Time for Pelosi & Reid to Go
September 30, 2008
Because some of the following comments may sound like the rantings of a Republican Neo-Con, I should tell you that I have been a registered and active Democrat for four decades, and if it's not already evident from my other postings, I want you to know that I am decidedly liberal and progressive in my political views. I should probably also confess that my Democratic affiliation is near an end. I have decided, after I vote in the upcoming election, to re-register as an independent. With that background, here goes:
In 2006, America elected a Democratic House and Senate. The mandate we gave them was to get us out of the Iraq war, and to return effective governance to Congress.
They have failed miserably. Obviously, though the ground situation in Iraq seems to have improved significantly during the past two years, we are still inextricably entrenched there. And it's hard to point to any significant legislative accomplishments during the past two years. They have left our major national challenges unmet: energy, environment, education, health care, the economy, etc.
The events of the past week, though, are more appalling than anything that has preceded them. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's job this week was clear. She needed to get to the floor of the House with an effective piece of financial legislation, and get it passed.
It certainly wasn't going to be an easy task. She needed to craft significant additions and amendments to the proffered Bush-Paulson package, enlist both Republican and Democratic input and support, keep President Bush, Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson on board, and in the absence of any noticeable leadership from Bush and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, inform and educate the public, so they could understand both the problem and the solution well enough to support the legislation. It was probably one of the greatest challenges any legislative leader has ever faced.
And she accomplished no part of it.
Instead, she adopted the Bush-Paulson package with few changes, squelched input from almost everyone who could have helped her improve it, angered Republicans, allowed the media to ineptly frame public opinion, and last Friday watched even her minuscule achievements explode in a ball of fire as she clumsily led Bush's White House meeting. Following that debacle, she attempted to generate a revised package through the sheer force of her own will, still failed to recruit either involvement or support from anywhere, further angered Republicans, and engineered one of the most damaging and inexcusable legislative failures we have ever seen. It cost the average American thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars in lost retirement fund value.
Her public behavior was inexcusable. At every press appearance, she surrounded herself only with Democrats, forcing Republican participants to crowd into the edges of the camera shot, and then ignored them. She effusively and incessantly praised her Democratic compatriots at every photo event, and if she ever praised or thanked any Republican for helping her, I missed it. Then, whenever events turned sour, she blamed Republicans, accepting no blame herself. She was selfish, self-indulgent, uncharitable, and devoutly, unfailingly partisan. She not only failed to accomplish what we desperately needed her to do, she dug herself into a hole, from which she now must try to rescue some kind of redemption—not for herself, but for her nation.
And Harry Reid's role in all of this? He did about what he has predictably and consistently done for the past two years—he walked around looking and acting petulant and impotent, exhibiting no outwardly discernible characteristics of leadership at all. He appears to have had virtually no impact on the proceedings—much like the President.
Two years ago, I had high expectations for Nancy Pelosi's Speakership. I perceive her as being intelligent and capable. I had assumed that her rise in the House indicated leadership skills. But apparently whatever leadership abilities she possesses are restricted to the insular, partisan arena of her own caucus. At a time when we have desperately needed the kind of leadership that can forge alliances and enlist followers, she has failed us almost completely. She has shown herself to be divisive and self-willed. She responds to defeat with blaming, never with acceptance of responsibility. She is defensive rather than visionary. And she is ineffective.
As for her Senate counterpart, Harry Reid, I did not have the kind of expectations for his leadership that I had for Pelosi's. I had not seen in him the qualities that I thought I had seen in her. He has proven me correct in my assessment. He's had his chance.
It is time for both of them to go. Which brings us to a dilemma. The usual course for replacement of a Congressional leader is either resignation in scandalous disgrace, or replacement of the majority party. There may be considerable disgrace here, but no evident scandal, so there will be no expulsive drumbeat from Congressional Democrats. And we will not elect a Republican House and Senate this year—nor should we—the Republican caucuses in both houses have exhibited even worse leadership in recent years than have the Democrats. Neither Pelosi nor Reid will be politically forced from their positions. So, the only remaining course is their resignations. It is time for each to fearlessly and reflectively search his or her conscience, and for them, in selfless patriotism, to step down from their posts, leaving their leadership responsibilities in new hands.
As a citizen and a patriot, I ask both of them to do that, if not now, then immediately after the November election.