Ed Driscoll

Harry Reid, Champion of Small Government

OK, once you’re done laughing at the headline, check out Jonah Goldberg’s latest column on “An Imperial Sham,” which begins with the early days of Harry Reid’s political career, when Reid first ran as a senator in 1974 it was in the shadow of Watergate. As Jonah notes, “The New York Times reported on Oct. 24, 1974, that Reid ‘would cut government spending by reducing the maze of federal agencies, a bureaucracy that controls much of Nevada life and that, according to Mr. Reid, has become a dangerous fourth branch of government.'” So whatever happened to that Harry Reid?

Let’s get back to the imperial presidency for a moment. Nixon’s was indeed a good example. But, for liberals, presidencies are imperial only when Republicans are at the helm. Nixon’s error was to continue the inexorable growth of the executive branch hatched by Woodrow Wilson and set loose by Franklin Roosevelt. During the height of the Watergate hearings, liberal Democratic senator Alan Cranston observed, “Those who tried to warn us back at the beginning of the New Deal of the dangers of one-man rule that lay ahead on the path we were taking toward strong, centralized government may not have been so wrong.”

Reid is as incapable of such honest introspection as he is of cracking a smile that doesn’t make its recipients feel unsafe.

In 2007, the Democrats controlling the Senate were fed up with George W. Bush’s recess appointments. Majority Leader Reid, feigning great sadness over the sorry state of our republic, resorted to the extraordinary tactic of keeping the Senate in pro-forma session so as to prevent the imperial Bush from doing an end-run around the confirmation process. The move was celebrated by liberal commentators as a brave and necessary assertion of congressional power and was supported by then-senator Barack Obama.

Fast-forward to this week. The Senate has once again been in pro-forma session in order to keep President Obama from making recess appointments. Reid agreed to the tactic as part of negotiations with Republicans last year.

And it was — as Hans A. von Spakovsky writes at the PJ Tatler, “Contrary to White House assertions, the Senate unquestionably conducted actual business during at least one of its supposedly pro forma sessions.  This simple fact makes President Obama’s actions even more indefensible.” Meanwhile at Power Line, Scott Johnson, rounds up all sorts of quotes from Reid, Obama, and other prominent leftwing members of the Senate during Bush’s second term, all of whom were remarkably uncomfortable with the president making recess appointments in general, and would have called for an impeachment (a real one, not one of John Conyers’ mock versions he holds seemingly whenever a Republican is in the White House) if Bush had tried what Mr. Obama did yesterday.