Letter to Sen. Reid: Learn to lead or step aside
Special to the Appeal
Dear Sen. Harry Reid, What happened to tough-guy Harry? You were supposed to be the scrappy ex-boxer who would fight toe-to-toe with anyone. I’m not sure you could win a shadowboxing match today.
The voters in 2006 put the Democrats in charge of Congress because they are deeply dissatisfied with the direction that President George W. Bush has taken this country. And so far, those Democrats in charge of Congress (that’s you) have done nothing but bellyache, whine and capitulate, time and time again.
Last week was another sorry example of what you pass off as leadership. You caved in to the president on every request, from funding to continue the war in Iraq with no strings attached, to giving handouts to oil companies making record profits.
Harry, nothing says strength like caving to the whims of a president with a 29 percent approval rating.
Your skill as a back room dealmaker is what earned you your leadership position. But now you have a president who has no interest in making any deals, period. He is not even bothering with negotiations. With his veto and at least 41 Republican senators backing him, Bush can stop anything from passing, and so far he is getting away with blaming the mess on you and the Democrats.
Now is the time to lead. A whole procession of polls show that Democrats are on the right side of every major issue for American voters, especially the top two, Iraq and health care. In generic contests, voters favor Democrats over Republicans by a wide margin.
Yet Harry, you are only registering 41 percent approval in Nevada. Why? It’s not that Nevadans disagree with you on the issues. It’s because of your lack of leadership to deliver on those issues.
Senate Republicans have now broken the all-time record for the number of filibusters in a single session of Congress, and the session isn’t even half over yet. Their strategy is to make it look like the Democrats can’t lead, and it’s working perfectly. This unprecedented stonewalling has gone largely unnoticed because almost every time they threaten to filibuster, you back down.
Here is your wake-up call.
Look, Harry, either stand up and lead or get the hell out of the way. The Republicans have changed the rules of the game. They are treating this as an all-out street fight, while you are still trying to play by the Marquess of Queensberry rules.
Letting the Republicans continue their filibuster-fest is stupid and weak. If the Republicans really want to keep debate going on all of these bills, them make them debate. Keep the Senate in session night and day, and make them read the DC phone book. Make them come in and debate on Christmas Day. They would do the same to you if the roles were reversed. Stop rolling over.
You should be using the words “filibuster” and “Republicans” in almost every sentence until everyone understands just who is creating the roadblocks in Congress. Maybe you need to create a video featuring “The Filibuster Club,” to showcase all those Republicans who are to blame.
And speaking of blame, if the president wants to veto budget bills and shut down the government, let him.
Don’t be scared that a shutdown would be blamed on Congress like it was back in 1995. I’ve got a flash for you, Harry. This isn’t 1995. The voters want you to pass the legislation that Bush and the Republicans are blocking. Just do it.
What do you have to lose, Harry? If you stand up, you might win. If you roll over again, you lose big. It’s better to be criticized for standing up for your principles than to be ridiculed for not even trying.
Now, we know you are thinking ahead to the 2008 elections, thinking if you keep your head down, you will have a Democratic president and an expanded majority.
But keep this up, and you’ll be lucky to just be minority leader again.
If you aren’t willing to do what is required of a leader in the U.S. Senate, then step aside and let someone else take a shot at it.