August 1, 2005
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Takes on Bolton, Roberts -- and Bush
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
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As far as the pecking order goes, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, Minority Leader of the Senate, is the top elected Democrat in the United States. Reid is in his fourth term, and was re-elected in a hotly contested state with 61% of the vote in 2004. Reid lives in the town that he was born in, Searchlight, Nevada.
Senator Reid knows that BuzzFlash has not agreed with many of his votes and has often been critical of the Democratic Congressional leadership, in general. But we have taken notice that under Reid, the Senate Democrats have been immeasurably more united and strategic than in the past -- and much of that is due to Reid and his Assistant Minority Leader Dick Durbin.
Although, some individual Democratic senators continue to vote more out of a fear of losing than a conviction for winning, Reid has taken a minority band of 44 senators and made them into a force that has beaten the Busheviks back more than once. Reid ran an amazingly sharp and coordinated counterattack to the Bush effort to repeal the New Deal Contract with America on Social Security (that's our play on words). To the Capitol Hill observer, Reid has been extremely strategic in also knowing how to best the Busheviks in battles such as the one over Bolton (forcing Bush into a likely back-door recess appointment of the incompetent, prevaricating nominee). Furthermore, although Bill Frist doesn't need much help, Reid has been a primary force in making the "cat killing" doctor look pretty much like a feckless puppet of the White House, which is akin to exposing the truth.
In short, whatever we may think about some of Reid's votes, he is a leader. And that's something the Democrats have sorely been lacking. So, although he's hardly an icon of the progressive movement, we kind of like and admire the guy for taking on "mission impossible."
And unlike many politicians -- as you will see in our BuzzFlash interview with the Senate Minority Leader -- he is refreshingly candid at times. Just when we were ready for a standard cautious political response, he blew us out of the water by stating the truth in no uncertain terms.
Hey, the Democrats are the party of inclusion, so Harry, keep giving them Hell! Or as your namesake Harry Truman said, just keep telling the truth and the Republicans will think it's Hell!
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BuzzFlash: The Democrats in the Senate seem to be acting with more party discipline and more coordinated messaging since this Congressional session began. We particularly saw that on the Social Security debate. The Republicans were basically beaten back in their efforts to roll back Social Security for our seniors. What is going on? And what does it forebode for the future, in terms of the Democrats putting up a big fight against Republican efforts to take away basic social service programs and civil liberties from Americans?
Senator Reid: Teamwork is important to anything you do in life, and it's never more important than in political life. We really have been working together to stop a lot of the mischievous stuff and bad stuff the Republicans have been trying to jam through. With the Republicans controlling the Senate, the House and the Presidency, it makes it very difficult for us to push forward our own message. But at least we have the ability to let the Republicans know, and the people of this country know, what our messages are about health care, about education, about the deficit, about the war in Iraq. And as you said, we've stuck together. And that's really a surprise– that we really, really have done that.
BuzzFlash: The Democrats in Congress have often been criticized for not having a clear agenda. Is this a problem of legislation being kept from coming to a vote? Or have the Republicans kept the Democrats so on the defensive that the news media just primarily covers the Democrats in a reactive mode?
Senator Reid: It's not the news media's fault. It's the way our government is set up. It's been that way from the very beginning. In the House of Representatives, the minority has no power whatsoever. In the Senate, we have power, but we are back-benchers. We're the loyal opposition. Under the rules of the Senate, it's extremely difficult for us to put forth our own legislation. We have to, therefore, work off of what the Republicans give us. It's not a question of our not having an agenda. It's the process that is in order here. It's the question of how do we get our message before the American people? That's what any minority party has to address in the Senate and the House.
BuzzFlash: On another note, what is your reaction to the now-public evidence that Karl Rove was a participant in one way or another in the outing of a CIA operative specializing in tracking weapons of mass destruction? What's the role of the President of the United States in holding such treachery accountable, whatever the legal outcome might be?
Senator Reid: What it shows me is that the President is not a person of his word. He said almost two years ago that if anyone in his Administration was caught being involved in this, they would be fired. There is no question Karl Rove is involved in it. Evidence is heavy. The President, after finding that Rove's involved, changes his standard from "being involved" in it to having committed a crime. Well, crimes are hard to prove, and then you go through the appellate process. What does this mean? It means the President is not a credible person.
BuzzFlash: Senator, you were at the center of leading the opposition to what you have just told us – and we certainly agree – is a de facto one-party government on the federal level. What are the most basic dangers that you have seen in one-party control of at least two of the three branches of government, and much of the federal judiciary? What are the dangers in that?
Senator Reid: The danger in a one-party system is that there's no ability to have an alternative message. When we had a Senate that was "controlled" by the Republicans but had a Democratic President, we were still a force. But once you have all three bodies under one-party control, you no longer have the ability to communicate with the American people. It makes it very difficult to communicate with the American people. That's the position we now find ourselves in. One-party government is bad for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is there's no new ideas. It's either George Bush's way or the highway. If people don't agree with him, they'll lose their chairmanships, their subcommittee chairmanships and other goodies that the President can control.
BuzzFlash: You're from a state that can lean either way. Most of the Midwestern and Rocky Mountain Red States are not particularly wealthy in comparison to the Eastern and Western Blue States. Why should middle-class, red state voters, who may have voted Republican, support the Democrats?
Senator Reid: Democrats are the party of opportunity. Democrats are the party that has, over the years, cared about middle-class America. The programs that we have that are so like America – Social Security, Medicare, the Peace Corps – these are all ideas generated by Democrats. The Republicans believe in the trickle-down theory – dump a lot of money in the top, and it'll trickle down. It's been established many, many times, that the trickle-down theory simply doesn't work for our country.
BuzzFlash: President Bush is generally considered an amiable man. Most people such as yourself who talk with him find him very friendly and comfortable to be with, but being nice doesn't necessarily absolve someone from having to tell the truth, as we learned in the run up to the Iraq war. Why does the Bush Administration have such difficulty in leveling with the American people?
Senator Reid: Arrogance, abuse of power. This Administration is drunk with power. They control the House and Senate and seven of nine members of the Supreme Court, and therefore, they feel they need not compromise. They need not communicate with the minority.
BuzzFlash: We're from Illinois, and we know our senior senator, Dick Durbin. You have a wonderful Minority Whip in Dick Durbin – about as smart and honest a politician as we've ever met. We've known him since he was a Congressman. He speaks the plain truth. Will he be playing a key role in the 2006 campaign?
Senator Reid: He already is. He's my assistant leader. He's the best. He's my friend. We came to Washington together in 1982, and we've worked very closely together all that time. And we're even becoming closer now as a result of my new job, and he's got my old job.
BuzzFlash: The Republicans seem to be targeting him. He kind of flew under the radar speaking the truth for awhile, but lately they've given him a couple of hits. Do you think they consider his honesty a little bit too dangerous?
Senator Reid: They consider his honesty and his ability to communicate very dangerous, and therefore, they're going to try to do whatever they can to mess him up. They haven't been successful so far, but they have tried.
BuzzFlash: Reading between the lines, we speculate that the Democrats in the Senate know of a smoking gun in classified documents relating to John Bolton's information request on individuals he wanted to retaliate against. Without asking you to discuss any classified information, which you cannot, is there in general something in John Bolton's past which has stalled his nomination? Otherwise, why is it not moving forward? And there's speculation that the White House might be considering a recess appointment.
Senator Reid: If a recess appointment occurs, then they would be appointing a flawed candidate. John Bolton is a person who, in his personal relationship with government employees, has been abominable, mean, unreasonable and bizarre. His not producing the papers we have requested only underscores the importance of why we need those papers. There must be something he's trying to hide.
BuzzFlash: The Senate Democrats are also asking for papers concerning John Roberts, the nominee to the Supreme Court. As with Bolton, the White House once again is only selectively giving out papers. The Democrats are saying no – there are specific papers that we need to see. What do you think the White House is up to? We know they're quite secretive.
Senator Reid: I think they're going to recess appoint Bolton in the next five weeks. As for Judge Roberts, in the next couple of weeks we're going to get around 75,000 documents from the Reagan Library. And then there is the time that he spent in the Solicitor's office. I don't know how much material from that period we're going to get. We've requested eighteen different items from his time as the Assistant Solicitor General. We don't know what's in these papers. That's why we need to go through them, and we'll do that. We'll look through every one of them.
BuzzFlash: If you get them.
Senator Reid: Well, we'll get those 75,000 from the Reagan Library for sure. The Solicitor's Office – that's still up in the air.
BuzzFlash: As what has become known as PlameGate or TreasonGate symbolizes, the Bush Administration believes in ruling by fear and intimidation. That's the essence of the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson. As Minority Leader, you don't seem phased by their bullying tactics. How come?
Senator Reid: I just think that if we hang together, and understand the procedures of the Senate, there's nothing they can do to touch us. Also, when issues like Valerie Plame come up, we have to be unafraid to go forward and not pull any punches.
BuzzFlash: As we said, you're from Nevada, a state that sometimes tips either way. Obviously, Democrats can get elected in Nevada, but some Democrats are afraid of fighting the Administration. When you go home, how do you explain the issues to your constituents so that they understand that you're on their side?
Senator Reid: The only thing I can do is do my job. I can't be concerned about everything that I do -- the political impact of it. I think I should be concerned that everything I do -- I believe is the right thing to do - morally and for our country. The people of the State of Nevada, to this point, have accepted that. I hope they continue to do so.
BuzzFlash: Well, Senator Reid, hang in there, and hang tough.
Senator Reid: Good luck with BuzzFlash.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
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Senator Reid's web site: http://reid.senate.gov/
A Reid biography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Reid
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Today, Senator Reid released the following statement on the recess appointment of John Bolton: