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Four Decades Along the Rainbow Road

Friday, November 11, 2005

Give ’em Hell Harry!

Sen. Harry Reid paves the way for Dems to finally stand up to Bush
By Steve Charing

I was wondering along with many other Democrats when and if somebody from the Party, some elected Democrat, would finally show a bit of spine and do to Republicans what the GOP has done to Dems for the past 25 years: trash them.

The frustration felt by Democratic partisans has almost been suffocating. The GOP has been relentless in criticizing Democrats for so long it’s impossible to enumerate examples here unless this paper expands to 120 pages. But Democrats have long taken it on the chin without a counter-punch. So it’s no wonder we all had a feel-good moment when Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled a fast one on the cocky, arrogant GOP-controlled Senate.

MoveOn.org summed it up well:

"Since 2004, Republicans have stonewalled on a promise to investigate the Bush administration deceptions that led to the Iraq war. So Republicans thought it was business as usual Tuesday afternoon (November 1) when Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid took to the floor of the Senate to comment on Iraq. Then a modern day Boston Tea Party began.

"Reid stopped all other Senate business and forced the Senate into a special closed session (Rule 21) to discuss Iraq and demand accountability in the White House CIA Leak scandal. It was a bold move, but after more than an hour, Democrats emerged victorious having won a renewed investigation into the misuse of intelligence leading to the war in Iraq--including the White House CIA leak."

Reid had said that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's grand jury indictment "asserts this administration engaged in actions that both harmed our national security and are morally repugnant."

Finally the Dems speak out!

The reactions from the stunned and chagrined Republican Senate leadership were pathetic, if not outright funny. Comedian Bill Maher termed Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) as a "girlie-man"—a take off on California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s characterization of some Democratic legislators within the state—because as a result of Reid’s action, Frist felt he was "slapped in the face with such an affront." Others also feigned outrage, such as the ever-popular former Senate leader Trent Lott (R-MS).

The Democrats need to demonstrate the same feistiness as exhibited by Reid in dealing with the GOP that is known for more for its smear and fear campaigns than for competence in governing.
I am still angry over the Democrats’ reticence with respect to the poorly termed but politically effective "gay marriage" issue. Since it landed on the national stage, Democrats have cowered in their corners and refused to participate in the debate on the merits of marriage for same-sex couples in the same manner in which the GOP used to avoid discussing Social Security until President Bush made it a second term priority. To Democrats, "Gay marriage" was a lightening rod to avoid at all costs. They did. And they will continue to do so.

The silence on the part of the Dems has been deafening, especially during Bush’s presidency. Even though they managed to lose both houses in Congress, the Democrats have the responsibility of performing the "loyal opposition" role—something they seem unwilling or incapable of executing.

The aftermath of 9/11 and the incessant charge that anyone opposing the war (and Bush for that matter) is unpatriotic contributed greatly to this muted criticism. Democrats fell into that trap (as did the media), buttoned their collective lips, and most of Congress wound up supporting the Iraq invasion against their instincts and personal misgivings.

Despite Bush’s poll numbers tanking, the Democrats have failed to benefit politically thus far from the incompetence of the Administration. And certainly there were opportunities: the never-ending war in Iraq and the lies that got us there; the proliferation of the use of torture; the indictment of Scooter Libby and the connection to Karl Rove and Vice President Cheney in the outing of a CIA operative; the pathetic and apathetic response to Katrina ("You’re doin’ a heckuva job, Brownie"); the escalating record-breaking deficits; the rising costs of energy mixed in with obscene profits and tax cuts for the large oil companies; the likely corruption investigations at the top of the Republican House and Senate leadership; the bungled Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination and its attendant cronyism; and, of course, our diminishing standing in the international community.

But the GOP hadn’t been worried to a large extent that such a sterling record would cause a change in congressional control. They had counted on the Dems to stay quiet. At least until now. Unfortunately for the Republicans, the Libby trial, if one indeed takes place, will put the run-up to the war in Iraq on the front pages, where it should have been back in 2002. Moreover, the push for right wing Judge Samuel Alito for Supreme Court justice may finally scare moderate Republicans into believing the unspoken truth: George W. Bush is owned by the religious right.
Much of politics is rhetoric, sound bites and demagoguery, but all these components appear to be the province of the GOP spin machine.

Yes, one can catch the senatorial but bland Charles Schumer (D-NY) appear in front of TV cameras and offer his commentary on a variety of issues. And Sen. Reid is not exactly a spark either.

But what Sen. Reid did was show Democrats that it is time to hold this administration accountable for their infinite miscues and provide a platform from which they can wrest control of one or both houses in 2006 and perhaps the White House in 2008. One can hope his unorthodox action in the Senate would boost the Dems and give the spine they sorely need. Now we must hear their voices—loud and clear.

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