Friday, June 15, 2007


Harry Reid: Incompetent

Democrats may regret for a long time their misfortune of having Harry Reid as their Senate majority leader. Earlier this week, on a conference call with liberal blogers, he referred to outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace as incompetent. The story was reported Thursday in The Politico.

Not surprisingly, all day yesterday, most of the conservative side of the blogosphere, plus
presidential candidate John McCain -- pilloried Reid. Liberal bloggers were relatively silent, except for those that chose to attack the reporting of The Politico (which has been viewed skeptically by those on the left since it first started).

But now that
a transcript of the conversation has come to light, along comes Taylor Marsh, a left wing blogger who puts the fault where it belongs -- with Sen. Reid:

Everyone is now going to be talking about the "context" of Reid's remarks, which is important. He has supposedly told Pace to his face what he thinks of him. Good for Reid, that's what any person of character should do. Senator Reid has many supporters in the military. He's earned them and I'm sure those who support him will continue to do so.

However, it doesn't make this event any less newsworthy. "Context" doesn't matter to most people when you hear the quote. Reid said it. It's confirmed. Cable news and talk radio will now be using it forever against Reid and the Democrats. In addition, when you weigh the Congress, which has a 23% approval rating, against what the American people think of the U.S. military, let's just say Congress loses. You don't get anywhere by calling a chairman of the Joint Chiefs "incompetent." If you're going to level a charge make it specific and cite the situation in which the soldier failed. Letting bin Laden go at Tora Bora comes to mind. But blanket charges just won't get the job done.

The other aspect is that this is a gift for the Republicans. They've been salivating to reclaim their "strong on national security" title, which has been slipping to Democrats through the '06 election. Iraq continues to erode their stength on national security. This issue has always been the political brass ring for the GOP, but now they get to question Reid and the congressional Democrats' "supporting the troops" reality, because they've been handed a quote. This is about restoring confidence in them and winning back what they've lost. It rallies their base big time. As much trouble as they're in they can't afford to pass that up. Lord knows we wouldn't.

As for the conference call itself, this turned into an unnecessary mess. What made it worse is that no one from Reid's office was confirming it, while
Sargent said Reid sidestepped the question on whether he said it, which was the tell in this whole tale, as I wrote earlier.

Now, after a day to let the story unwind, conservatives got to frame it. That's not anyone's fault but Majority Leader Harry Reid and his office. If we were going to get this quote eventually, why not have it ready from the start; or at least confirm that Reid said what he said.
Why not? Well, because Reid doesn't have the courage of his convictions. After being slammed for his "war is lost" comment (an arguably defensible statement), Reid appears gun-shy on military issues. So, he had his fingers crossed that there would be no tape of the conversation (or prayed that no liberal blogger would "out" him).

The thing is that whether Pace is incompetent with respect to his military responsibilities, it seems pretty clear that he is somewhat dense in understanding political Washington: For example, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has no business
writing a letter of support for a defendant in the most politically radioactive case to hit the nation's capitol in years. Even if he thinks Libby is a good guy, Pace's got to think that inserting himself into a case that involves how the Iraq war was "sold" is likely not a wise thing to do when one's re-confirmation is coming up. The JCS chair is, ultimately, a political job and it takes a canny personality to survive it (love him or hate him, Colin Powell, certainly had the political chops to thrive in that job).

So, Reid could have been up front with the press on why he thought Pace wasn't the man for the job; he could have admitted using the "I" word. Instead, he tried to duck it -- and hoped that his liberal blogger troops would protect him from the firestorm that his own words created. That just makes him look craven.

And, of course, the conversation being had right now is about what Harry Reid did or didn't say about Pace -- as opposed to the daily carnage going on in Iraq. When Senate Democrats go seeking competence, do they find any in their leaders office ?

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