s not your father’s journalism.

Romney has a self-inflicted, bleeding gash on his candidacy that may well doom it. While not absolutely required to follow the tradition of financial transparency expected of national candidates – or even appointees to high political office – Romney has single-handedly created a viable issue that will not go away. Any point he tries to make from now to November – every statement – every major appearance – every debate – he will be dogged by legitimate charges he is “covering up.” Early on, he might have developed an argument for not revealing his tax information. Not now. Not next month. Never. The absence of fact for so long – read truth – has created an ocean of doubt, conspiracy, illegality and God knows what else. And it’s his own hand on the dagger.

In my view, Reid took the low road and should be embarrassed by his irresponsible charge. The current campaign is low enough without someone deliberately shoving it into a ditch. He may be playing the bulldog role but he should do so without cheapening the dignity of the Senate. There are already enough idiots in Congress undercutting our democracy – not to mention dignity – two words which escape too many of ‘em.

The media deserve significant criticism as well. The institution of journalism – like Congress – has its unprofessional, career-chasing, factually illiterate wannabe’s with little regard for the responsibilities they signed up to carry out but have forgotten or ignored in their pursuit of gold. Not all, certainly. But one would be too many.

So maybe it’s just my old, moss-covered Oregon thumb alone which is turned down in both cases. The rebukes may never be heard by more than a few old-growth trees. But – DAMN – nobody else has taken up the axe to censure. I feel better after the swing.

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