Finally, congratulations to the dozens and dozens of free thinkers who wrote in, often using the exact same language, regarding a piece by NPR's David Welna on the oncoming collision in the Senate over the right of the minority to filibuster judicial nominations. David mentioned that Senate Democrats are calling Republican leader Bill Frist's threat to change the rules and curtail the filibuster the "nuclear option."
Pardon the interruption, Ken. Here's what Welna said, on April 25:
Democrats call a simple majority rules change banning judicial filibuster the "nuclear option," due to the toxic effect they say it would have on Senate relations.
Maybe I'm splitting hairs here, but if so I'm not the only one. That "due to the toxic effect..." there not only seems to imply it's the Democrats' term, it also places its use in a specific setting ("judicial filibuster") which reinforces the implication. As always, I think the onus is on the professional wordsmith to say things as unambiguously as possible. But let's move on. Only, remember that date, willya? We'll be coming back to it.
Some Web logs took NPR to task by saying we were parroting the GOP line by attributing the quote to the Dems, when after all it was Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) who coined the phrase. All David was doing was saying that Democrats were calling it the "nuclear option," which they were. Welna didn't say that the Dems originated the term. He didn't get into its etymology.
Well, here's the real problem, as I see it, and in words I thought up all by myself: NPR's Congressional reporter just innocently notes that "Democrats" are using the term a full week after Trent Lott did his little two-step around it on ABC's This Week, a performance which was remarked on at the time by Charles Schumer and in a number of places thereafter. That is, we have every right to expect that Welna would have been familiar with the issue, and with the fact that Republicans were now trying, for public relations purposes, to change the name they'd come up with in the first place. So if Welna wasn't in fact parroting Republican talking points he's rather uninformed for a national political correspondent. But then, hey, those emailers sure lacked inventiveness, didn't they?