Harry Reid's Slipping Credibility
by Matt Stoller, Fri Aug 18, 2006 at 05:16:28 PM EDT
Here are some interesting quotes that get more interesting when juxaposed together:
"Sen. Reid left no doubt in my mind that I would retain my seniority and committee assignments within the Senate Democratic Caucus should I be re-elected," Lieberman said Thursday, "and that has been confirmed to me by several other members of the Democratic caucus."
So I asked him -- if Joe Lieberman leaves the party, what will happen with regard to his Committee appointments? He said he'd met with Ned twice and liked him a lot. And as to the opposition we've been mounting against Joe? Reid said it to me twice, and he chose his words very carefully:
It's important for people to know that their actions have consequences.
Ryan Lizza, The New Republic, August 12, 2006
They downplay the national implications of the race and are eager to move on. "We'll put the focus back on Bush," says a senior Senate aide. "You know, 'The primary was a referendum on Bush, and so Republicans have a lot to fear.'" They also reject the idea that the primary changes the Iraq debate: "Our Iraq policy has been driven by [Harry] Reid and [Carl] Levin. To be honest, they could give a rat's ass about the blogs. In other words, these are policy-based decisions, and aren't driven by the politics of Connecticut or anywhere else."
I like Harry Reid as Senate minority leader. I was one of the first people in the progressive netroots to embrace his tenure as minority leader, because of the pugnacity that all of us love. Reid hasn't disappointed in many respects - he's really foiled Frist when he wants to, and has prevented a fair number of horrible pieces of legislation from coming through the door.
At the same time, I fear that it's become evident that Reid is a fairly weak leader, and may not really share our values as progressives. His weakness isn't really a character issue, per se, it's more that the Senate is a creature that doesn't like to be led. Reid is a strong guy, when he wants to be. But I just am beginning to doubt that he's really with us when it counts.
Let's put aside the Alito vote, which Reid didn't whip with any sense of priority, if he did any whipping at all. Or the Bankruptcy Bill, which Reid actually voted for. I want to focus on his sense of where political power lies, and how he responds to the progressive movement. There was an excellent insider diary a few weeks ago on an energy bill that came through which opened up offshore drilling in the Gulf Coast. Long story short, it was a horrible right-wing bill, but Reid whipped for it out of deference to Mary Landrieu and Bill Nelson, neither of whom it will actually help. In supporting this legislation, Reid allowed right-wing Democratic members to dictate policy, even though it's fairly clear that they will sell us out on key votes. The Republicans make sure to let their moderates vote against them on unimportant throwaway votes, while forcing them to remain with them on key votes. Reid often does the opposite. This is not necessarily because he is a bad strategist; it could be because Reid isn't actually a progressive, and shares the worldview of the centrists.
I'm ok with political disagreements. What's worrisome is how Reid doesn't follow through on his own key moves, like when he shut down the Senate to force a review of Iraq intelligence. Bold move, but we're still waiting for that review. In the talking points sheet Reid's office emailed out, the following sentence reveals what we now know to be false: "We will not let up until America gets answers." Once again, bold move, but no follow-up.
This characteristic, of hinting at darkly strong moves towards a progressive stance, and then not following through when push comes to shove, seems to be somewhat habitual when caucus politics is involved. That's how it is on Lieberman. Reid tried to keep Lamont out of the primary and endorsed Lieberman on the condition that Lieberman would stay a Democrat. Lieberman violated that condition. And now Reid has insured that Lieberman wouldn't face any penalties for running to the right and stabbing the party in the face by promising that Lieberman will keep his seniority.
I hope Reid reconsiders his support of Lieberman, tacit or no. It's just not appropriate for a Democratic leader to offer Senatorial perks to someone who is in Lieberman's position. It weakens the party, it weakens the country, and it weakens Reid's possible status as minority leader next cycle. It is good for no one except Lieberman.
And at this point, private assurances or hints aren't enough. Reid needs to publicly repudiate what Lieberman said, that Lieberman has been promised the right to keep his seniority. Reid needs to come out and say that no such promise has been made, or that no such promise will be honored.
Tags: Connecticut, Continental Shelf, CT-Sen, Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, Drilling, energy bill, Harry Reid, HR 4761, Joe Lieberman, Lease Area 181, Ned Lamont, Oil Exploration, Pombo, S 2253, S 3171, S 3711 (all tags)