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.”
Well, Reichert just paid our editorial board a visit today. If he was suffering from any brain damage, he did a heck of a job covering it up as he lucidly answered questions ranging from fiscal policy to Afghanistan to bipartisanship. He was vague at points, but it looked like the deliberate vagueness of a politician denying targets to the opposition. His challenger, Suzan DelBene, also employed tactical vagueness when she came in, only a lot more of it.
Reichert got his head whacked by a branch while he was cutting firewood; the doctors found a large residue of blood in the right side of his cranium and drilled a few holes in his skull to relieve the pressure. This week, he released a letter from the attending physician for Congress, Brian P. Monahan, who wrote, “You have received close follow up and completed an uneventful recovery and your symptoms resolved completely,” Monahan wrote.
Reichert can joke about it now. “I’m fine,” he told us. “It’s brain surgery; yes, there’s a recovery period. It did push my brain to the right so I made my Republican friends happy. But it’s moved back to the center since then.”
He said he was in the hospital five days and back to work two days after his release.
He was touched when his Democratic challenger of two years ago, Darcy Burner, sent him flowers in the hospital. Also when Nancy Pelosi called him and said, “We were praying for you, and I personally was praying for you.”
Political analysts talk about an “expectations game,” which politicians win simply by performing better than expected. Their opponents, eager to trash them, often play right into the trap. Back in 2000, Democrats gleefully forecast George W. Bush’s humiliation at the hands of Al Gore Jr. in the presidential debates; at that point, all Bush had to do was not get humiliated to come out ahead with much of the public.
Setting the performance standard for Reichert at “not brain damaged” did nothing to help DelBene’s campaign.