Reid Invokes Rule 21, Democrats in Revolt

Kevin Drum reports:

Huh? Harry Reid has invoked Rule 21 and placed the Senate into closed session to discuss the intelligence that led to war? What’s up with that?

[…]

UPDATE: Bill Schneider on CNN calls it a “full scale revolt” by Democrats.

1517: More from AP:

Senate Goes Into Unusual Closed Session On Iraq War (NBC4)
Senate Meets in Closed Session to Discuss Intelligence, Libby (WaPo)
Democrats Force Senate Into Iraq Meeting (Yahoo)
Democrats Force Senate Closed Session on Iraq Intelligence (LAT)
Democrats Force Senate Into Closed Session Over Iraq Data (NYT)
Democrats force Senate into unusual closed session (CNN)

Democrats forced the Republican-controlled Senate into an unusual closed session Tuesday, demanding answers about intelligence that led to the Iraq war. Republicans derided the move as a political stunt. In a speech on the Senate floor, Democratic leader Harry Reid said the American people and U.S. troops deserved to know the details of how the United States became engaged in the war, particularly in light of the indictment of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff.

Reid demanded the Senate go into closed session. With a second by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the public was ordered out of the chamber, the lights were dimmed, senators filed to their seats on the floor and the doors were closed. No vote is required in such circumstances. “The Libby indictment provides a window into what this is really all about, how this administration manufactured and manipulated intelligence in order to sell the war in Iraq and attempted to destroy those who dared to challenge its actions,” Reid said before the doors were closed.

[…]

Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Reid was making “some sort of stink about Scooter Libby and the CIA leak.” A former majority leader, Lott said a closed session is appropriate for such overarching matters as impeachment and chemical weapons — the two topics that last sent the senators into such sessions. In addition, Lott said, Reid’s move violated the Senate’s tradition of courtesy and consent. But there was nothing in Senate rules enabling Republicans to thwart Reid’s effort.

Quite bizarre.

1528: Democrats Force Closed Session of Senate Over Intelligence Use (Bloomberg)

U.S. Senate Democrats forced a closed session of the Senate to address the Bush administration’s use of intelligence, a maneuver Republicans dismissed as a political “stunt.”

Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid invoked a rule that requires a closed session on the Senate floor in which the galleries are cleared of visitors, to discuss whether the Bush administration’s use of intelligence before the Iraq War should be the subject of congressional investigations.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist called the move “an affront to the leadership of this grand institution.”

If Reid doesn’t have more up his sleeves than a publicity stunt, this will surely backfire.

Senate Goes Into Rare Closed Session (Fox)

The U.S. Senate prepared to go into closed session Tuesday after Democrats enacted a rare parliamentary rule forcing the shutdown of the chamber so senators could speak in a classified session about the lead-up to the war in Iraq. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (search) demanded the chamber be closed so they could hold a secret session that they say was prompted by “misinformation and disinformation” given by President Bush and his administration prior to entry into the war in Iraq.

[…]

Republicans, who were clearly caught off-guard by the maneuver, called the move “gutter” politics. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (search) of Tennessee said the chamber was “hijacked” by Democrats. “Once again, it shows the Democrats use scare tactics. They have no conviction. They have no principles. They have no ideas,” Frist said. “But this is the ultimate. Since I’ve been majority leader, I’ll have to say, not with the previous Democratic leader or the current Democratic leader have ever I been slapped in the face with such an affront to the leadership of this grand institution.”

Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Democrat Jay Rockefeller said Democrats were promised by committee chairman Pat Roberts that oversight would be conducted on the war, but nothing has been done yet.

Durbin said Democrats want to discuss launching “phase two” of a committee investigation into whether Bush and the administration misused data to justify war in Iraq. “The purpose of this closed session in the Senate chamber is to finally give the truth to at least the members of the Senate, to finally call to task the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee,” said House Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois.

A closed session is called when any senator demands one and a second motion is made. No vote is taken on whether to close the session. The last time a closed session was held was 25 years ago, Rockefeller said.

Republican Sen. Trent Lott, the former majority leader, said that the rule had been invoked two or three times under his tenure as majority leader, but only after a pre-arranged, negotiated discussion. “This is not the way it has been done,” Lott said. “We would never surprise each other … This is very unfortunate for the Senate. It’s not to say there isn’t important information to be discussed … but I’m astounded by this.”

Since the Libby indictment has already called attention to the intelligence and use of intelligence that led up to the war, it’s not clear what Reid and Co. hope to accomplish. Certainly, this only adds to the already bitter tone of the Senate.

(16oo:) Oh, me. Kevin Drum updates:

Here are the talking points emailed out by Reid’s office:

* Most important decision a President makes is to put American lives at risk and go to war.

* Many of us supported the decision to invade Iraq based on the national intelligence presented at the time.

* Over the past few months, and vividly last Friday, we̢۪ve learned that we were given bad information. Americans were intentionally deceived.

* White House indictments confirm Republicans tried to silence critics and cover up the real intelligence.

* America deserves answers. National security is at stake.

* If mistakes were made, we need to know. Otherwise, we are doomed to repeat them.

* Republicans committed to investigate how national intelligence was used to set the stage for war.

* Now, they are refusing to keep that commitment. What are they afraid of America learning?

* Republicans must come clean. It is our shared responsibility to be straight with the American people.

* Stakes could not be higher. That is why we are demanding answers through an unprecedented closed Senate session.

* We will not let up until America gets answers.

* Together, America Can Do Better”

Reid has been elected to the United States Senate and risen to the ranks of Minority Leader, so it is not inconceivable that his political instincts are better than mine. Still, this strikes me as mindnumbingly stupid.

The president is doing very poorly in the polls for a variety of reasons, with Iraq being the biggest. The Libby indictment and continual speculation over Rove and Cheney will ensure that the hint of scandal surrounds the war and the administration in general for months to come. It seems that juvenile grandstanding on the part of his opponents will only serve to help the president.

(1633:) I would note, too, that it is not like there has been no investigation into this matter up until now. Aside from the special prosecutor, who spent two years on this, we have had at least one major commission report and a Senate Intelligence ommittee report. Not to mention a presidential election, an election for the entire 435 seats of the House of Representatives, and an election for one third of the Senate, to include the sitting Minority Leader (who lost).

Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction
(March 31, 2005)

CHAIRMAN ROBERTS AND VICE CHAIRMAN ROCKEFELLER ISSUE STATEMENT ON INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE’S REVIEW OF PRE WAR INTELLIGENCE IN IRAQ (Feb. 12, 2004)

(1446:) CNN TV is reporting that the Senate has re-opened for business.

FILED UNDER: General, , , , , , , , , ,
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. Matt says:

    Heh.

    “Reid said the American people and U.S. troops deserved to know the details of how the United States became engaged in the war”

    To accomplish this he puts the Senate in closed session? No politics here, folks. Move along.




    0



    0
  2. Anderson says:

    Well, it’s a headline. But I hope that Reid has some actual point.

    A reading aloud of JJ’s recent post on Congressional oversight wouldn’t be a bad idea.




    0



    0
  3. Matt says:

    The Democrats seem hell-bent on destroying their party. All they are doing is providing ammunition to be used against them in 2006 and 2008.




    0



    0
  4. Elmo says:

    In a multiverse, terms like ‘out to lunch’ and ‘own private Idaho.’ Obviously have a different meaning, one that only it’s inhabitants know and understand.

    In ours …. they still mean the same thing they always have. These bozo’s are nucking futs.




    0



    0
  5. Atm says:

    Perhaps Reid should investigate the intelligence leading Clinton to bomb Saddam’s alleged WMD facilities in 1998?




    0



    0
  6. SoloD says:

    I think that this is a way to demonstrate the lack of oversight by the GOP led Senate. Certainly had the last administration had a high advisor indicted, or led the country to war on “evidence” that proved to be faulty, there would have been public investigations. (oh wait, I think that they did.) I think this is a way to tie together the Senate GOP with the administration at a time when the public ain’t too happy with Junior and the gang.

    It might be much like the guerilla campaign that Newt ran in the House in 1992, and this the opening salvo.




    0



    0
  7. Just Me says:

    This is where Fitzgerald’s indictments sell everything short, and is why he should have clarified if the revelation of Plame’s name itself constituted a crime, even if other elements of the crime couldn’t be proven yet.

    But the way things are now, things are still pretty much left to speculation and the musings of the tinfoil hat crowd.




    0



    0
  8. Anderson says:

    If in fact Reid is demanding that the Senate carry out its promise to investigate administration influencing of intel in the leadup to war, well, high time, dammit.

    And I’m afraid I have very little respect for anyone who disagrees. There has been too much out there about “stovepiping,” Cheney’s reliance on amateur analysis, and such for any American not to welcome an investigation that will either put claims of malfeasance to rest, or expose what happened.

    Those of you who’ve been quoting the minority supplement about Joe Wilson’s being a liar, are in a really poor position to say that you don’t want the Senate to finish the investigation it started.




    0



    0
  9. Anderson says:

    To clarify:

    I don’t especially expect to see Cheney or Bush or Tenet found to have acted criminally or with intentional wrongdoing. Wouldn’t completely surprise me, but I don’t expect it.

    What EVERYONE should want to know is, how were we so wrong? Never mind “so was the rest of the world.” Fuck the rest of the world. We’re the U.S.A., we’re awesome, and we should know what’s really going on, whether or not Germany or France knows its ass from a hole in the ground.

    Telling the full story of how the administration’s eagerness for war led to slanted intel—IF that’s the story, which we have good reason to suspect it may be—will be ESSENTIAL to helping future generations avoid making the same mistake.

    N.B. that this is logically distinct from “was the war a good idea,” etc. Maybe it was, even if our basis was wrong. BUT we should at least desire that future Americans be led by true intel when making similar decisions in future, right?

    I really don’t see how a Republican, as opposed to a Bush cultist, can object to this. You may not want to see it twisted into a partisan issue, but that’s not the same as not wanting the truth documented.




    0



    0
  10. Herb says:

    This is a typical Democrat move and I wouldn’t put any bets on what low down dirty trick they will do next.

    The Dems have been bent since the 2000 election and they are still bent. They just cant stand being out of power and not being able to lead our country into a complete Socialist State, and when they can’t have their way, they are like a bunch or kids on the ballfield who are losing and quit and take their ball with them.

    Sort of reminds one of a bunch of kids throwing Temper Tantrums.

    They would be lost on any playground because “They don’t play well with others”

    I suggest a Shrink for every Dem, they sure need one badly.




    0



    0
  11. SoloD says:

    This is a typical Democrat move and I wouldn’t put any bets on what low down dirty trick they will do next.

    Since when is playing by the rules dirty pool?




    0



    0
  12. SoloD says:

    James,

    I think that you are missing what Reid is actually saying. The report was supposed to have a second part, dealing with the administration and how they handled intelligence, so far there has been no further investigation or report. Clearly how this WH handled intelligence is a key factor into how the country decided to go into Iraq.

    Now there has been at least one indictment related to the WH handling (not directly related, but still related). If this doesn’t warrant a Congressional investigation, what does? Isn’t this infinitely more important than Hillary’s land investment?

    Of course there is also a political component, but so far it seems that the GOP doesn’t have a counterargument, except that it is un-Senatorial. Do you think anyone outside the Senate cares about that? I think this is a very smart political move, and has the benefit of being substantively important as well.




    0



    0
  13. DaveD says:

    Anderson, I appreciate the points you made in your clarification post. Amid the controversy and second-guessing, I am trying to put myself in the President’s position with the decision to go to war. I guess there was the strategic consideration to strike back as close to 9/11 as possible. There are perhaps some personal reasons why Bush may have been more set on aggression in Iraq compared to Clinton and some (in my mind undeniable) of these may actually have been valid considerations. I think Bush did not like the prospect of being jerked around by Arafat like his predecessors had been. Hussein was a financial supporter of Arafat and rewarded him openly for his terrorism. I really think the prospects of Hussein having WMDs were real. We now know however that that fell through, but Clinton himself was aware that not all material of concern had been accounted for. I am not sure how the relatively new Bush administration could have known any different for certain. Next, maybe the CIA’s information on WMDs and the Niger overtures differed from that from other intelligence services. Unfortunately, I’m still not sure what to make of the CIA in this day and age. It is difficult for me to know in whose interests they truly serve anymore. And I still have my doubts that they are not much more a behemoth of desk jobs as opposed to an efficient organization for gathering intelligence in the field. There was also germinating in the UN the move to finally lift sanctions on Iraq and I guess Bush was not interested in having that happen while Hussein was still in power. Despite all of this going through my mind, I still believe it will be essential to review these decisions to go to war. I just think it should be at a different time. In reality this political fight would serve – in my mind – no productive outcome at this time. Despite the fits and starts, the Middle East has undergone a change no one could have envisioned 10 years ago when thugs were winning Nobel Peace Prizes. For Reid to say that we “deserve to know” is fne by me. For him to say it at this particular time disgusts me.




    0



    0
  14. Elmo says:

    Joe Wilson a liar? Why that’s an insult to fabricators far and wide.

    Traitor.




    0



    0
  15. Anderson says:

    (1633:) I would note, too, that it is not like there has been no investigation into this matter up until now. Aside from the special prosecutor, who spent two years on this, we have had at least one major commission report and a Senate Intelligence ommittee report. Not to mention a presidential election, an election for the entire 435 seats of the House of Representatives, and an election for one third of the Senate, to include the sitting Minority Leader (who lost).

    Mysterious. Yes, we had one report on the intel, that EXPRESSLY did not address administration skewing of intel. That was first postponed until after the election, and then conveniently dropped.

    The election, etc., are beside the point. It’s not “do we approve,” it’s “what really happened?”

    And if anyone was paying attention at Fitzgerald’s press conference, his investigation is NOT about the war and the intel, however much some Dems would like it to be.

    As I said over at John Cole’s: the Repubs have the Senate, for now. Do you want this investigation while you still have it, or after that?

    JJ, you were asking for Congressional oversight. What happened?




    0



    0
  16. Anderson says:

    Despite all of this going through my mind, I still believe it will be essential to review these decisions to go to war. I just think it should be at a different time. In reality this political fight would serve – in my mind – no productive outcome at this time. Despite the fits and starts, the Middle East has undergone a change no one could have envisioned 10 years ago when thugs were winning Nobel Peace Prizes. For Reid to say that we “deserve to know” is fne by me. For him to say it at this particular time disgusts me.

    DaveD, I appreciate the thoughtful response.

    But I don’t understand the “disgust” or the issue of timing. If not now, when, to coin a phrase? Memories fade, etc. This should’ve been done last year. Why wait? And if we wait, until when?




    0



    0
  17. odograph says:

    In a semi-poker anology, the Republicans placed their bet over the weekend, with the broadly spoken talking point that the Libby case was a minor issue and would be out of the news in a week. The Democrats seem to have raised that bet, tying it to national security, and the start of the war.

    Since I’m in it to find out what really happened at the start of the war, this helps me more than “gone in a week” does.

    … even if I am a Republican.

    (I actually wrote a letter to the chairman of the Republican Natinoal Committee urging him to put the interests of democracy over those of party.)




    0



    0
  18. odograph says:

    BTW, I think it is troubling that there is a plausible arc from the Downing Street Memos (fixing intelligence around the policy) to the attack on Wilson (trying to keep a lid on fixing intelligence).

    That should be of concern to any American.




    0



    0
  19. john cooke says:

    reid has to be one of the most stupid people to walk on earth and then is followed by the idiot from Illinois (Durbin) and then I wonder why this nation has gone to hell. You may want to ask these pieces of crap about the retirement programs going belly up with their blessing. These bottom feeders ought to be killed off before they kill our nation.

    john cooke




    0



    0
  20. Len says:

    These bottom feeders ought to be killed off before they kill our nation.

    These “bottom feeders” as you call them are not currently running our country. The Republicans currently control both the Executive and Legislative branches. They will soon have the Judicial as well.

    If anyone is killing our nation, it for darn sure isn’t these “bottom feeders.”

    Grow up — name calling is so third grade.




    0



    0
  21. joe says:

    We were promised an investigation that would clarify the administratins part in the intelligence flaws. Colonel Wilkerson’s comments give good reason why:

    “The case that I saw for four-plus years was a case I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, perturbations, changes to the national-security decision making process,” Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s former chief of staff and longtime confidant, said in a speech last week. “What I saw was a cabal between the vice president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.”

    Wilkerson added that when decisions were presented to the bureaucracy, “it was presented in such a disjointed, incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out.”




    0



    0
  22. Kent says:

    “Democrats in Revolt”

    I’ve found them revolting for some time now.




    0



    0
  23. I just really do not get what the point of this was.

    Even as a purely symbolic gesture, it was just silly and meaningless.




    0



    0
  24. Ralph says:

    If we succeed in Iraq and put down Islamo-fascist terrorism, thirty years from now none of this will make any difference. On the other hand, if we fail in Iraq, thirty years from now none of this will make any difference.




    0



    0
  25. DaveD says:

    Anderson, sorry to get back so late on this one. I guess my “disgust” stems strictly from the the timing. Frankly, I think it is very well worth a thoughtful look on the events that led up to the decision to invade Iraq. Not only from the standpoint of this particular affair but the pre-emptive nature of regime change that this action represents has significant repercussions on the future conduct of foreign policy. One cannot be sure that a new administration will not vigorously pursue this avenue elsewhere. That being said, I think things have moved far enough along in Iraq that (and this is my personal feeling only) major distractions should not detract from the chance of success. Does this mean that I think we should not criticize the administration? Hardly. I think the public should question such issues as suffiecient troop numbers, prisoner treatment, the efficiency of training domestic security forces, etc. But this timing on Reid’s part is obviously political and would never be done if Bush was not perceived as being vulnerable. I mean, let’s be serious here. If Reid really thinks that an indictment of Libby as written calls into question Bush’s entire decision making process for going to war then he really is a bozo. You’re correct he could certainly HAVE done this a year ago. So why not then?




    0



    0
  26. LJD says:

    “Together, America Can Do Better”

    Ha! O.K., Mr. Reid, why not begin with a little honesty on your own part?




    0



    0
  27. odograph says:

    If Reid really thinks that an indictment of Libby as written calls into question Bush’s entire decision making process for going to war then he really is a bozo.

    I notice that the stories on this, floating up to the top (most read) status on Google News, do in fact tie this and the idictment into Bush’s entire decision making process for going to war.

    From their perspective they’ve got to grab some headlines because, as post indictment man on the street inteviews show, a lot of people are too busy with work, raising the kids, trying to find some time for recreation, to see how this all fits together.




    0



    0
  28. odograph says:

    If we succeed in Iraq and put down Islamo-fascist terrorism, thirty years from now none of this will make any difference. On the other hand, if we fail in Iraq, thirty years from now none of this will make any difference.

    Too bad no one came up with a strategy to win in 5 or 10 eh?

    Too bad they had to “fix intellegence” to get that questionable 30 year plan in action.




    0



    0
  29. LJD says:

    “Too bad no one came up with a strategy to win in 5 or 10 eh?”

    Assuming any strategy could have produced such an outcome, or that the current strategy won’t. I guess people just have to be patient and see what happens. Would the Democrat’s alternative worked? Do (did) they have one? Could any world leader have been capable of predicting exactly how this thing would have played out?

    “Too bad they had to “fix intellegence” to get that questionable 30 year plan in action.”

    Assuming you accept Downing Street. Probably think Michael Moore is an American Hero, too.




    0



    0
  30. odograph says:

    It is silly to assume Downing Street and Michael Moore are tied … at all. I’m the Republican, remember?

    As far as strategies, I think the lie defines it. If they had a good strategy they could have stood up in front of the country and spelled it out. The would not have had to BS us with “a smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud.”

    A recent poll was also very telling. I’d be willing to bet, if there was a way to measure, that our poll numbers in Saddam’s Iraq (how good are your feelings toward Amercians) were actually higher than they are now, after a couple years of bad stategies (implemented by brave and honorable soldiers):

    The confidential survey, leaked to the British media last weekend, suggests that fewer than 1 percent of Iraqis think the U.S. and U.K. military involvement in their country is helping to improve security. Sixty-seven percent feel less secure precisely because of the occupation. And — most worrying of all — around 65 percent of Iraqis approve of attacks on occupation forces.

    When you F’up that’s what you get.




    0



    0
  31. LJD says:

    So rather than re-hash the past, complain about the present, and predict the dire circumstances of the future, why not say what your alternative is?

    Just pull out of Iraq and let them hack their existence out on one another, right?




    0



    0
  32. odograph says:

    First: Don’t you think the “rehash the past” thing is kind of weak? How many criminals … let’s just picture white collar criminals to make it a gentler example … how many cheating accountants would just rather not “rehash the past?”

    Second: After the neocon crew creates this F’up, you demand that I straighten it out? Seriously?




    0



    0
  33. odograph says:

    P.S. – let’s just close down all the courts .. all they do is rehash the past.




    0



    0
  34. LJD says:

    Why oversimplify the subject? The intelligence leading to war SHOULD be investigated. It should NOT be a partisan free-for-all. People also need to realize the following:
    1.) Any investigation, or public reporting on the matter, has implications for the present situation in Iraq, the success of the mission, and the safety of our troops.
    2.) We are there NOW, and need to be successful in our CURRENT endeavor. To point fingers at the administration in partisan bickering, or to absolve all Democratic leaders of any responsibility NOW, because they “changed their mind in light of new evidence” is just silly.

    Your take is interesting though. You’re “the Republican”, however not responsible for cleaning up the “Neo-Con’s” mess. How is this possibly the “Neo-Con’s” mess? These sleazy Democratic Congressmen can dodge and weave all they want, and pretend that their vote didn’t send Americans to die. That is simply bullshit.

    Somehow, none of Congress, the U.N., or the International Community are responsible for this. Their failed sanctions; their failure to efectively rebut the intelligence, before the war; their implication in Oil-For-Food; all seem to be conveniently forgotten.

    The left wants direct a connection to the situation in Iraq and some vast right-wing conspiracy that doesn’t exist. I want the left, the U.N., the civilized world, to have some balls and do what’s right. Otherwise, why even bother. Just pack our shit and come home. NExt genocide that happens, just count us out.




    0



    0
  35. odograph says:

    It’s the neocon’s mess, and not mine, because I wrote the President before the war and layed out the reasons not to do it. I said an invasion failed the tests of realpolitik, and would yield blowback for generations. I said that if he believed that there were WMDs he should make that case to the UN and only go in under their mandate, because, I said, any US-led invasion would be seen as an east-west culture war with echoes going back centuries.

    I called it, totally. If anything, the blowback happened faster than I expected.

    Now, don’t give me all this stuff on “the left” when I lost my argument with the President and the neocons not on fact … but on their lies to the American people.




    0



    0
  36. odograph says:

    “an east-west culture war with [religious] echoes going back centuries.”




    0



    0
  37. Anderson says:

    You’re correct he could certainly HAVE done this a year ago. So why not then?

    Because George Bush was getting re-elected, and everyone at this blog would’ve been yelling about what a shameless tactic this was.

    As for Reid’s selecting a politically opportune moment, HE’S THE MINORITY LEADER, folks. If the polls are high for Bush and birds are singing and the Repubs control both houses, what can he do?

    The only tool the minority has is public opinion. It’s called “politics.”




    0



    0
  38. odograph says:

    The only tool the minority has is public opinion. It’s called “politics.”

    The guys on CNN had a hard time not smiling. One of them said something like “imagine, politicians engaging in politics!”




    0



    0