Apparently, I’ve offended the delicate sensibilities of the TNT’s Patrick O’Callahan, who thinks my posts on Dave Reichert’s brain are “vile.”
A rather vile post on the thestranger.com two weeks ago, “What’s wrong with Reichert’s brain?,” speculated that the head injury U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert suffered last February had more or less left the 8th District Republican a confused punch-drunk unfit for Congress.
The author, David Goldstein, cut-and-pasted excerpts from a UCLA medical website into lurid accounts of Reichert’s injury and theorized that the congressman had an atrophied brain – “Which leaves me wondering if the 8th CD is on the verge of re-electing a congressman with an… um… intellectual disability.”
Uh-huh. You know what some people might also find kinda “vile” Patrick, especially coming from the editorial page editor of an almost-major daily newspaper? Completely mischaracterizing somebody else’s words. For example, far from describing Reichert as “a confused punch-drunk unfit for Congress,” I merely quoted Reichert’s own “lurid account” of his injury, cited the medical literature, and then posited this rather measured conclusion:
Thus it is not unreasonable to expect that a brain trauma as severe as that described by Reichert, in a man of his age, and untreated for so long, could very well have resulted in some degree of permanent neurological impairment.
To be honest, Reichert has always struck me as “a confused punch-drunk unfit for Congress,” even before his injury, but those are O’Callahan’s pithy words, not mine.
Of course, it’s not really my words that O’Callahan and others find vile, but rather, the subject matter. What offends O’Callahan is that I would dare speak publicly what his colleagues have been whispering quietly for some time. So in my own defense, I’d like to suggest the following analogy:
Let’s say the Mariners were about to sign a particularly sought after free agent pitcher who, one of the TNT’s sportswriters discovers, had failed to disclose the severity of an injury to the elbow on his throwing arm, suffered during a freak, off-season gardening accident. Would it be vile to report on the details of this injury, and to speculate whether he may have suffered any long term or permanent damage?
No, of course not. We pay pitchers to hurl balls, so an elbow injury would be rather relevant.
Congressmen, on the other hand, we pay to make decisions. To deliberate. To negotiate. To, dare I say, debate.
In other words, we hire our congressmen to use their brains, in the same way we hire pitchers to use their arms.
Dave Reichert, by his own admission, suffered a severe brain trauma — much, much, much more severe than he or his staff at first let on — and while it may be an uncomfortable and sensitive subject to broach, it is completely and utterly relevant to the job he is seeking. And that, I assume, is why both Politico and the Seattle Times eventually picked up the story.
No, if there’s anything “vile” about this incident, it’s the way some local journalists, out of politeness or civility or whatnot, have been complicit in Reichert’s effort to hide his condition from voters.