First we had the fiasco of Sen John Kerry botching a joke. GOPsters used it for weeks to paint Democrats as unpatriotic opponents of our troops in Iraq. This sort of thing, tho unfortunate, is a fact of life in contemporary politics. So politicians must beware of ‘misspeaking' and risking damage to themselves and their party.
So I was startled when Senator Harry Reid, new Majority Leader in the Senate, made just such a faux pas. Describing his close and cooperative relationship with Nevada’s other senator, Republican John Ensign, he remarked: “It’s not a ‘Brokeback Mountain’ situation.” While I’m sure Reid was making a well-intentioned joke, his words could easily be misinterpreted: “We’re just friends, not closeted fags.” Fortunately, no gay advocacy group has chosen to accuse Reid of homophobia. Still, I have to wonder: how could he be so careless?
And then NY Democrat Charles Rangel, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, gave a shocking performance Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He proposed reinstating the draft! Not only do most Americans reject the draft, but the proposal paints Rangel as a proponent of a larger military and of war. Rangel’s proposal gave GOP Sen Lindsey Graham the opportunity to appear moderate and more in tune with the public by supporting the all-voluntary military.
Why would an important Democrat be making such an imprudent statement right after the Dems have won Congressional majorities on a platform of ending our foreign wars? Rangel should have first discussed it with the Dem leadership in the House or even the whole caucus. I’m not suggesting that a Democrat should never dare to make a statement without party approval, but surely no Dem should take it upon himself to make such a major proposal that runs counter to the party’s and the electorate’s stance.
Democrats are always accused of being fractious and lacking in unity and party discipline. Shenanigans like Rangel’s demonstrate this is still the case. He and other free-range politicos need to submit themselves to the party, esp when the Dems could solidify national support by getting behind some good proposals to address our most pressing issues.