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You wouldn't like Harry Reid when he's canny

reidaccurate.JPGAs my earlier post suggested, I'm sympathetic to Lindsey Graham's argument that the Democrats are being cynical in moving immigration ahead of climate change. He was doing something very hard by being the sole Republican on this bill, and they've betrayed that effort by announcing that immigration comes next, as that probably means that climate doesn't come this session. But to play devil's advocate for a second, so what?

What you're seeing here is why the climate bill was always doomed. Graham is under murderous pressure to drop the thing. No other Republicans have announced their support. It's an election year, and cap-and-tax is going to be a major theme on conservative talk radio. The evident fragility of Graham's commitment to the project is not evidence of bad faith, per se, but it's evidence that there was no way this bill could survive the polarizing political process.

So if you're Harry Reid and you're feeling cynical, you're faced with two choices for the rest of the year: Make climate the issue and back a politically dangerous piece of legislation that probably won't pass; or make immigration the issue, and force Republicans into a tough, unpopular issue that they may not survive. If 10 Republicans were milling around to help out on climate change, the answer to this would be easy. But having watched Olympia Snowe bail from health-care reform and Bob Corker fail to attach any Republicans (including himself) onto financial reform, what's the point?

I think Graham has the right of this argument, both in terms of the bill that should move and the assumptions that underpinned his work with Kerry and Lieberman. But it's not clear that Graham can deliver, and his willingness to run from this bill does not inspire confidence. So Graham may have a legitimate grievance, but Reid may still be correct in his estimation of the politics. To put it another way, Graham's right that we should live in his world, but Reid's right that we don't.

Photo credit: By Harry Hamburg/Associated Press

By Ezra Klein  |  April 26, 2010; 12:07 PM ET
 
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Comments

Conclusion: Harry Reid is a cynic who will happily sacrifice our only chance at Climate Change legislation for short term political gain. Very Inspiring.

Posted by: kisfiu | April 26, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

A profile in courage Senator Reid is not. I doubt our grandchildren will look back on this move in a couple of decades and be impressed that Harry Reid put off climate change legislation for another year (most likely killing it altogether unless somehow next year's Democratic caucus rediscovers its balls and eliminates filibusters) because immigration reform was more politically beneficially for one election cycle.

Posted by: redwards95 | April 26, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

If Graham truly believes in the importance of climate change legislation, he should not have pulled his support because of the timing of immigration reform. If Senator Graham felt the need to make a battle over the timing of moving a different bill, there were other ways of expressing his dismay, besides abandoning the cause altogether. I can't see Harry Reid as the villain in this scenario.

Posted by: Patrick_M | April 26, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Feeling cynical? You've pointed out that Graham can't deliver on climate change. You've shown that if Reid goes forward with climate change, Graham will knuckle under and betray him.

Your argument is that Reid has a moral obligation to be Charlie Brown and to let Graham be Lucy and to pull the football away.

I don't see it. Reid's role is to pass legislation, to educate the American people, and to help Dems get elected. Keeping Graham happy is not part of the job description.

Posted by: Bloix | April 26, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

you've hit the crux: "But it's not clear that Graham can deliver, and his willingness to run from this bill does not inspire confidence."

Dems aren't unified on this bill, so the only reason the Dems reached out to Graham was the vanishingly small chance that he could bring any GOP votes for cloture. I don't know why Dems entertained this fantasy, but it was in the face of all evidence to the contrary. Graham did do Dems a bit of a favor here, certainly Red State ones who don't want to touch this issue.

Posted by: masterlevitt | April 26, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I admire Sen. Graham immensely, but you're 100% correct: we no longer occupy a world in which bipartisanship is a worthwhile goal. He took a huge gamble in sticking his neck out, and to see the Democrats betray the enormous level of confidence he's instilled in them is disheartening; but, it's just another day on the job in today's political atmosphere. Being realistic, one must consider where the Democrats are headed this November, and to date things for the Dems look grim. Moving now on climate change is sure to draw the full ire of Conservatism. Sen. Graham's sole support on this issue makes this patently obvious. For the Dems to ditch the sudden spark that the recent law in Arizona has ignited would be about as politically suicidal as moving on Health Care last year while the country was still crawling away from the Great Recession with 9-10% unemployment. Raising the temperature of the debate on immigration and moving forcefully ahead on FinReg may very well give the Dems the mojo they need to put the Republicans on the defensive and thereby cut some losses the Dems are sure to experience in November. To that end, I think Sen. Reid is making a very shrewd move; and I do not think it's fair to bash him for it. He's navagating the waters that Sen. McConnell and the Republicans have sullied with their policy of pure obstructionism. With all this in mind, we may applaud Sen. Graham for his efforts, but he gambled and appears to have lost. Big. I feel in the days to come we will see Sen. Graham swing quick and hard to the right, declare the "well is poisoned," and do whatever he can to repair his image.

Posted by: groucho_smith | April 26, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Neither climate change nor immigration reform will pass both houses before the November elections. The GOP Senators will not allow it to happen - its so easy to say to themselves "we'll get a better deal" (or no deal at all if that's what they want) in the next Congress.

Half of the GOP (or more) won't sign up for either program because of their rightwing base being against both. The others are just going along with McConnell's 'wisdom' that saying no to everything is the key to victory in 2010 and 2012.

Given that neither bill can pass, choosing immigration is the best choice for the Dems, since it drives Hispanics deeper into the Dem. fold and makes the GOP the 'white' party where racial politics makes a difference.

Climate change is a national challenge but it can't be dealt with in a polarized Congress (except with a major set of give-aways and compromises that make it not worth doing). The next generation won't have a choice, they will just have to pay for the consequences whatever they are, because postponement makes the fiscal and social cost just too high to bear.

Empires rise and fall. The falling is never pretty, and often dangerous. The US empire is pretty close to an end, and maybe that's not so bad since the continuation of US empire thinking will be even worse for the world.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | April 26, 2010 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully Dirty Harry has been starting to clear out his office. Only about 190 days before he is run out of office in November.

Unfortunately we cannot run out the rino Lindsey Graham until he runs again in 2012, but we can get rid of Odumbo at the same time. A twofer.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | April 26, 2010 2:44 PM | Report abuse

JimPortlandOR: Move to Cuba dude. Is there a point to your rant? Let's see we need cap and tax why? Climategate has shown that the carbon hoax for what it is. It is dead in Europe, only the liberal rag press here is not covering the obituary.

If the Democrats try to ram immigration reform down the throat of the Nation they will pay more dearly in November.

Posted by: Bubbette1 | April 26, 2010 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Those criticizing Reid for this move appear to think that he should go on a suicide mission to push climate change legislation that isn't going to pass just to give the morally righteous something to crow about. Politics isn't about allowing you to feel morally righteous in defeat. It's about delivering.

Now, unfortunately, the Bangledeshis, the Tuvaluans, the Naurans, and the polar bears are screwed because we can't move on climate change legislation, but the Republicans, not Harry Reid, are to blame for that. And why? Because somewhere around the mid 1990s, they decided they hated Al Gore.

The other problem is that the "get Lindsay Graham's vote" was doomed from the start. When you actively court and praise and allow a senator to bask in the limelight of how important he is, he's just going to start demanding more and more, acting as a prima donna who won't perform unless every last need and demand is met. And then that just provides an additional incentive or other senators to break ranks until *their* demands are met.

Posted by: constans | April 26, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Mr Klein seems to have a forest VS the trees mindset here.

Instead of looking at these topics as political moves, why not consider the underlying issues they are designed to confront?

Climate change is now widely viewed as a hoax on a level that would make Bernie Madoff envious. It won't work because the American people know its a hoax. Al Gore is a hypocritical wastrel. It just won't work.

Banking regulation may indeed by necessary. But why now? And why with a guy like Chris Dodd. His reputation is so tarnished, this just looks like crony capitalism. And it is.

"immigration reform" has been simplified by many Americans into "gain control of the border" and "make it harder for illegals to stay here" Neither of those requires anything new. We must simply enforce the laws we have. This makes the legislation just a circus for the ignorant.

I suppose that if you're paid to look at politics all day, everything looks like politics. As the saying goes "If all you've got is a hammer sooner or later everything starts to look like a nail."

Or is it that Mr Klein just doesn't trust the American electorate to get these things right?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | April 26, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

Are there really any climate change proposals more substantive than taking money from Exxon and distributing it to favored constituencies? Anything to do with coal other than "research"? Cow burps? Land use changes?

Posted by: tl_houston | April 26, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

Sen. Graham was looking for an excuse to get out of commitments on the energy bill, but what a lame excuse. I used to play a lot of basketball and if we did not have the best team we stalled and stalled and stalled and about 10% of the time the best team lost.

Posted by: koppenhofer | April 26, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

In other words, Ezra, there are consequences to the minority party if they constantly say NO. They loose any right to help set the legislative agenda.

The party of "personal responsibility" should be able to grasp that.

Posted by: RalfW | April 26, 2010 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Despite the near unanimity on the science, there are still so many climate skeptics and outright deniers that no meaningful climate bill could pass this year. We need, unfortunately, more evidence in the form of a couple of really hot summers in the Northern as opposed to the Southern Hemisphere (we've already had the latter--just ask the Australians), a few more bad hurricanes and more flooding, increased melting of the Antarctic ice sheets that causes demonstrable rising of tidal surges, and then maybe we can get something done, if it's not too late.

There are many businesses that actually do want to see reasonable regulations because their own scientists tell them they will face difficulties (utilities, insurers, agriculture etc) and because they don't want to see the companies with the worst practices continue to have a competitive advantage. And there's the Pentagon, which foresees serious probelms and is already moving ahead on alternative power. But none of this stops the people who "know" it's a hoax despite the contrary evidence or just fundamentally don't care because they have theirs.

Posted by: Mimikatz | April 26, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

The best way to get a truly strong climate change bill, and to do the most good on this, is to go at it indirectly: First abolish the filibuster, then enact extremely strong,generous, and widespread public campaign finance, as well as the strongest impediments and weakenings on corporate campaign spending you can get by the five right wing Supreme Court Justices.

If we can do this, then we will be able to enact a far far stronger anti global warming bill, as well as so many other greatly positive things.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | April 26, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

No, I don't much like him when he's canny.

What kind of leadership is this? How is anyone who is a climate skeptic going to be convinced that action is required if the Democrats decided it wasn't as important as getting Republicans into a tough issue heading into the 2010 elections?

Climate legislation will hurt the Democrats either way - if passed, Republicans will attack it, and if not passed, Republicans will attack Democrats for wanting to pass it (and of course, they will pass it '11 if they win etc. etc.)

Posted by: justin84 | April 26, 2010 4:40 PM | Report abuse

*Climate legislation will hurt the Democrats either way - if passed, Republicans will attack it, and if not passed, Republicans will attack Democrats for wanting to pass it*

You are right, but the problem is that climate change regulation *can't pass*, regardless of circumstances. Do you really think that Lindsay Graham would be making a big push to get climate change legislation through if only Democrats would abandon immigration reform until later? You have to be joking. Graham (along with some "moderate" Democrat or two) would pull support for some other reason.

Posted by: constans | April 26, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

If you think "Climategate" has proven climate change a "hoax", you are a fool. I'm willing to have constructive debates with good faith debaters, but such a position shows either high levels of ignorance, bad faith, or both.

To the people criticizing Reid. You say that this is our best chance to get climate legislation passed, but that chance is exactly zero. So yes, it's our best chance and there's no chance that it will (or would have) been passed this year. That might tell you that our system is broken, that there's a huge amount of ignorance/bad faith on the opposing side, or that we're headed to a climate disaster, but it doesn't say anything bad about Harry Reid. His job isn't to fight noble fights, or to pass the days until the session ends. His job is to pass legislation, or, if that's not possible, to present issues in such a way that the opposing party loses political points. They passed healthcare, they're still probably going to end up passing FinReg. They were never going to pass either climate legislation or immigration reform unless several Republicans were willing to come across the isle and commit to voting for the final legislation. Republicans have decided that having one or two Senators craft legislation and then back out at the last second is a strategy to win elections, so that's what they're going to do.

In that world, the world we live in, putting immigration on the docket is the right move. It doesn't make the world a better place, but that wasn't going to happen anyway. At least now there's a political up side.

Posted by: MosBen | April 26, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Remember to throw out Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) who is a Pro-Amnesty, pro-illegal immigrant whose population is feeding off your tax dollars. Also remember that illegal aliens once they broke the law by entering America makes them--criminals. Therefore they will not even think twice about voting in the midterm or November elections even though its a federal offense
NumbersUSA is your organization to stop this travesty of our immigration laws. Join in and fight back against the lies spread by Liberals and the Liberal effected newspapers.

Posted by: infinity555 | April 26, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

"You are right, but the problem is that climate change regulation *can't pass*, regardless of circumstances. Do you really think that Lindsay Graham would be making a big push to get climate change legislation through if only Democrats would abandon immigration reform until later? You have to be joking. Graham (along with some "moderate" Democrat or two) would pull support for some other reason."

So with the best chance of getting something done on climate that we're likely to have in the next 10 years, we should punt to score political points because Graham might pull support? I'll admit the odds are certainly better than even that he would have pulled away in any case, but I'd rather give it a try.

Another way to read this is that Graham was doing what he thought was right, was taking incredible pain from his own side over the issue and when he got screwed he said 'no mas'.

Outside of that, assuming that Graham was negotiating in bad faith, I think this just created the perfect Republican soundbite - "Even the Democrats believe Climate Change is a hoax - if they really believed in it, why would they have bailed on it the only time it could reasonably pass, just to throw the one Republican senator on board under the bus?"

It's very clear now that Democrats value climate change legislation < Democrats value of scoring political points against one guy. After all, when Democrats value something highly (healthcare reform), they fight for it hard for more than a year. They didn't bail on the project mid-way to embarrass Olympia Snowe.

Posted by: justin84 | April 26, 2010 6:30 PM | Report abuse

This is hilarious:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fAlMomLvu_4

Posted by: Bubbette1 | April 26, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

"Another way to read this is that Graham was doing what he thought was right, was taking incredible pain from his own side over the issue and when he got screwed he said 'no mas'."

Graham said "no mas" to Planet Earth merely because he was unhappy that one bill might proceed before another. A man of real depth, that one.

Earth to Lindsey Graham: when you come from the opposition side to work on an issue about which you ostensibly care deeply, you do so with the understanding that you don't control procedural decisions made by the majority.

"After all, when Democrats value something highly (healthcare reform), they fight for it hard for more than a year. They didn't bail on the project mid-way to embarrass Olympia Snowe."

The Dems have not "bailed," they came to Washington with a full plate of high priorities, and the climate bill could still launch in the Senate this year. Don't forget that immigration reform was a front and center issue during the Bush years and never got done, so immigration has been awaiting action for a long time as well. And don't forget that new EPA regulation may have an important impact on carbon, so we can thank the Democrats and the Obama administration for progress in that area already underway.

And let's be fair, the process on the Senate climate bill is not anywhere near "mid-way" ... Kerry was going to unveil the Senate bill today, and would have done so if Senator Graham had not decided to throw his tantrum. This is not the end of the Democratic efforts on climate change, it is just a bump in the road.

Posted by: Patrick_M | April 26, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

*So with the best chance of getting something done on climate that we're likely to have in the next 10 years*

The chances are 0, and Graham was always going to bail as long as he knew he could blackmail the entire Senate. He's either going to go along with it or he's not, and giving that he's not, there's no point in going through a bunch of pointless theatrics: the polar bears are going to die because Graham can't go along with the bill. That's really just the way it goes here. Once Graham realizes he can blackmail the Senate, Nelson, Lieberman, Lincoln, and the rest will do the same. But some people are angry because Reid refuses to tilt at windmills. Politics isn't about doing stupid things to make yourself feel better.

The next senate session, the best bet is to take care of these things simply by doing away with the filibuster. That way we take it out of Graham's hands.

Posted by: constans | April 26, 2010 8:11 PM | Report abuse

"But some people are angry because Reid refuses to tilt at windmills. Politics isn't about doing stupid things to make yourself feel better.

The next senate session, the best bet is to take care of these things simply by doing away with the filibuster."

Completely agree with both thoughts.

And I think this little Graham soap opera is a near non-story. Health care was pronounced dead more times than I can count in the past year, and yet today it is the law of the land. I have a hunch we'll see this legislation re-surface sooner than most expect.

Posted by: Patrick_M | April 27, 2010 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Constans,

What was the cost of giving it a try? The odds were not zero - people were saying that about healthcare reform all the time, especially post Scott Brown's election. Why is it stupid to spend 4-6 weeks on it? The Democrats can still embarrass the Republicans about immigration before the elections anyway.

The probablility of getting it done during the next Congress is lower, because the Democrats have a decent chance of losing the house, and for all we know there will be a Republican president from 2012-2016/2020.

Posted by: justin84 | April 27, 2010 8:53 AM | Report abuse

Ezra, Reid is smart: Not a single Republican who has indicated initial support for, co-authored or co-sponsored a single piece of legislation since President Obama was elected has supported supported the final deal -- well, we did have Snowe and Collins for a flash in the pan. But since the "stem-our-losses" bill, not one Republican has upheld his or her "signaling" that they support anything. Not one. So why should Reid believe Graham?

He shouldn't.

If Graham wants to prove his seriousness about climate change, he should press and vote for his immigration bill (Graham-Schumer or Schumer-Graham).

He needs to put his vote where his mouth is. Let his vote do his talking.

Posted by: jade_7243 | April 27, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

The person who wrote this is kidding himself:
"If you think "Climategate" has proven climate change a "hoax", you are a fool. I'm willing to have constructive debates with good faith debaters, but such a position shows either high levels of ignorance, bad faith, or both."

In other words the author of the above is willing to engage in name calling as the opening move in "constructive debates"? Yeah, right.

Why not wait at least a paragraph or so before proving your own bad faith?

Posted by: skipsailing28 | April 27, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

"Why not wait at least a paragraph or so before proving your own bad faith?"

Probably because MosBen did not want this thread to be turned into a debate with the Flat Earth Society.

However, if you really are so misinformed that you continue to insist that "Climategate" has "proven" climate change to be a "hoax," here is more than one paragragh of information for you, although I realize that actual facts are unlikely to be important in the formation of your anti-scientific opinions:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/technology/climategate-scientists-vindicated-in-investigation/article1519115/

Posted by: Patrick_M | April 27, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

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