Reichert bitten by sound bite
Dave Reichert says he sometimes votes the way Republican leaders tell him to. And he sometimes tells them no. The comments came in a brief...
Seattle Times chief political reporter
Dave Reichert says he sometimes votes the way Republican leaders tell him to. And he sometimes tells them no.
The comments came in a brief speech Congressman Reichert, R-Auburn, gave to the Mainstream Republicans in May. A snippet of his talk — "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 do it." — is featured in a TV ad that Democrats use to paint him as a Republican puppet. The Reichert campaign has complained, saying the quote is taken out of context.
I've watched the speech several times over the past few days. Here's my annotated version of a fuller transcript of Reichert's remarks.
"Sometimes the leadership comes to me and says, 'Dave, we want you to vote a certain way.' Now, they know I can do that over here; that I have to do that over here. In other districts, that's not a problem, but here I have to be able to be very flexible in where I place my votes."
When Reichert says he has to vote a certain way, he means that in the 8th Congressional District, with its moderate, independent-minded voters, he has to avoid some partisan votes — and does so with the leadership's blessing. That's not a problem in a safe district like Democratic Congressman Jim McDermott's, where even potentially controversial partisan votes can be taken with no fear of electoral fallout.
Democrats protect members, too. I've seen it numerous times in the state Legislature. But you don't often hear a politician talk about this sort of strategy in public like Reichert did.
"Because the big picture here is, keep this seat, keep the majority, keep the country moving forward with Republican ideals, especially on the budget, on protecting our troops, protecting this country. Right? Being responsible with taxpayer dollars. All of those things. That's the big picture. Not the vote I place on ANWR that you may not agree with, or the vote that I place on protecting salmon."
This sounds like Reichert's centrism is pragmatism, not ideology. At the Mainstream Republican conference you can hear well-credentialed moderates like Dan Evans talk about why they think the way they do. And I haven't heard them say they are moderates in order to keep Republicans in power. I think Reichert was misreading his audience and wasn't thinking about how the comments would sound in a campaign context.
"You have to be flexible. 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 do it. There are some times when I say, 'No, I won't.' There are times they have things come to the floor like Schiavo. I was one of five Republicans who voted with Democrats on Schiavo because it was the right thing to do. Government should not have been involved in that decision. Period."
This is Reichert at his best on his moderate credentials. He voted no, he said, on principle, not strategy.
That's where he should have started, and stopped, in May.
David Postman is The Seattle Times' chief political reporter. His column appears Fridays. Reach him at 360-236-8267 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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