One of the more unappealing qualities of our political classes is the vicious, cover-your-ass mentality that you see from so many politicians and their anonymous staffers. No one wants to get tagged with a failure. Everyone wants to be seen as the smartest, savviest guy in the room, too. So they leak, and back-stab, and give not-for-attribution quotes.
We saw that ugly side of the inside-the-Beltway mentality again this week, in a terrific piece in the Washington Post about how the Republicans swept to victory on Tuesday. David Krone, current Senate Majority Leader’s chief of staff, basically laid the blame for the loss of control of the Senate at the feet of President Obama and his staff. The President wouldn’t do enough to raise money for vulnerable Senate Democrats, he said, and in the meantime those Democrats were getting dragged down by an increasingly unpopular President who was increasingly seen as mishandling and mismanaging serious problems, like the healthcare.gov website and VA health care.
Of course, the Post piece doesn’t note that Harry Reid’s own strategy made it impossible for the vulnerable Democrats to separate themselves from the President, because Reid consistently refused to allow bills to come to the Senate floor for debate. As a result, Democratic Senators weren’t permitted to offer amendments or articulate positions that differed from those of the President on controversial issues, and the vast majority of votes taken were of the party-line variety, such as to confirm judicial nominees. That approach allowed Republicans to launch devastating TV ads noting that the vulnerable Democrats voted with President Obama 97, 98, or 99 percent of the time — percentages that wouldn’t have been so outlandishly high if Reid had actually allowed the legislative process to work as intended. The “smartest guys in the room” outsmarted themselves.
If only Harry Reid and the other Beltway brainiacs had stopped trying to micromanage the messy political process, Democratic Senators might have avoided a near-total wipeout. I hope that the Republican Senate leadership learns a lesson from this, loosens the spigots on legislation, and starts debating, amending, and voting on bills to send to the President. Otherwise, the Republicans, too, might be needing to engage in a little CYA come 2016.