MyDD Interview with Harry Reid
by Jonathan Singer, Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 06:00:11 AM EST
On Friday afternoon I had the opportunity to speak with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his office in the Capitol. This is the second in a series of conversations I had with Democratic presidential candidates and party leaders for publication here on MyDD. Yesterday, I posted the audio and transcript of my talk with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer and tomorrow morning I will continue with the audio and transcript of my meeting with former Sen. John Edwards.
During the interview with Sen. Reid, which you can listen to in full through a stream or download as an .mp3 for use later at Odeo (some day I will figure out how to embed the audio a la YouTube), I was able to bring up a number of the questions that you suggested here in the comments of MyDD, as well as some submitted to me through email. Now, the transcript:
Jonathan Singer: Thanks for taking the time. Can you tell us a little bit about what it's going to take for someone to win the Nevada caucuses? It's kind of a new thing for us political watchers.
Harry Reid: Well it's a new thing for we Nevadans. It's a real challenge to make sure we organize well. I think it's so important to our country that we change the system. Iowa, a state with a nice population, but very little diversity. Wonderful people. They've done a good job with their caucuses. New Hampshire has no diversity and a very small population. It really seems unfair to me and most people, and that's why the DNC changed it - [that] those two states should determine who's President.
Why did they choose Nevada and South Carolina? They chose Nevada because of its diversity - 20 percent Hispanic, large African-American population, Asian-American population is 6-7 percent. That's big. We have 22 different tribal organizations. The state of Nevada has large union representation, 14 percent and going up rather than down, like a lot of other places in the country.
We have population centers. We have Las Vegas and Reno, two large centers, Las Vegas really big. We have all of the problems of any major metropolitan area. We have rural Nevada, which is representative certainly of rural America. Nevada is representative of the rest of the country.
And people who come there are going to have to be able to respond to Western questions. Water. In the East, we used to have too much. In the West, it's always not enough. We have problems in the West that are unique to the West. The military is different in the West than the East because it's spread out. For example, Las Vegas has the largest Air Force fighter training school in the world. Great ranges. Before you came here we had a map of all that. I wish I could have shown it to you. It's just huge.
Forty percent of the state of Nevada is restricted airspace, military. Eighty-seven percent of the state of Nevada is owned by the federal government. Only 13 percent is privately owned. So we have a lot of federal land issues in Nevada that you don't have in any other place, except you got some in Utah, Montana. But ours is exaggerated compared to them.
People are going to have to be aware of all of these Nevada issues, not the least of which is Yucca Mountain, storage of nuclear waste.
Singer: Do you have any recommendations for a candidate?
Reid: Come to Nevada. That's my first recommendation. You're not going to win running 30-second TV spots somewhere else.
Singer: Getting on to some things going on in the Senate, the big issue the people are talking about in the blogs is the seeming move within the administration to go against Iran.
Reid: I think the American people are a little cautious in supporting the price for war. And that's basically what the President is doing, it appears. Talked about five people being killed, the Iranians did it. They can't prove that. That came out yesterday.
I believe the President, rather than sending battle carrier groups into the waters off of Iran should be sending diplomats and trying to work something out. The President has a good example to look at, and that is Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan was terribly anti-communist. The minute he took office he had his diplomatic corps start working with the Soviet Union. He himself met a number of occasions with the leaders of the Soviet Union. And it was one of the main reasons that the Cold War ended.
Bush should take a page out of Reagan's book and do what the Iraq Study Group has said. Iraq is the problem of the region, not the United States. And so call a conference. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and, yes, Iran, as the Iraq Study Group has said. You don't negotiate with your friends, you have to negotiate with your enemies. That's what it's all about. So I think beating war drums about Iran in the wrong way to go.
Singer: Specifically looking at what can be done on your side, there are moves that certainly can be done to force the President's hand, but it seems he doesn't care, necessarily, what the voting public says. They sent a strong message on November 7. He is sending more troops, apparently twice as many, in fact, as he previously said.
Reid: He said 21,000, but then told us 48,000.
Singer: What, both beginning with the resolution this week, what between that and tangible moves do you foresee the Senate taking...
Reid: We're going to have a vote - we hope to, unless they block us procedurally - we're going to have a vote on whether or not the surge is good for the country. I think that clearly it is not, on a bipartisan basis.
And then as we proceed through the legislative calendar there will be efforts, I'm sure, to cap the number of troops and perhaps some people deal with funding. Senator Byrd has a resolution dealing with setting certain markers that the Iraqis must meet or the resolution of force becomes null and void. So there are a lot of different things we're working on.
Singer: In your time in the Senate, unless I'm mistaken, there have previously been moves by Congress to say, in terms of rules of engagement and other things, use its constitutional powers to affect American military policy. For instance 1993 with Somalia.
Reid: Aid to the Contras we were heavily involved. The Boland amendment finally got that started in the right direction. There's a real dispute as to the power the President has. There's something called the War Powers Act. Quite frankly I don't know if there's much validity to it legally. But I think the President, and a lot of Presidents in recent years, not just Bush, have overstepped their boundaries as to what executive power they have for war.
Singer: Going beyond just that issue - war - in terms of executive power issues, with signing statements and things of that like, do you foresee trying to call him on those moves and other such moves to take legislative powers, for instance the new power to centralize regulation power in the White House, and things like that.
Reid: Everyone should recognize the reason why we know more what's going on now than a few months ago is because we control the Congress. There are hearings being held, questions being asked. That didn't happen. It didn't happen for six years. That's good. And that's why we know more about the domestic spying. I think that's one reason why the President backed off as much as he did. He could see these hearings right on top of him and may have to give some answers. He did great under Republicans' controlled. They didn't ask him questions so he didn't have to worry about answers.
Singer: Just finally, if there's a message you'd like to send out, particularly to people who read blogs, whether it's on net neutrality or just getting involved in issues like Social Security, like they did in 2005, or other such issues, is there a direct message you'd like to say to the netroots?
Reid: You mentioned net neutrality, I believe, in that?
Reid: I think that the new world of blogs is good for our system. It's new for a lot of us. But it's not going to be anymore because it's so part of our culture. And I think that the people that read your blog should understand the power that they have, the power that did not exist even five years ago. People no longer say, "What was in the morning paper?" or "What was on last night's news?" Now they want to know what blogs have to say about this issue.
So the world is changing, I think for the better. Information is important. How else can you get the information out the way these blogs are doing right now? I think that they do a good job.
Singer: Great. Well thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
The following interchange began the interview:
Reid: Have you always been from Portland?
Singer: I was born in Vancouver, Canada, but I was born to American parents. I'm an American citizen through and through.
Reid: Do you go to school?
Singer: I finished school.
Reid: Where did you go to school?
Singer: Pomona College.
Reid: Oh, in Southern California. Now Pomona.
Singer: It's one of the Claremont Colleges.
Reid: Yes. You have to be very smart to get in there. They used to call Claremont the Harvard of the West.
Singer: We actually have tee shirts that say, "Harvard, the Pomona College of the East."
Reid: When did you start your blog?
Singer: I actually started writing for this blog, MyDD, in about a year ago November.
Reid: How many writers does it have?
Singer: There are three of us.
Reid: Do you work full-time? Part-time?
Singer: It's pretty full-time. I'm trying to read every newspaper I can.
Reid: So how many people...
Singer: There are probably about 30,000 readers a day, and it goes up during election season. Around this time about 30,000 readers a day.
Reid: Thanks for being interested. I'm happy to talk to you. Ask me whatever you want.
[THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.]