In 76-year-old Sen. Thad Cochran‘s case, the anecdote in Atlantic‘s Molly Ball’s story Tuesday, on the day of his primary, looks bad. Make that incredibly bad.
With a runoff in three weeks against his much younger opponent, Chris McDaniel, 41, Cochran (R-Miss.) can’t afford any more coverage like this. The story questions his physical and mental ability to serve in Congress after, ironically, 41 years in office.
Politicians half his age have had memories as bad as the silky white-haired Mississippi lawmaker. Some pols are good at that stuff– they make it a point to recognize reporters in the marble hallways of the Capitol and greet them with hugs or handshakes. Many even know regular Capitol Hill reporters by name.
Others, no matter that they’ve told you their whole life story that included the detail of eating chicken fat sandwiches as a child (yes, that’s you New York Democratic Rep. Jerrold Nadler), have no earthly idea who you are. It’s just the way it goes and a reporter should never take it personally. They have a lot of faces and names to imprint in their memories and if you’re a reporter, you’re largely on the level of shit under their shoe.
In Ball’s case, Cochran appears to really have no recollection of meeting her, even though she’d interviewed him just a half hour before in a square in Meridian, Miss. She asked why Mississippi needed him in the Senate. She wrote that he didn’t appear to understand the question. Later, the reporter followed the senator to a local diner.
The damning moment: “Cochran didn’t pose for any pictures during his brief sweep,” she wrote. “As he made his way toward the exit, the senator held out his hand to me. I had met and interviewed him less than half an hour before. ‘Hello, how are you doing?’ he said with a kindly smile. ‘I’m Thad Cochran.’”
Read Ball’s story here.