Thursday, February 10, 2005

Democrats are furious with a Republican National Committee memo sent to 1 million members detailing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s record and accusing him of being an obstructionist to President Bush’s policies.

The Democratic leadership yesterday defended their leader and denounced the mailing as a personal attack and the “worst kind of name-calling and innuendos.” In a letter to Mr. Bush dated Wednesday and signed by all 44 Democrats and Sen. James M. Jeffords, Vermont independent, they called on the president to stop the attacks and live up to his promises of bipartisanship.

“The politics of personal destruction has got to end. The attack on Senator Reid and his family was out of bounds,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat and Democratic conference secretary.

The RNC fund-raising letter was sent out Monday and outraged Mr. Reid, who denounced the president and the Republican Party on the Senate floor.

“Last Wednesday, just a few days ago, [Mr. Bush] said he was going to reach out to Democrats. A strange way to reach out,” Mr. Reid said Monday morning in response to the mailing.

He said the mailings were an obvious pre-emptive strike and urged Mr. Bush to stop the RNC from sending such letters in the near future.”

“We haven’t dealt with one piece of legislation here on the Senate floor, and yet they’re sending out to a million people [something] to have Reid roughed up a little bit,” the Nevada senator added.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Tennessee Republican, dismissed the political wrangling and said he would make judgments on obstruction and partisan blocking based on actions.

“The fact that the Democratic leader did not agree with [the class-action reform bill] we passed today but allowed it to go to the floor in a very timely manner I think bodes well for the 109th Congress,” Mr. Frist said.

The 13-page “Reid All About It: Who is Harry Reid?” mailing was put together by the RNC research staff and contained comments made by the minority leader saying Mr. Bush’s Social Security plan would never pass the Senate, opposing the Bush administration’s ban on homosexual “marriage” and blocking the president’s judicial nominees.

It also attacks Mr. Reid’s character, drawing attention to his $750,000 downtown Ritz-Carlton condominium, painting the self-described “modest moderate” from Searchlight, Nev., as a hard-core “limousine liberal.”

Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said that the tenor of politics has gotten worse and that the Democrats will not lie down as they did last year when similar attacks were levied against Sen. Tom Daschle, the former minority leader and South Dakota Democrat who lost his seat last November.

“This is a new Democratic Party,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat and chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). “When they go after one of our leaders, we fight back.”

But some Senate Republicans said the Democrats are whining about politics as usual.

“It is part of the political bump and run, that’s just the way it goes,” said Sen. George Allen, Virginia Republican, adding that he had not read the RNC letter about Mr. Reid.

He said Democrats opened the door when the DSCC sent out a fund-raising letter praising Sen. Barbara Boxer for opposing the nomination of Condoleezza Rice for secretary of state. The California Democrat said during Miss Rice’s confirmation hearing that she and the Bush administration had misled the country into war with Iraq.

“We have always said politics ends at our water’s edge, and for Dr. Rice, above all the other [nominations] as our new secretary of state, our chief diplomat, here you have partisan maneuvering to delay her vote,” Mr. Allen said.

“And then on top of that to send out a fund-raising letter politicizing this at a time when we’re fighting terrorists with Senator Boxer parading her objections is unconscionable,” Mr. Allen said.

Mr. Schumer disagreed, saying the Boxer memo to DSCC members was on the issues and not a personal attack on Miss Rice.

“Everyone knows there is a political season here, but to begin this two years before the elections is too much; why would you want this two years of scorched earth? ” Mr. Schumer said.

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