How Do You Know The Shut-Down Is An Ethics Train Wreck? When I Have To Defend Harry Reid…

"Why wouldn't you want to help this adorable little  puppy, Senator?"

“Why wouldn’t you want to help this adorable little puppy, Senator? What kind of a monster are you”

The government shut-down is hurtling to ethics train wreck status, not because the shut-down itself is unethical, for it is not, nor because the use of the debt limit as a bargaining chip is unethical, for it is a perfect bargaining chip, especially when bargaining with a fiscally irresponsible administration that is happy to spend taxpayer money flagrantly, as if a endlessly growing debt does not pose serious dangers to the nation’s security and prosperity in the not-so-long term. No, the shut-down is a train wreck because everyone connected with it, including pundits and the news media, are behaving badly….and it is getting worse.

Yup: train wreck.

Tit-for-tat is beginning to reign supreme, which often happens in a political ETR. Witness what has befallen Harry Reid, who enjoys accusing Republicans of being sub-human curs, as a result of his  reasonable, if carelessly stated, answer to a silly question by a reporter, seeded by the President’s own careless rhetoric in the past.  In a press conference on Wednesday, the Nevada Senator was addressing a series of bills proposed by the House Republicans to fund benign programs everyone  likes rather than funding the whole government.  These bills would fund parks and other D.C. attractions, veterans needs, treating children with cancer and other research projects at the National Institutes of Health, and the National Guard, among other things. It’s a clever political move, because the bills would force a veto from President Obama if they passed through the Senate, which Democrats cannot allow since Obama and Reid have pledged not to negotiate on the budget until the “clean” CR passes. This is the exchange that has Reid defending against bogus accusations of being cruel and heartless:

DANA BASH (CNN): You all talked about children with cancer unable to go to clinical trials. The House is presumably going to pass a bill that funds at least the NIH. Given what you’ve said, will you at least pass that? And if not, aren’t you playing the same political games that Republicans are?

 REID: Listen, Sen. Durbin explained that very well, and he did it here, did it on the floor earlier, as did Sen. Schumer. What right did they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded? It’s obvious what’s going on here. You talk about reckless and irresponsible. Wow. What this is all about is Obamacare. They are obsessed. I don’t know what other word I can use. They’re obsessed with this Obamacare thing. It’s working now and it will continue to work and people will love it more than they do now by far. So they have no right to pick and choose.

BASH: But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?

REID: Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own. This is — to have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing maybe means you’re irresponsible and reckless —

BASH: I’m just asking a question.

Yes, Dana, an irresponsible, willfully dumb, “when did you stop  beating your wife?” question.

You can’t govern or make large scale policy decisions based on a “one child” or “one life” argument: it’s a sentimental recipe for terrible policy. True, President Obama used exactly this argument in the post Sandy Hook gun debate (another ethics train wreck), but we all know that his rhetoric is often irresponsible, manipulative  and unhinged to any serious policy reasoning. Bash’s question can be rephrased to make the government responsible  for every instance of pain and want in the entire nation, which, given the pathetically naive progressive orientation of much of the media, she probably thinks is appropriate

If Reid had the wit and vocabulary that the leader of the Senate should have, he would have answered, “That’s an unfair question, Dana. You can’t govern that way. The Republicans are refusing to fund the government unless only the programs they support are funded, even though they are in the minority. If we allowed them to pass a bill that would fund one thing that they knew the public approves of, then they would pass one such bill after after another, with you and your colleagues asking, “Why wouldn’t you want school children to be able to see the Star Spangled Banner? Why wouldn’t you want research on preventing Alyzheimer’s?” until at last, the irresponsible Republican-run House could say, “Great! We’re done! No more funding for anything else, and by the way, Obamacare is dead.” We’re not just responsible for “one child who has cancer,” we’re responsible for the whole nation that child will grow up in. Of course I care about that child; we all do. But one child with cancer can’t be the focus of a confrontation that affects the lives and fates of millions.”

What Reid actually said compressed this into a statement that roughly meant, “You’re an idiot.” He was right, but because of his clumsy wording, critics who know better but who are even more revolted by Harry Reid’s prominence on the national scene than I am pounced, like Glenn Reynolds and James Taranto. This slur on Reid was echoed by conservative radio hosts, Buzz Feed, Breitbart, Fox News and other critics who too often knowingly take comments out of context to lay “gotchas!” on their political foes.

Now, in context, there was plenty to criticize in the exchange, like the fact that CNN employs reporters who would ask a question like that and think it’s a valid question. The truly outrageous thing Reid said was this: “What right did they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded?” If Bash had a competent grade school education, she could have replied, “I believe that right is called the Power of the Purse, Senator, and it’s in the Constitution.” She was too worried about that one hypothetical child, however, to do her job. Harry, quite properly, understood that his job requires him not to warp policy for one child, and answered the best he could*…and he’s being attacked for that.

Yup: train wreck.

* It’s tangential to the post, but really: there’s no excuse for Reid being as inept at public speaking as he is. My old friend Arch Lustberg, the pre-eminent speaker coach in the country, died this year, but Arch, right up to his dying day, could improve a speaking maladroit like Reid (or George W. Bush, or Mitch McConnell, or Nancy Pelosi, or John McCain) materially in a couple of hours. Communication is a core skill of leadership, and it is teachable. For so many national leaders to allow their effectiveness to be handicapped by poor presentation skills when they can be dramatically improved in virtually every speaker, if he or she is willing to expend some effort, is nothing less than laziness and arrogance on the part of those fumble-tongued leaders. It is negligent incompetence, and I am sick of it.


Source: Atlantic Wire

26 thoughts on “How Do You Know The Shut-Down Is An Ethics Train Wreck? When I Have To Defend Harry Reid…

  1. I do not know if I agree with your criticism of the reporter. On its own, you are right that it is a bad question and your proposed response is a good one. However, in context, it is a perfectly good question (even though the “one child” statement could have been worded better). Because, if a politician bemoans that a shutdown is going to mean that people who need their experimental meds will be unable to get them, it is fair to ask that politician why they aren’t pushing to vote on a limited agenda bill that addresses the very thing the politician bemoaned. (I don’t know if this specifically applies to Reid in this case.)

    What the reporter is eseentially doing is calling the politicianon an issue that was raised as a distraction or a diversion. I think it is fair game if the politican opened the door to it.

    (By the way, Jack. I do not know if it is my browser, but I am unable to rsee my comments after a certain point (if they get bigger than the comment box). Forgive the typos, malappropism and occasional cursing that I may have typed. Thabnks.)

  2. Reid wasn’t even responding to Bash’s question when he made the remark.
    What he said was sparked by Chuck Schumer’s response to the question when he said, “Why pit one against the other?” meaning why pit one program against another by picking and choosing things to fund. Harry Reid added, “Why would we do that?”, or “Why would we pit one program against another?”

  3. “You can’t govern or make large scale policy decisions based on a “one child” or “one life” argument: it’s a sentimental recipe for terrible policy.”
    I couldn’t agree with you more however, I must remind you that lawmakers have been using that argument to pass inhumane, unconstitutional, ex post facto laws aimed at registered sex offenders and their families for years!
    “If it saves one child” is their cry and too bad for the families they destroy and the civil rights they take away.

  4. It’s really hard to feel sorry about Harry Reid and the mess he’s created by his and his cronies intransigence. He’s starting to lose it and finding out that being a lackey of the President isn’t necessarily a good thing.

  5. Ok, I don’t buy the ‘if you can save one small child’ garbage. But I do wonder where the responsibility does lie. From where I stand, I see the House trying to pass bills that minimize the potential damage and frustration caused by the shutdown. Sure it’s political, but it’s also good. I’ve heard that the memorials may be closed, and people aren’t getting medicine they need – but the congressional golf course is still open. If there are parts of the government which are truly non-essential, should we shut them down first?

  6. But was Harry Reid much better when he replied that he has 1100 people not working at Nellis AFB? Can he really be the victim when he is playing the same game at the same time?

  7. I love the Tea Party.. They are as reliable and ethical as a drunk on New Year’s eve. And they never tire of being wrong!

    Obama is a foreigner.
    Obama is a one term President.
    ObamaCare will never survive the SCOTUS.
    Gold is the only safe investment.
    And now:
    ObamaCare will never survive the Shutdown, or the Debt Ceiling.

    Oh you have so much to learn, little Grasshopper…
    The adults are going to step in and tell John Boehner what he already knows: That the Bond Market is twice the size of the Equities Market, and if you screw with the Credit Rating of the USA, interest rates will increase and crash the Bond Market and devastate the financial system. Then we will have 1929 Germany…

    • Who do you think you’re talking to? If there’s any tone this disaster of a President does not warrant in his behalf, it’s smugness. You can be smug when there is actual evidence of effective leadership or concern for reality over short-term politics. You also obviously can’t distinguish between the Tea Party and many other groups, or even know what the Tea Party says, epspecially since there isn’t any such thing–just individuals and groups:

      Obama is a foreigner: Tea Party supporters are not birthers, though some may be.
      Obama is a one term President: This was a wish and predication based on merit and historical patterns. Nobody ever stated as a fact the he was such, and the wish/prediction was not peculiar to Tea Party members. My sister is a Democrat, and she thought he would be a one-term President, because, you know, he’s inept.
      ObamaCare will never survive the SCOTUS: Nobody, certainly not Tea Partiers, was certain of that decision. You’re just making stuff up.
      Gold is the only safe investment I have never seen this as a tenet of any Tea Party playform—it is not an investment group, as far as I know. You embarrass yourself..
      And now:
      ObamaCare will never survive the Shutdown, or the Debt Ceiling. Nobody, Tea Party or otherwise, is saying this.

      And this kind of garbage contributes nothing to the discussion, which isn’t about who is going to win, but the ethics of the dispute.

      Sometimes I wonder about you…

      • The gold/silver thing is a major tenet of the TP platform right now. Two of my close friends are very involved in the Movement — “end the fed” and replace it with gold or silver is in every speech.

        • “The US should have a gold (or silver) standard: is a responsible policy position worthy of debate, since paper money without any backing is inflation prone. That’s not what jj said. He said “Gold is the only safe investment.” That’s like saying “Buy Amazon stock.”

          • Spend 5 minutes with my TP friends. They have already (or are in the process of) selling their stock and investing in gold/silver. They offered to put me in touch with their broker to do the same.

            • It isn’t a BAD idea, especially if inflation takes hold.

              But more than anything, don’t just leave it sitting in banks. Some stocks are safer than others (and T-Bills are for suckers), but inflation is going to happen – it has too, because the fed is dumping over a trillion dollars a year into the monetary supply. The second they stop the quantitative easing and try to pull that money back out of the supply, inflation is going to slam hard.

              Which will be unfortunate, since it’s QE that is largely all that is keeping the Market going these days…

            • As for the gold/silver standard argument, it would make it hard for the government to inflate it’s way out of debt, which would (one would hope) curtain such massive debt spending.

              When you can’t magic the debt away, you would tend to go a little easy on the spending.

              And yes, such standards have their issues, but there are two things above all else that lead the US being in the situation it is in right now.

              One of those is the fact that we (and pretty much everyone) are a fiat currency.

              I bet you can’t guess what the other one is…

            • Hi Beth – after listening and observing diligently, I am sure that on fiscal, government and economic matters, I am more “TP”-ish than even most of the people I have met who are IN the TP. But just FYI, my attitude toward gold and silver is that they are nothing more than overvalued, shiny rocks.

      • “The Tea Party is so weak and powerless, they have shut down the government.”

        I have been reading that doublethink by haters of anything (and everyone) perceived as anti-Obama all week, in every forum and vent-space I have visited. (I have been out of work all week because I am a federal contractor.) The blindness (or alternatively, ignorance and arrogance) of the blameless-Obama sect is the best proof I have seen yet of parallel universes which are capable of merging, but only by negating each other.

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