One of the defining moments of the 2004 presidential campaign was John Kerry’s explanation that we wasn’t a waffler, wasn’t a flip-flopper, wasn’t indecisive. The killer quote, to many was his infamous “I actually did vote for the $87 billion — before I voted against it” explanation of his two seemingly conflicting votes on funding for the Iraq war.
It seems that attitude is contagious, and has infected House Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Harry Reid yesterday called General David Petraeus a liar in saying that progress has been made in Iraq. On January 27, the United States Senate voted unanimously to confirm Petraeus as commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq.
In other words, Reid was for General Petraeus before he was against him.
As commenter and blogger marc pointed out, last November Reid said “We’re not going to do anything to limit funding or cut off funds.” Reid then said, in February, that he will try to cut off funding for the Iraq war if President Bush rejects Congress’ proposal to set a deadline for ending combat. Reid also said that “as far as setting a timeline, as we learned in the Balkans, that`s not a wise decision, because it only empowers those who don`t want us there. It doesn`t work well to do that.”
In other words, Reid was against deadlines and funding cuts before he was for them.
And last week, Reid commented on the United States Supreme Court decision upholding the law banning partial-birth abortions by saying that “I would only say that this isn’t the only decision a lot of us wish that Alito weren’t there and O’Connor were there.”
Oddly enough, when people started pointing out that Reid had in fact voted for the law the Court upheld, he issued a “clarification” that his remark, although issued after the ruling was handed down, was not intended to express disagreement with that particular decision, but general disapproval with Justice Alito. Reid just chose the occasion of Alito voting in accordance with Reid’s beliefs — apparently an extremely rare occasion — to express his disappointment.
In other words, Reid was against partial birth abortion before he was for it, before he was against it again.
This all makes perfect sense in the proper context. And that proper context is this: Reid wants to keep his position as Majority Leader of the United States Senate, and is taking the steps he believes he needs to take to maintain it. An essential element of that goal is maintaining a Democratic majority in the Senate, or he’ll be demoted to Minority Leader — or worse, tossed out of the leadership entirely.
There is nothing innately wrong with this goal. What could be considered inappropriate is to what measures one takes to achieve it.
And in this case, I’m not too impressed with Reid’s efforts.