The Durbin Saga

June 23, 2005

Dick Durbin’s outrageous commens about our military would have been suppressed, but for the New Media:

It was the last speech of the day to a virtually empty Senate chamber.

At 7:19 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14, Sen. Dick Durbin left the floor after delivering an impassioned talk expressing deep misgivings about the way prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba were being treated.

Over at the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee, the operatives paid to keep an eye on Democrats missed Durbin’s now infamous line about Nazis, Soviets and Pol Pot. That’s because most Republican officials in town were at the President’s Dinner, a major fundraising event for the GOP with a speech by President Bush.

“You’ve got to hand it to him. If you’re going to say something controversial, that was a good time. The cooks were away from the kitchen,” said Brian Nick, a spokesman for the NRSC.

Nevertheless, Durbin’s words that night managed to take on a life of their own because of talk radio and bloggers on the Internet. Over the course of a week, a speech that nobody heard had turned into Topic A on Capitol Hill and across the airwaves. Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, was forced to explain himself to Republican senators on the floor, in a statement released to the public and finally, voice trembling, in an emotional apology.

In the case of Durbin, the words he spoke on the vacant Senate floor did find an audience. Lee Habeeb, the executive producer of Laura Ingraham’s talk radio show, was home walking his 3-month-old baby around and monitoring the Senate on C-SPAN.

“We really pride ourselves on digging up what these guys say,” Habeeb said.

The next morning, Ingraham, a hard-hitting conservative, devoted most of her show to Durbin, replaying the audio clip of him condemning the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo and comparing it to the practices of murderous regimes.

At the same time, the RNC sent a video of Durbin delivering those remarks to friendly blogs and other talk radio shows, according to spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt.

By that afternoon, Rush Limbaugh, another conservative radio show host, was reading Durbin’s words aloud from the American Thinker blog.

“Uh, you know,” Limbaugh sighed. “I’m just stunned. I’m literally just stunned.”

He regained his composure, however, to describe why American treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo was different from the Nazis with their concentration camps and the Soviets with their gulags:

“The Nazis gassed people. The Nazis mass-murdered people. The Nazis committed all kinds of atrocities. The Nazis would attach electrodes to genitals. The Nazis would use electrical shock. The Nazis were literally brutal. We have nothing in common with them.”

One Response to The Durbin Saga

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