“The Senate majority leader hasn’t looked like much of a leader at all,” Andrew Stiles writes at NRO:
The government shutdown that most Democrats thought would benefit them politically has not gone according to plan.
Sure, the initial polling shows that more Americans think Republicans (44 percent) are to blame than Democrats (35 percent), as most expected. But Democrats have hardly come off looking great. Reports that the Obama administration ordered the shuttering of the open-air World War II Memorial, temporarily blocking veterans from visiting, didn’t help. Top Democrats such as House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz have refused to give up their paychecks during the shutdown. “Negotiations” between the two sides have descended into a war of Twitter hashtags. The White House is trolling for shutdown sob stories.
An anonymous White House aide recently boasted, “It doesn’t really matter to us” how long it lasts, because “we are winning.” But one wonders how long that ruse will last, as the president, whose approval rating remains underwater, publicly plays up the consequences of the shutdown.
Senate majority leader Harry Reid, in particular, has had a rough week. Reid, who is reportedly the driving force behind the Democrats’ hardline negotiating strategy — or, rather, their refusal to negotiate — has lost his cool on more than one occasion. On Wednesday, he challenged the intelligence of a female reporter who asked why Democrats opposed the GOP plan to fund individual aspects of the government, such as clinical trials for children with cancer. “Why would we want to do that?” Reid wondered, much to his regret. On Thursday, the majority leader blocked a Republican attempt to vote on a bill to fund services and benefits for military veterans, even though the measure had passed the House with significant bipartisan support.
He has repeatedly lashed out at House speaker John Boehner, calling him a “coward” behind closed doors, questioning whether he had the “courage” to stand up to conservative “anarchists” (a favorite buzzword of his), and suggesting that Boehner is “keeping the government shut because I hurt his feelings.” Veteran GOP aides recognized the latter comment as a transparent attempt to cast Boehner in the mold of former speaker Newt Gingrich, whose proclivity for temper tantrums made him an easy political target, and a liability to his own party. Democratic efforts to paint Boehner, a much more modest man, as a Gingrich-like character have thus far been in vain.
Reid’s animosity toward Boehner is said to have reached a fever pitch after the House passed a continuing resolution to fund the government that also included a provision to eliminate Obamacare subsidies for members of Congress and their staff. The measure, often referred to as the Vitter amendment, is controversial, but polls extraordinarily well. Senate Democrats even sought to derail it by dredging up Republican senator David Vitter’s 2007 prostitution scandal.
That effort failed, and, in the interest of maintaining Democratic unity, Reid forced every member of his caucus to vote against the Vitter amendment on the Senate floor, including a number of vulnerable incumbents facing reelection in conservative states. “If I worked for the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee], I’d be really nervous about those votes,” a GOP aide tells National Review Online.
As Seth Mandel notes at Commentary, “One of Washington’s worst-kept secrets is that Reid’s attitude toward most people ranges from miserable on his best days to uncommonly vicious on his worst. When he describes members of the public as unwashed masses to their face, he isn’t being playful. He holds most people in utter contempt, and despite the best efforts of his staff, he usually tells them so. It’s refreshingly honest in its own way, but it does not exactly grease the wheels of compromise:”
“My staff has always said ‘don’t say this,’ but…” is a frightening disclaimer for the communications staffers of any member of Congress to hear. But it can be especially cringe inducing when the person reciting the line has a terrible habit of not only saying things over the warnings of his staff but also saying things he shouldn’t even have to be told not to say. Joe Biden falls into this category. And so does the author of the above line, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The full version of that quote, from 2008, is: “My staff has always said ‘don’t say this,’ but I’m going to say it again, because it’s so descriptive because it’s true. Leader Boehner mentioned the tourists lined up in summer, winter–long lines coming into the Capitol. In the summertime, because the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. And that may be descriptive, but it’s true.”
“My staff has always said ‘don’t say this,’ but…” is the perfect summation of Reid’s career:
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