Paralyze this: An update

Following up on our post on the Star Tribune’s less than complete account of Walter Mondale’s support for modifying the Senate filibuster rule, one of our readers wrote Star Tribune reporter Kevin Diaz:

Shouldn’t you have mentioned Mondale’s changing views of the filibuster? Seems like relevant info which would allow the reader to evaluate how much weight to give Mondale’s opinion.

Diaz responded:

I don’t think he said anything different yesterday than he’s said before. He doesn’t want to kill the filibuster, he just wants to make it harder.

Our reader took another whack:

[Mondale] wrote a piece in the Strib praising the filibuster of Bush’s judicial nominees. That needed to be in the article, I think.

Diaz responded:

Perhaps. But to your original point, if we had written that his views on the filibuster rule have changed, we would have been in error. Except that in 1975 he thought 60 did the trick, and now he wants a smaller number.

Not persuaded, our reader wrote back to Diaz:

Come on, the real issue is whether readers should be informed about his column—here’s what [Mondale] had to say [in 2005, supporting the Democrats’ use of the filibuster against Bush judicial nominees]:
“Today, as it has been for 200 years, an individual senator may talk without limit on an issue; and others may join in, and they may continue to press those issues until or unless the Senate by 60 votes ends that debate and a vote occurs. No other legislative body has such a rule.”
So 60 is some great number, and now that Dems are close to it, but not there, it’s to be cast aside? That’s certainly a valid takeaway. But by keeping that info out, you shortchange readers.

Is this really a difficult point to grasp? It must be.
Incidentally, the Star Tribune itself has played right along with Mondale’s shifting views depending on the political tides. When portions of President Clinton’s legislative program were threatened by the filibuster in 1993, the Star Tribune’s editorial page raged: “Down the drain goes President Clinton’s economic stimulus package, washed away in the putrid flood of verbiage known as a filibuster. Call it a power game. Call it politics as usual. Call it reprehensible.” In 1994, the Star Tribune followed up with an editorial titled “Stall busters–Don’t pull punches in anti-filibuster fight.” This time, the Star Tribune hailed the efforts of a bipartisan group that sought to end the filibuster once and for all.
In the Bush era, however, times had changed, and the Star Tribune’s editorial position had changed with them. In an editorial dated April 24, 2005, the Star Tribune lauded the filibuster and condemned Republican efforts to end it in connection with judicial nominations.
When we noted the Star Tribune’s “that was then, this is now” approach to editorial judgment on Power Line, Jim Boyd — then deputy editor of the Star Tribune editorial page — irately denied any contradiction. Two days later, however, he wrote us: “I think you actually have caught us in a contradiction. We can change our mind . . . but in this case, we really didn’t. We simply missed the precedent and, like a court, if we make such a shift, we owe readers an explanation for why we did it.”
We’re still waiting; the Star Tribune has yet to publish the explanation it acknowledged its readers are owed. But it did publish another column condemning Republican efforts to roll back the filibuster in connection with judicial nominations — the Mondale/Durenberger column “Preserve Senate rules, filibuster and all.” That is the column that is conspicuous by its absence from yesterday’s Star Tribune article “Mondale: Ease the filibuster ‘paralysis'” by Diaz and Eric Roper.


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