Harry Reid Embarrassing the Democrats?

The dean of the Washington commentariat, David Broder, terms Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “The Democrats’ Gonzales.”

Here’s a Washington political riddle where you fill in the blanks: As Alberto Gonzales is to the Republicans, Blank Blank is to the Democrats — a continuing embarrassment thanks to his amateurish performance. If you answered ” Harry Reid,” give yourself an A. And join the long list of senators of both parties who are ready for these two springtime exhibitions of ineptitude to end.

[…]

This war is lost. But the war can be won. Not since Bill Clinton famously pondered the meaning of the word “is” has a Democratic leader confused things as much as Harry Reid did with his inept discussion of the alternatives in Iraq.

Nor is this the first time Senate Democrats, who chose Reid as their leader over Chris Dodd of Connecticut, have had to ponder the political fallout from one of Reid’s tussles with the language.

Hailed by his staff as “a strong leader who speaks his mind in direct fashion,” Reid is assuredly not a man who misses many opportunities to put his foot in his mouth. In 2005, he attacked Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, as “one of the biggest political hacks we have here in Washington.”

He called President Bush ” a loser,” then apologized. He said that Bill Frist, then Senate majority leader, had “no institutional integrity” because Frist planned to leave the Senate to fulfill a term-limits pledge. Then he apologized to Frist.

[…]

The Democrats deserve better, and the country needs more, than Harry Reid has offered as Senate majority leader.

Ed Morrissey has several more examples, which he dubs “The Five Myths Of Harry.”

As I’ve noted many times, I always found Reid a likable and honorable fellow and think he’s simply unsuited to play the partisan hack role seemingly required of congressional leaders in recent years. That’s likely a sign of good character but it’s painful to watch. It reminds me of the declining days of George H. W. Bush’s re-election campaign, when a good man befuddled that he was losing to Bill Clinton started referring to his opponents as “bozos.”

However much Reid’s rantings cause Republicans and moderates to scratch their heads, it appears to be a winning strategy with the base. Kevin Hayden scoffs at the notion that Reid needs to be more tactful if he wants to be able to negotiate with the president.

There is nothing ‘essential’ in pursuing the futile exercise of negotiating with a single-minded fool. The only course left for Reid is to keep talking the truth, while Bush’s legislative sycophants keep digging their brown noses deep into his posterior.

Because the bigger war is the war to restore sanity to our government. And Reid is displaying leadership in that effort. It was only last year I doubted that Reid could set aside his centrist values to provide that degree of leadership. And now that he’s doing so, Broder claims he’s confusing everyone. While making it clear that the real solutions must wait ‘until a new president takes office.’

Greg Sargent agrees.

Reid has refused to back down on Iraq while simultaneously maintaining public approval of his approach? He’s also maintained a respectable 46% approval rating — far higher than Bush, who Broder says is on the verge of a comeback. What is it that’s so profoundly threatening about Reid’s success to the Broders of the world?

Of course, standing firm on a politically popular position doesn’t require all that much leadership talent.

Josh Marshall thinks it is Broder, not Reid, who is in over his head.

People think of Broder as the ‘Dean’ of the Washington press corps because of things he did in the 60s and 70s. But the man he is today is much more a product of the long conservative ascendancy of the last three decades — an ascendancy still very much alive in the town’s journalistic and editorial elite. You can hear the animus more and more sharply in this columns as his inability to grasp the political moment becomes more and more clear.

Broder is “conservative” in the same sense as Cokie Roberts or Kevin Drum: He’s a liberal who believes in civility and thoughtful, honest discussion. It may well be, though, that time has passed him by in an era where those on opposite sides of controversial issues are deemed to be traitors or buffoons. Personally, I’m rooting for the return of Broderism.

UPDATE: Michelle Malkin adds her thoughts in video format.

Hmmm. (via Steven Taylor)

FILED UNDER: Congress, Media, Politicians, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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. Andy says:

    He’s a liberal who believes in civility and thoughtful, honest discussion.

    … to the point where he is willing to give up any and all principled positions to maintain his standing in the DC cocktail scene.

    Broderism is a disease that has ruined the Washington press corps. It’s not civility if you roll over for the party in power, it’s cowardice.

  2. James Joyner says:

    he is willing to give up any and all principled positions

    How so? Are you saying he’s never critical of the administration in power? He seems to be taking a principled stance against the conduct of both Gonzales and Reid in this particular column.

  3. jpe says:

    What Morrissey quotes are just misstatements with a partisan edge. I’m inclined to say Reid is getting heat from conservatives because, well, what else are they going to do?

    Agreed Reid is in the mode of Drum; as long as he’s flexible enough to cut down the rhetoric when the time calls for it, that he can match the overheated rhetoric of the GOP can only be a virtue.

  4. Andy says:

    No, he’s absolutely not taking a principled stand in this case. Beyond the fact that it’s an incredibly strained equivalence, the clear message of High Broderism is always “Yes, BUT! The Democrats are also corrupt!”

    He is clearly personally close to the Republican and Beltway establishment (see his fawning praise for Rove’s hospitality) and this seems to have driven him to disregard some of the most plainly obvious facts on the ground. He is obsessed with “moderation”, “civility” and “centrism” to the point where you have to question whether or not he understands how our government works.

    In short, he offers little or no value to the WaPo readership beyond being a centrist apologist for the behavior of the right. Give me a interesting conservative any day over Broder’s lame blanderings [sic]. Centrism for it’s own sake is depressing and dangerous.

  5. legion says:

    Hayden and Sargent are quite correct; there’s no point to being able to negotiate with Bush because Bush doesn’t negotiate – it’s been ‘my way or the highway’ ever since he was sworn in, and to criticise Reid for being the problem is just one more sign of Broder’s mendacity.

    He seems to be taking a principled stance against the conduct of both Gonzales and Reid in this particular column.

    Gimme a break, James. Gonzo is firmly established as a liar and an incompetent, and possibly a criminal as well. Reid is talking less-than-diplomatic smack to Bush and the GOP. There is literally no comparison at all between these two men.

    Criminy, for the last 4 years, anyone who even considered standing up to the administration on any subject was called a flat-out traitor and terror-sympathisizer, right to their face. And now that a Dem is showing some backbone, he’s “an embarrassment”?!? I’ve got a free tip for you , and Broder, and the rest of the overly-entrenched media “elite” in DC – it’s only the GOP that considers Reid an embarrassment. Democrats _love_ this guy. He’s doing and saying what we’ve all been screaming for Dems to do for years now. Broder is a complete and utter buffoon.

  6. carpeicthus says:

    It’s a bit sad that Malkin pretending to be a 14-year-old YouTube-r is probably one of the more dignified thingss she’s done.

  7. Jim Henley says:

    Looks like a majority of the American people are embarrassing the Democrats too. We clearly need a new people.

  8. G.A. Phillips says:

    How in the great blue hell do you embarrass a Democrat????? I have tried and they always think I’m saying something bad about their virtues.

  9. Triumph says:

    Broder is “conservative” in the same sense as Cokie Roberts or Kevin Drum: He’s a liberal who believes in civility and thoughtful, honest discussion.

    James, this is just silly–and is a gross mischaracterization of Josh Marshall’s critique.

    The problem with Broder in this column is that he is being either incredibly dishonest or totally irrational.

    Broder’s column opens with this senseless analogy:

    Here’s a Washington political riddle where you fill in the blanks: As Alberto Gonzales is to the Republicans, Blank Blank is to the Democrats — a continuing embarrassment thanks to his amateurish performance.

    If you answered ” Harry Reid,” give yourself an A. And join the long list of senators of both parties who are ready for these two springtime exhibitions of ineptitude to end.

    So Gonzalez–whose inability to answer any of the key questions regarding the US Attorney firings, who has been unable to manage the agency of which he is head, and who has very little confidence of both Republican and Democratic sentaors–is EQUAL in “ineptitude” to Reid?

    Reid’s transgressions, according to Broder, were limited to off the cuff remarks to reporters.

    I am not how that is equivalent to running the nation’s law enforcement apparatus into the ground. That is why Broder deserves critique. Sure, he can criticize Reid’s lack of political acumen–but that is entirely different–and more benign–than Gonzalez’s incompetence.

    Broder’s analytical skills border on the bizarre.

  10. Jim Harrison says:

    Broder, always a fussbudget, has simply turned into a little old woman–the church lady. Unfortunately for him, the public has begun to notice the difference between venerable and decrepit.

    More generally: Reid is winning. Hence your toothless snark.

  11. James Joyner says:

    I am not how that is equivalent to running the nation’s law enforcement apparatus into the ground.

    Broder states only that they are equivalent in the sense of being “a continuing embarrassment thanks to his amateurish performance.”

  12. Mike Filancia says:

    I suggest you go to Broder’s column and look at the responses posted by WPost readers–they are almost 100% taking Broder apart for his latest demonstration of idiocy/ass-kissing. That should set you straight on this ridiculous notion that Reid is “embarrassing” Democrats. Broder and other Bush apologists put me in mind of the fawning snivelers in Ayn Rand’s novels.

  13. Hal says:

    As Henley points out in his 10:37 comment above, the interesting thing is that the majority of Americans agree with Reid. So, if he’s an embarrassment to Democrats, then so are the majority of Americans.

    Kind of funny, that.

  14. vnjagvet says:

    Well, James. It looks like some of your audience does not like Broder’s attempts at balance.

    Whodathunkit?

  15. cian says:

    A continuously growing majority of Americans agree with Reid and not Broder. We are deeply troubled by a war that seems to be going nowhere and by the growing number of US troop fatalities, not to mention the ongoing slaughter of innocent Iraqis. Only Broder, or those as disconnected from the nations pulse, could write a column so hysterical and obviously wrong and only a media as out of touch with popular sentiment would publish it.

  16. Armando says:

    James:

    You are better than this, much better.

    Don’t embarrass yourself on Broder’s behalf.

  17. yourmother says:

    David Broder’s Continuing Embarrassment
    Following up on his comments from Tuesday, the Washington Post’s David Broder today publishes a factually inaccurate screed aimed at Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

    Titled “The Democrats’ Gonzales,” Broder begins the column tarring Reid as a “continuing embarrassment” whose “amateurish performance” is an “exhibition of ineptitude.”

    Broder baselessly claims that a “long list of senators of both parties…are ready” for Reid’s tenure “to end.” Both parties? Here’s Broder’s own paper on Tuesday: “In a closed-door meeting, Reid acknowledged that he had a [White House] target on his back, and Democratic senators responded with a standing ovation.”

    Broder criticizes Reid for making a series of supposed verbal “gaffes” — such as calling President Bush “a loser” — which Broder mocks as “displaced aggressiveness on the part of the onetime amateur boxer.” But despite his claim earlier this week that “every six weeks or so there’s another episode where [Reid] has to apologize,” Broder’s most recent example of a “gaffe” is 16 months old.

    Broder then turns to Reid’s “consequential” gaffe, that the war in Iraq “is lost” (a view Reid happens to share with the majority of Americans). To highlight Harry Reid’s “inept discussion” of Iraq, Broder quotes…Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):

    On “Fox News Sunday,” Schumer offered this clarification of Reid’s off-the-cuff comment. “What Harry Reid is saying is that this war is lost — in other words, a war where we mainly spend our time policing a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis. We are not going to solve that problem. … The war is not lost. And Harry Reid believes this — we Democrats believe it. … So the bottom line is if the war continues on this path, if we continue to try to police and settle a civil war that’s been going on for hundreds of years in Iraq, we can’t win. But on the other hand, if we change the mission and have that mission focus on the more narrow goal of counterterrorism, we sure can win.”

    Everyone got that? This war is lost. But the war can be won. Not since Bill Clinton famously pondered the meaning of the word “is” has a Democratic leader confused things as much as Harry Reid did with his inept discussion of the alternatives in Iraq.

    It’s unclear why Reid is attacked for someone else’s remarks. But more importantly, Schumer’s argument (however impromptu) is perfectly clear when one isn’t simply trying to make fun of it. There are multiple wars in Iraq. Echoing the latest National Intelligence Estimate, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in February, “I believe that there are essentially four wars going on in Iraq.” The two most significant are Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence and al Qaeda terrorism. Reid and Schumer are saying that the U.S. military cannot possibly “win” Iraq’s sectarian civil war, but that we can still be victorious over the terrorists.

    Broder concludes with his most aggressive attack, that Reid “has sent conflicting signals about his readiness” to lead the U.S. Senate in a time of war because of his views on Iraq:

    Instead of reinforcing the important proposition — defined by the Iraq Study Group — that a military strategy for Iraq is necessary but not sufficient to solve the myriad political problems of that country, Reid has mistakenly argued that the military effort is lost but a diplomatic-political strategy can still succeed.

    In fact, the Iraq Study Group recommended a withdrawal of U.S. combat forces by March 2008, a goal the Senate has adopted in its Iraq legislation. The ISG also states that President Bush’s current strategy of “[s]ustained increases in U.S. troop levels [will] not solve the fundamental cause of violence in Iraq.”

    Broder’s column today truly backfires, showing himself — the “dean” of Washington journalism — not Harry Reid, to be an amateurish embarrassment.

    Courtesy of ThinkProgress.

  18. Tano says:

    James,

    May I remind you sir of the title of your own blog?

    I assume that you titled this blog in the manner that you did because you wish to establish at least some distance from the inside the beltway crowd, and all the pathologies that they exhibit. Exhibit A of that problem, at least in the world of journalism, is David Broder.

    Broder is not a “liberal”. He is a classic accomodationist. His “civility” is nothing but a set of manners that are deployed to maintain his access to those in power. He is no threat to them – he is a thoroughly acceptable guest at all the dinner parties. The perpetuation of this identity seems to be his main pursuit. He is useless as a political commenter.

    Obviously I cannot speak for Kevin Drum, but I suspect he would be greviously insulted by comparison. Leaving aside the question of where they stand on political issues, and leaving aside the fact that neither deploys foul language, I cannot see any similarity at all in terms of how they function as political thinkers, or reporters.

    The Malkin clip will be, I suspect, an iconic emblem of the level to which conservative rhetoric has descended. I suspect that it about time to fold up the chairs, turn off the lights, and lock the doors, as the conservative movement goes out into the wilderness to try to reconnect with reality, with the people, in hopes that maybe in a decade or so they might begin a comeback.

  19. Triumph says:

    Broder states only that they are equivalent in the sense of being “a continuing embarrassment thanks to his amateurish performance.”

    James, this an example of Broder’s stupidity. The main problem with Gonzalez isn’t his “embarassment”–rather its his actual performance in MANAGING AND LEADING HIS AGENCY.

    Its ridiculous to compare Reid and Gonzalez, since Reid’s supposed transgressions are related to WHAT HE SAID– as opposed to ACUTAL MANAGEMENT.

  20. jvf says:

    Tano 14:09 +1

    The Neocon movement has been so thoroughly discredited that the best that they can do is dress up like cheerleaders and make fools of themselves.

  21. Pug says:

    I have to admit that David Broder has made progress over the last thirty years. He used to be merely boring. Now, he is insufferable.

    I wonder if O’Reilly will have anything to say about his darling Michelle’s big You Tube adventure? Not very dignified for one who aspires to David Broderesque, insider, big-time pundit status.

  22. James, you seem to have hit a nerve. Pretty soon I imagine dissent will no longer be patriotic, because, after all, David Broder has always been at war with the Democratic Party.

  23. thiswarislost says:

    michelle malkin is the gift that keeps on giving (KOO-KOO!!!). aren’t you people embarassed by her yet? seriously, if she were fat and ugly, no one would listen to her.

  24. Anderson says:

    What exactly has Reid done that’s “embarrassing,” besides disagree openly with the White House?

    As opposed to Michelle Malkin, who I guess is another “entertainer” on the Right and thus exempt from rational criticism.

  25. Looks like a majority of the American people are embarrassing the Democrats too. We clearly need a new people.

    Or we can understand we’re a representative democracy. With President Bush winning an election and the Democrats winning last November we have the divided government many wanted. It’s up to our leaders to accomplish something constructive.

  26. Bandit says:

    It’s impossible to an embarrassment to Democrats

  27. Lisa says:

    You talk about “civility” but then show a video of Michelle Malkin (the least civil creature I have ever seen) calling Reid a loser? I guess civility means: Republicans browbeat and yell at Democrats, Democrats “practice civility” by not responding.

    Nice.

    Interesting post though.

  28. James Joyner says:

    You talk about “civility” but then show a video of Michelle Malkin (the least civil creature I have ever seen) calling Reid a loser?

    Apparently, the “Hmmm” and link to Taylor’s post calling the video “one of the more sophomoric attempts at political ‘commentary’ I have seen perhaps ever (at least coming from an adult, let alone a professional writer)” was too subtle….

  29. tommo says:

    Up until 2000 Repuglikers have always been Pat Buchanan isolationists. You all derided Clinton for ha-ha Nation Building ha-ha.

    Now that this filthy war criminal mass murderer torturer incompetant spitter on the Constitution has created this debacle all the kool-aid drinkers changed thier tune.

    How sad to be you.

  30. Lisa says:

    James Joyner:

    Oh. Yes, that was far too subtle for a person of my exquisitely reactionary sensibilities.

    I apologize.

  31. James Joyner says:

    I apologize.

    Heh. I write the blog as if people have been reading a while and understand my general sensibilities on such things. I can see why it wasn’t obvious as a stand-alone.

  32. James Joyner says:

    created this debacle all the kool-aid drinkers changed thier tune

    I’m not sure any of that has much to do with the topic at hand.

    Many Republicans–and all the neocons–supported Clinton’s interventions during the 1990s and chided him for ignoring Rwanda and being too slow to act in the Balkans.

    I wasn’t one of them, however. I remain a Realist who advocates going to war only when there’s a threat to U.S. vital security interests. I thought that was the case in Iraq, given Saddam’s history.

    The problem now is what to do given that we’ve toppled the Iraqi government and set out to establish a democratic bulwark in the region.

  33. G.A. Phillips says:

    Tommo, it nice to see a true liberal stand up say exactly what he believes.

  34. Bithead says:

    Embarrassing the Democrats?
    You’re kidding, right?