This is the ad that torpedoes Dave Reichert. It features Reichert, in his own words, explaining how his handful of supposedly “independent” votes against the leadership, actually came at the behest of the leadership.
And so, when the leadership comes to me and says ‘Dave, we need you to take a vote over here because we want to protect you and keep this majority, I… I do it.
So… um, I guess… that must be what the Seattle Times means when they say Reichert has a “conscience-driven independent streak.” Yeah, that Denny Hastert… he’s a regular Jiminy Cricket.
Over on Postman’s blog, Reichert spokesperson Kimberly Cadena foolishly goes on the attack, accusing Democrats of distorting the congressman’s words:
“It’s shameless that Darcy and the DCCC has taken a portion of Congressman Reichert’s explanation of his stands against leadership out of context.”
Well let’s put Reichert’s words in context, okay? I’ve posted a full transcript of his entire speech that day, and here for your convenience is an extended excerpt in which he tries to explain “the big picture,” and how to play the Washington “game.” I know it’s a bit rambling and incoherent, but try to follow along.
I’ll tell you that back in Washington there are lots of games played and I just want to give you, we talk about freedom and we talk about America and we talk about the dream. The dream has to include everybody and there has to be compromise and we can’t have, I’ve been to district meetings in my district where people have said, “why in the world should I vote for you. It’s just like voting for a democrat for crying out loud.” I am going to vote libertarian and I said, “you know what sir, that would be a huge mistake and here’s why.” I’ve tried to explain to this person how things work a little bit back in Washington D.C. and why certain votes have to be taken. Sometimes the leadership comes to me and says “Dave we want you to vote a certain way” and they know I can do that over here. Another district isn’t a problem but over here I have to be very flexible of where I placed my votes. The big picture here is to keep the seat, keep the majority, and keep the country moving forward with republican ideals. Especially on the budget and protecting our troops who’re protecting this country and how that will be responsible with taxpayer dollars. That’s the big picture. Not the vote I place on ANWAR that you may not agree with or the vote that I placed on protecting salmon. You have to be flexible. So when the leadership comes to me and says , Dave you have to vote over here because we want to protect you and keep this majority, I do it. There are sometimes when I say no I won’t. There are sometimes when things come to the floor like Schiavo. I was one of five republicans that voted with the Democrats on Schiavo because that was the right thing to do.
How’s that for context? Not enough? Well view it for yourself.
Let’s just forget for a moment the Gary Ridgeway crack, in which Reichert trivializes the victims (they were only whores, after all) by jokingly comparing Democrats to a serial killer.
For the “big picture” is that Reichert serves a swing district, and in order to protect his seat and their majority, the leadership sometimes instructs him to vote against them. The Schiavo vote, well that’s the exception that proves the rule. That is the context of the excerpt used in the DCCC ad, and that’s entirely how it was understood by his fellow Republicans in the audience. How can I be so sure? That’s what his fellow Republicans have told me.
Back in early June when I first reported on this speech I recounted the incredulous reaction of a prominent GOP elected official who told me “Of course we understand that strategy… but you don’t come right out and say it in public!” And by coincidence we talked about this incident on Podcasting Liberally this week with state Rep. Toby Nixon (R-45), who was also in the audience that day:
“It was shocking,” Nixon said. As he later clarified in the comment thread:
To be clear, by saying “it was shocking” I was expressing the surprise I felt at the time that Rep. Reichert was so open and frank about being approached in this manner, not at the fact that it happened. It is, in fact, quite common for majority party leadership to go to freshman members of their party and provide such guidance, in order to provide cover for those freshmen in their first re-election campaign when they are most vulnerable to challenge. It happens quite frequently in the Washington State House of Representatives, too.
And how cynical is this strategy? Again, Reichert’s own words:
“I know the leadership is already planning to protect me, right. They will develop a bill that increases money for education that I can vote on and say I do support teachers.”
Reichert’s “conscience-driven independence” was a carefully constructed myth, which Reichert himself frankly (and stupidly) debunked before a TV camera. Reichert understood exactly what he was saying. His audience understood exactly what he was saying. One can only assume that even the disenchanted Republican voter that served as a springboard for Reichert’s rambling anecdote understood exactly what Reichert was saying.
The only people who pretend not to understand the context of this quote is Reichert’s spokesperson… and the Seattle Times editorial board.