Tom Daschle has done it now. The Senate majority leader, appearing on one of the Sunday morning news shows the other day, had the temerity to accuse the Washington press corps of “inaccurate” reporting on the new farm bill.
Daschle, who may have had more to do with the passage of the legislation than anyone, said the new law would save money rather than increase spending, as most of the national media has been reporting, because it would eliminate the need for emergency assistance bills.
“We're getting rid of those ad hoc disaster payment approaches,” said Daschle. “We're actually bringing down the cost of the federal program, and very few journalists and very few commentators report on that.”
You could almost hear the Washington writers sharpening their knives.
It didn't take long for the Washington Post to exact its revenge. It quickly seized on a press release from fellow South Dakota senator, Tim Johnson, calling for drought assistance legislation. The press release also quoted Daschle.
In an editorial titled “Who's Amazing?,” a reference to Daschle's comment that he was “just amazed at the inaccurate reporting on the farm bill,” the Post chided Daschle for seemingly reversing his position on the assistance issue.
“We need to provide natural disaster assistance as soon as possible,” the editorial quoted Daschle as saying. “The new farm bill sets up sound policy for the future… but will not help farmers whose land is so bone-dry that their crops will not grow and their cattle cannot graze.”
“So much for the promise that ‘we're getting rid of those ad hoc disaster payment approaches,’” the Post intoned.
The editorial chided Daschle for quibbling over economic disasters and weather disasters and accused Congress of providing crop insurance subsidies to row crop producers but not to cattle ranchers.
It did not mention the disaster aid would be for weather losses, including some in the Mid-South, that occurred last year before there was a hint of a new farm bill. Nor did it say that federal crop insurance is very much a hit-and-miss affair, not covering all crops or providing coverage at economical rates.
It acknowledged that some farmers are suffering, but “bad luck happens in lots of industries that don't expect the federal government to save them from its consequences. The farm bill promises $190 billion over 10 years for an industry that employs only 2 percent of the workforce; there is no way to argue that farmers need even more than that…”
The Post's hypocrisy would be laughable if such statements didn't portend so much bad for farmers. You don't have to spend much time in Washington to see more taxpayer dollars at work than farmers will ever receive.
Unfortunately, such editorials show no signs of abating, and farmers are likely to face even more inaccurate reporting and editorializing as Congress debates the agricultural appropriations bill later this summer.
As for Daschle, who reportedly is considering a run for the presidency, he may need to mend some fences with the traditionally Democratic-leaning Post before he throws his hat in the ring.