Recently, the House Republican Leadership, frustrated by its inability to stop the Democratic Hundred Hours agenda, kill debate on the Iraq War or, well, really do much of anything, decided to call the attention of the American people to something really important: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's airplane.
The speaker, they charged, wasn't just demanding a luxury aircraft to fly back and forth to her district. She was also, horror of horrors, demanding a military one.
Oh, sure, former Speaker Dennis Hastert got a military plane to travel around in, but it was a humble little Gulfstream 3, not a big 757 like Pelosi was demanding. The way they talked, Pelosi was going to be carried on board in a sedan chair, while humble Denny Hastert had to get out and spin the prop on his plane to get it started.
Of course, the so-called "liberal" media picked up the Republican talking point and made it the story du jour. There were the usual attempts at cutesy nicknames for the alleged "scandal": "Pelosi One," "Air Pelosi," "Non-stop Nancy" and, inevitably, "Planegate."
There's only one problem with this story about an arrogant Democrat demanding luxury aircraft for herself: It never happened. Oh, there was a request made for a larger plane for Speaker Pelosi, but it didn't come from the speaker's office. It came from the House sergeant-at-arms.
Now, if you're like me, you thought the House sergeant-at-arms was just the beefy fellow who yells, "Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States!" at the State of the Union.
Well, he does that, and a lot more. He's the chief security guy for the House side of the Capitol. He "maintains order and decorum" in the House, which means he occasionally gets to pick up the Mace (a big silver stick with an eagle on the top) and brandish it at an unruly congressman.
Most important for purposes of this story, the sergeant-at-arms is responsible for ensuring the safety and security of all the representatives, their staffs, etc. Frankly, you couldn't pay me enough to take that job, even if I did get to threaten congressmen with a big stick from time to time.
Post 9/11, the S-at-A can be forgiven for being a bit paranoid about his 435 charges and their associated posses, especially when they scatter to their home districts.
He had this to say in a press release: "It is reasonable and prudent to provide military aircraft to the speaker for official travel between Washington and her district. The fact that Speaker Pelosi lives in California compelled me to request an aircraft that is capable of making non-stop flights for security purposes. I made the recommendation to use military aircraft based upon the need to provide necessary levels of security for ranking national leaders, such as the speaker."
In other words, if the speaker's plane doesn't have to land to refuel, the guy responsible for her safety has that many fewer headaches over some loon, foreign or domestic, taking a shot at her while she's on the ground.
Well, the Media Formerly Known as Liberal weren't going to let anything like a fact get in the way of a good smear. The day of the sergeant-at-arms' press release, MSNBC news-bimbo Chris Jansing promised coverage of the story "all day long." When NBC reporter Mike Viqueira informed her that it was the sergeant-at-arms who'd requested the plane, noted that there was "no evidence" Pelosi had asked for a 757, and reported that Pelosi had offered to fly commercial, Jansing insisted that "this story isn't going to go away" because she had just gotten an e-mail from the Republican National Committee entitled "Pelosi Power Trip."
Note well: Even though the story had been conclusively refuted, MSNBC was going to keep running it because the RNC sent them an e-mail that indicated that THEY thought it was important.
Only after White House Press Secretary Tony Snow pronounced the story "silly" and "unfair to the speaker" did the media hounds stop baying after this non-story.
Right-wing bloggers, however (and, I'll wager, writers of letters to the editor) continue to run with the lie about "Non-Stop Nancy."
Perhaps the truest statement about all this was made by Fox News' Chris Wallace. He noted on the network's "Fox and Friends" program that they were going to keep hyping the story because it was "stupid, but kind of entertaining."
"Stupid, but kind of entertaining." That ought to be the new slogan of the modern media. There's an old saying that "a lie makes it halfway around the world before the truth gets its boots on." That's not hard to do when so-called "journalists" drive the lie to the airport and buy it plane tickets.