“Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid’s relentless attacks on the billionaire Koch brothers are having an unforeseen impact: spurring other wealthy Republican donors to give more money to groups that keep their supporters’ names secret. Several prominent pro-Republican advocacy groups say they are benefiting from a burst of cash as some donors — fearful of harsh public attacks such as those aimed at the Kochs — turn away from political committees that are required by federal law to reveal their contributors.”
What a surprise. Citizen participants in the political process who see others like them engaging in no illegal or unethical conduct. other than taking positions with which the leader of the U.S. Senate disagrees. being called “un-American” and having their reputations and names savaged by him in speech after speech on the Senate floor, decide that it is no longer safe for a citizen to openly contribute to political causes in the U.S.
Democrats who use this development to attack the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, eliminating financial limits on the expressive activities of domestic advocacy groups and legal entities in political campaigns, will reveal themselves as beneath contempt. Reid, primed by President Obama, who has also crossed that line that must not be crossed by using his high elected office to call down the public’s disapproval on private citizens for their political views, has engaged in conduct that deserves the label of “McCarthyism.” Fair Americans, pundits, journalists and politicians of all political stripes ought to be candid and open about who is the ethics villain here. It is not the Koch Brothers, the Supreme Court or the GOP donors who are turning away from transparency. It is the disgraceful Senator Harry Reid.
At last count (in April; an update is needed), Reid had attacked the Kochs by name 134 times, when it is a breach of Senate tradition and a violation of the intent of the U.S. Constitution for a government official acting in his official capacity to do so even once.
Never mind that his rhetoric has frequently consisted of absurd exaggeration and lies, such as accusing the Kochs of “being one of the main causes” of climate change *, and claiming that the “vast majority” of the Koch-funded anti-Obamacare ads are lying. Lies are wrong, but unfortunately an unremarkable wrong: Reid is one of the most shameless and flagrant liars in American politics, and perhaps American political history. Lying by politicians, however, has remedies, at least as long as the American public refuses to tolerate it. (The continuing attempt by Democrats and the media to dismiss the Obama Administration’s calculated lying about Benghazi as a “nothingburger” is predicated on the assumption that the public now regards being lied to by its leaders as no big deal. We shall see.) A Senator attacking private citizens for their political views and activities is beyond remedy, however. It is an abuse of power, it is an abuse of position, and it is bullying.
Reid is, of course, carrying out a strategy cooked up in some shadowy corner of the Democrat-progressive war room, as they desperately try to change the subject from the disastrous performance of their President. It involves finding villains and changing the subject, and that’s OK, as long as the ones doing it are groups like Move-On, organs like the Daily Kos and MSNBC, and out-of-office surrogates like Robert Reich. But they do not represent the government, which the Constitution says should be not be chilling the rights of citizens.
This is exactly what Sen. Joe McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee did in the 1950’s when the scare-mongering target of choice was Communists, not conservatives. They identified private citizens as threats to the Republic, and used the funds and forums of the government to intimidate and call their motives and patriotism into question, destroying lives and reputations. A lot of Americans think that such treatment is fine as long as the targets are sufficiently rich and their views appropriately offensive. “I’m right with him when he invokes the Koch Brothers’ name as often as possible, ” says one Washington Post commenter. “These guys have over $100 BILLION between them, but they want MORE so they can go on polluting the environment (they must be childless if they want to do that) and buying even more Supreme Court justices.” The commenter is an idiot. He does not have a member of the U.S. Senate calling him an idiot, however, because he isn’t rich, and he’s an idiot, like so many idiots, who agrees with Harry Reid.
Some pundits on the Right have called for Reid to be censured by the Senate, as McCarthy was censured, effectively ending his career. This is an argument that is in the same category as screaming that Obama should be impeached for drone-killing human beings without due process, or unilaterally changing laws in contravention of constitutional requirements. The logic of the argument doesn’t matter; it’s just not going to happen. McCarthy was only censored because he was a well-known national figure whose popularity suddenly collapsed, making him a political liability to Republicans. Besides, Reid, so far at least, has only abused his power (in this respect at least) to attack two Americans citizens, not hundreds, like HUAC and Tailgunner Joe.
Still, two is bad enough. Reid is engaging in a tactic from the totalitarian playbook and the politics of Saul Alinsky —The thirteenth rule: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it”— and every time Democrats allow him to do this on the floor of the Senate without condemning him, they drain their party of a little more integrity and respect. Meanwhile, he drives Republican donors away from transparency, which benefits the democratic process. If being transparent, however, subjects conservative, law-abiding citizens to being singled out for the Senate leader’s lies and slander, it’s a good thing they have a way to protect their rights of free speech and political activity from government intimidation.
* NOTE: Flagged by the Washington Post “Fact-Checker” as a lie even as left-biased Glenn Kessler genuflected to his ideological lords by making the ridiculous statement himself that “Certainly, Koch Industries contributes to climate change…”