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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. G A PHILLIPS says:

    I believe posturing for for political advantage is the only work the Dems have done for the last five years.Still then, any wrongdoing on whatever side of the Congress should be delt with.I think the dems should worry less about the GOP and more about there own.I think they should look to see how many of there own are in violation of section 3. of the Fourteenth Amendent.Yes i have a copy of the U.S. Constitution that i wave around,but i have
    also read it,its not just a prop.As a final note;
    it don’t do any good to have apologized if you dont realy mean it.

  2. DaveD says:

    I agree with your assessment James. And if guilty Republicans are met with expedient loss of Party support and no spin or excuses, then the impact of any shrill Democratic response will, I feel, be minmized as best as possible. I am sure the Republicans are obviously hoping for a minimum number of bad eggs with at least one Democrat in the bunch.

  3. Sgt Fluffy says:

    What mystifies me about the whole “it was Republicans only” Were was this outrage for the 40 years or so of the Democrats whoring out their votes?

  4. Bithead says:

    Precisely, Fluffy.
    James, Ried has already over-played his hand, or had it done for him by staffers. I rather suspect the former, and susepct the timing of the release of the document is to give him cover. Can you imagine a republican getting away with the kind of attacks, then excuses he pulled, here?

    Phillips points are well taken… and I would add that I will point out that Reid’s been called out on the carpet before for his habit of mudslinging. Unless Reid is suffering from a rare offshoot of Tourette’s syndrome, he’s got nothing at all to stand on, anymore… and I’m calling for his resignation from the leadership position he holds. He’s disgraced his office one too many times with this nonsense, in my view.

  5. John Burgess says:

    Oh, great! Another opportunity to unring a bell!!

    Will somebody give me a nickle for every time Reid’s retracted comment gets republished as verifiable fact–“It’s there in black and white!”?

    If it includes Kos or DU comments, I won’t need to win a lottery!