Harry Reid Apologizes to GOP
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid apologized to the Republican party yesterday for the intemperate tone of a report released by his office on the Abramoff scandal.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid on Thursday apologized to 33 Republican senators singled out for ethics criticism in a report from his office titled “Republican Abuse of Power.” “The document released by my office yesterday went too far and I want to convey to you my personal regrets,” Reid said in a letter. “I am writing to apologize for the tone of this document and the decision to single out individual senators for criticism in it.”
Reid came under attack Wednesday over the report, which was issued by his staff on Senate letterhead, even as he and fellow Democrats released ethics overhaul proposals. “Researching, compiling and distributing what amounts to nothing more than a campaign ad on the taxpayers dime raises serious ethical questions,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, one of the lawmakers named. The 27-page report criticized Republican lawmakers over their ties to disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, questionable campaign contributions and other issues.
Meanwhile, the head of the Republican Party said GOP lawmakers who are guilty of wrongdoing should expect to be punished whatever their political affiliation. “The public trust is more important than party,” said Ken Mehlman, the Republican National Committee chairman. “Which is why the first solution to the problem is rooting out those who have done wrong, without regard to party or ideology.” Mehlman’s comments were in a speech that he planned to deliver Friday to the annual winter meeting of the Republican National Committee. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the speech.
The Abramoff investigation threatens to ensnare at least a half dozen members of Congress of both parties and Bush administration officials. Abramoff, who has admitted to conspiring to defraud his Indian tribe clients, has pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges and is cooperating with prosecutors.
Whether they are sincere or merely posturing for political advantage, the tone struck by both Reid and Melman here is exactly right. Melman is smart to acknowledge that this is primarily a Republican scandal and emphasize that the guilty must be punished. Thankfully, there are hopeful signs that the GOP membership of the Congress understands the nature of this and are trying to make amends. Whether that will be enough to hold the House in November remains to be seen.
Reid is smart not to overplay his hand here. The Democrats have every right to seek political advantage from this scandal, as the GOP did in 1994. The Republicans created the climate for it with the K-Street Project and otherwise abusing the power of their majority status. But the scandal very much goes to the institutional nature of lobbying, the Congress, and party politics in America. The public mood appears to be more anti-incumbent than anti-Republican. While that redounds to the advantage of the Democrats anyway–there are fewer incumbent Democrats than Republicans, after all–Reid would not be serving his caucus well if he gets them tossed, too.