President-elect Barack Obama vowed Tuesday to veto any move by Congress to block the use of an additional $350 billion in federal bailout funds.
Isn’t it amazing that Obama isn’t even in office yet and already has to threaten a veto to the Congressional leaders of his own political party? Obama is the Democrat with the most political capital to spend, and thus far he generally seems to be using it wisely, yet Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing back at the popular head of their political party.
That probably isn’t a good move by Congressional leaders. It surely is a puzzling one, considering how President George W. Bush pretty much had his way with Congress throughout his two terms – including the past two years with the Democrats in charge – even as Bush’s popularity steadily dropped. It is no coincidence that Congress’s approval rating dropped steadily as well. Congressional Democrats should have felt empowered to stand up to Bush during the past two years, but generally they barked about Bush and his policies without applying any bite.
Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is the worst offender. He tends to shoot from the hip and talk tough before inevitably changing his mind and making excuses for why he flip-flopped. The latest example of this is the Roland Burris situation. As recently as January 4 on “Meet the Press,” Reid adamantly insisted that Burris would not be seated in the Senate because he was appointed by a governor accused of trying to sell the seat to the highest bidder. But as soon as that situation came to a head two days later, Reid and his second-in-command, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), started backpedaling so fast they fell on their backsides. Now Burris is scheduled to be sworn in as Illinois’ junior senator Thursday.
Reid also did some backpedaling in regard to another topic on the aforementioned episode of “Meet the Press.” Host David Gregory noted that in 2007, Reid said the Iraq war was lost – something no longer considered conventional wisdom thanks to the U.S. troop surge committed that year. There is debate about whether the Iraq war can be “won,” per se, but now that it looks like Reid may have been wrong, he refuses to admit he spoke too soon. Gregory pressed him on this issue and only let him off the hook after it was clear Reid wasn’t going to give a satisfactory answer no matter how bad his runaround sounded.
In the past, Reid has called Bush “a liar,” “a loser” and “the worst president we’ve ever had.” Despite his strong partisan language, Reid always seemed to misplace his backbone whenever Bush wanted something passed through Congress. Yet Reid apparently has no qualms about smack-talking Obama for no good reason. Last week Reid felt compelled to tell us, “If Obama steps over the bounds, I will tell him. … I do not work for Barack Obama. I work with him.”
Technically, Reid is right. He doesn’t work “for” Obama, he works for his constituents. But Reid needs to work “with” Obama to get our country back on track, so why bother making that statement in the first place? Doesn’t Reid care about whether he is perceived to be helping Obama get things done? Perhaps he wants to seem like he has more power than Obama, or at least as much. But the reality is that people will overwhelmingly choose Obama’s side over Reid’s, and for good reason. Obama hasn’t let us down yet; Reid and his House counterpart, Nancy Pelosi, have.
I wonder what Nevada residents think of Reid’s flip-flopping and foot-in-mouth disease. Are they dissatisfied enough to vote Reid out of office next year? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, Reid needs to control his mouth and develop a smooth working relationship with Obama – otherwise the Democrats should seriously consider replacing him as Senate majority leader.