Harry Reid is the wrong person to be leading the Democratic Party in the U.S. Senate.
By supporting Bush’s Iraq War, and now by supporting Bush’s assault on our privacy rights, he has lost any claim to serve as Majority Leader.
Even though Harry Reid owes his post in the Senate to the millions of people who mobilized against the Iraq War, almost the first thing he said after the 2006 election was that he was willing to go along with Bush’s surge.
And sure enough, under his so-called leadership, the Democrats have kept the Iraq War going by supporting one funding request after another from Bush.
More cowardly even than that, however, has been Harry Reid’s unforgivable role in the current Administration effort to “reform” FISA—the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Reid and Reid alone made the decision to bring to the floor of the Senate the disastrous bill of the Intelligence Committee rather than the far better bill that the Judiciary Committee had carefully hashed out, with Senator Russ Feingold doing yeoman’s work there.
The Judiciary bill did not give retroactive immunity to the telecom companies. The Intelligence bill does.
The Judiciary bill did not allow the NSA to engage in “bulk collection”—to scoop up every international communication into and out of the United States. The Intelligence bill does.
The Judiciary bill did not allow the NSA to speciously wiretap someone overseas without a warrant so as to get at a U.S. citizen here at home. The Intelligence bill does.
The Judiciary bill did not weaken the oversight of the FISA Court. The Intelligence bill does. It “reduces court oversight nearly to the point of symbolism,” as Senator Chris Dodd put it.
Harry Reid could have brought the Judiciary bill forward. That was his call.
But he chose to have the Senate debate the Intelligence bill instead, knowing full well how hard it would be to get a majority to agree to replace it.
Sure enough, on January 24, the Senate voted 60 to 34 not to replace it.
“Under Democratic leadership, the Senate will now continue its debate on surveillance with a bill that resembles something from the Administration’s playbook,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legal Office. “Six months after being hoodwinked into passing the Protect America Act, Americans are still waiting for Congress to grow a spine.”
Waiting, most of all, for Harry Reid to grow one.
On Monday, the Republicans will try to railroad the Intelligence bill through without amendments.
Fortunately, Dodd is threatening to filibuster yet again.
But that may fail, and it would be unnecessary in any event had Harry Reid been doing his job as Majority Leader—or even his job as someone sworn to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
If the bill to immunize the telecom companies and to erode our privacy rights passes, Harry Reid will have a lot to answer for.