In regards to John Mulligan’s piece in Sunday’s Providence Journal (12/18/05), Senator Jack Reed (RI-D) is looking more and more like VP material. Let’s assume the 2008 race looks something like this:
The GOP race is being led by McCain and followed by the likes of Giuliani, Pataki, Romney, Frist, Gingrich, Brownback, Allen and maybe Rice. McCain is the favorite considering 1) his strong showing in 2000; 2) his quick exit in 2000 won him the thanks of GOP insiders; and 3) his strong military/international background is a key in an age of terrorism and the war in Iraq. [Incidentally, I would initially set Romney as the favored GOP VP nominee; his age, region and gubernatorial background would be the perfect balance to McCain’s background.]
The Democrats are being led by Hilary Clinton and followed by the likes of Kerry, Edwards, Warner, Bayh, Biden, Richardson, Boxer, Feingold, and maybe Obama. While Clinton is the favorite in a primary race, she would make a Mondale-like candidate in the general election because of her strong polarizing numbers. If she or Kerry wins the Democratic primary, Reed is out. [Obama would then become the leading VP candidate.]
On the other hand, were Edwards or Bayh to succeed, then Rhode Island’s own would be at the top of any VP short list. His military and Washington experience would off-set the Edwards (a one term senator) and Warner experience. His New England roots would be a regional off-set to Bayh and Edwards as well. [Were Romney, Pataki, or Giuliani to win the GOP primary, then Reed’s regional strength may be an even greater asset.]
RI was close to providing a VP in 1964 when Lyndon Johnson strongly considered Senator John Pastore. Is 2008, RI’s year for the big ticket?
Why Washington gives Jack Reed so much respect
“Jack sees things in Iraq that a lot of us don’t get to see,” said Sen. John McCain.
01:00 AM EST on Sunday, December 18, 2005
BY JOHN E. MULLIGAN
Journal Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Off a palm-lined atrium at Camp Fallujah last March, Sen. Jack Reed took the head of a long briefing table beside Gen. John P. Abizaid, his West Point contemporary who is commander of U.S. forces across the Middle East.
Near the foot of the table, a young State Department officer in desert camouflage spoke with feeling about the recent national vote for an interim government, clamorous neighborhood meetings and a promising hint of democracy rising from the rubble.
But if that promise was to be exploited, Reed remarked later that day, why was this young man the only U.S. Foreign Service officer assigned to nurture politics in the city?
Reed has invoked the image of the lone American diplomat in Fallujah more than once in recent weeks — along with other first-hand lessons from Iraq — as Senate Democratic leaders have thrust him to center stage to answer President Bush’s speeches on the war.
Top Democrats and a few Republicans credit Reed with a role in helping Congress to prod the Bush administration to own up to mistakes and explain its war policy in a recent string of speeches that he made in the advent of last week’s crucial elections in Iraq.
“Jack travels to Iraq, he has friends in Iraq, and because of his many connections, Jack sees things in Iraq that a lot of us don’t get to see,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
One of the things Reed saw and talked about earlier than most of his colleagues is that the war has become a classic insurgency and, as such, is impossible to win by military means alone. The U.S. enterprise rests on a tripod, Reed says, with economic rebuilding and political stability just as necessary as military success.
A similar thought is enshrined in bold letters on the wall of the Marine’s briefing room in Camp Fallujah. “Do not try to do too much with your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not win it for them.” Those words are from T.E. Lawrence, the early 20th-century British colonial strategist, better known to moderns as Lawrence of Arabia.
As one of a handful of members of Congress whose first career was in the military, Reed has become highly valued to antiwar Democrats who understand their vulnerability to the charge of being soft on national security. His comparatively temperate line of criticism of the Bush administration is similarly helpful.
“Jack gives the other side credibility that they otherwise would not have,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a pro-war Texas Republican who sits with Reed on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
What Reed brings to his party’s side of the war debate is simple, said House Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada: “West Point. 82nd Airborne,” and the seriousness and the lifelong connections that go with such credentials.
When Reed traveled in Abizaid’s entourage last spring, he visited Fallujah, the city of Mosul in the north and other hot spots and sat in on hours of detailed briefings assembled for the man who commands U.S. forces from the Horn of Africa to Afghanistan.
Reed and Abizaid have known each other since they were young lieutenants together at Fort Bragg, N.C., in the early 1970s. Reed went on to become a company commander in the 82nd Airborne Division, and taught at West Point for about two years.
UNLIKE MANY contemporaries, however, he did not serve in Vietnam. Reed choose to become a lawyer, he has said, after it become clear that he was unlikely to rise to the top ranks of the Army.
The Democratic leader said he believes that because of Reed’s personal connections and his discretion, members of the military rely on him to alert Congress and the public to problems that are difficult for career officers to talk about publicly.
“He was the first one who came to me about the lack of armor for the equipment,” Reid said, referring to the Rhode Island senator’s report, shortly after the 2003 invasion, that U.S. military vehicles and troops were too vulnerable to the principal weapon of the nascent insurgency — roadside bombs.
Despite his vote against the war resolution that Congress passed in 2002, Reed generally avoided antiwar commentary in the months before the war. For much of the war, his criticism of the administration, though specific in its detail has been milder in its tone than that of many Democrats who opposed the invasion — with one major exception — the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal.
But since last winter’s initial Iraqi elections, Reed has increasingly sounded warnings that the pace of political and economic rebuilding in Iraq has lagged badly behind the U.S. military commitment.
OVER THE PAST few months, Reid and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, have called upon Reed to hold a news conference to represent a Democratic point of view on the war.
Reed has delivered or has assisted in delivering the semiofficial Senate Democratic responses to each of Mr. Bush’s four speeches, in which the Democrats have always avoided talk of specific deadlines for troop withdrawals.
Reed also played a behind-the-scenes role in writing a Democratic resolution late last month that would have put the Senate on record as urging Mr. Bush, under certain conditions, to redeploy U.S. troops in Iraq.
“Jack’s not a cut-and-run guy,” said Cornyn. “But that was a cut-and-run resolution.”
The measure failed but put — along with growing public unease about the war — enough pressure on Senate Republicans that they offered a much less specific version of the measure that said 2006 should be “a year of significant transition” to Iraqi self-sufficiency.
Leader Reid said Reed of Rhode Island represents the party consensus — an assertion that some commentators call wishful thinking, in light of the calls by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and others for complete withdrawal of U.S. troops within six months. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has pointedly compared the war in Iraq to the Vietnam War and questioned the idea that the U.S. can win.
Democrats who think Reed “is not combative enough” should look at the turn the debate has taken in recent weeks and and credit the Rhode Islander with an assist, said Democratic leader Reid.
Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, one of Reed’s closest friends in the Senate and one of the Republicans most critical of the conduct of the war, said Reed “is one of he most important congressional voices on national security” and has helped to craft a middle-of-the-road approach for Democrats.
Like Hagel, Reed has said he expects significant U.S. troop withdrawals over the coming year but flatly opposes complete withdrawal. An American presence may be needed for years, Reed has said repeatedly.
THOMAS DONNELLY, a military analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, called Reed “a solid guy” who could damage support for a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq if he joins other Democrats in pushing harder for U.S. troop withdrawals.
Donnelly criticized Reed and Levin for calling on Mr. Bush to demand that the new government in Iraq change the country’s new constitution in order to integrate Sunni Muslims more fully into the government. “It would be a huge mistake for Bush to get out front and dictate or seem to dictate policy to this free and independent government that we’re supposed to be celebrating.”
Reed has welcomed Mr. Bush’s recent efforts to lay out his war policy but has also used them as an occasion for finding fault. A recurrent theme has been what Reed portrays as Mr. Bush’s failure to be specific enough about the cost and duration of the American commitment that will be necessary to prevail in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Reed and his colleagues carefully avoid any such prescriptions. “He’s the commander-in-chief,” Reed explained recently.
Harry Reid said the public “is going to see more and more” of Jack Reed as a Democratic spokesman on Iraq. “I’m going to do everything I can to put him front and center.”