A leader who won’t lead

A LEADER WHO WON’T LEAD…. Hilzoy mentioned this overnight, but the more I think about it, the more I bang my head against my desk.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), responding to questions about the Senate’s reluctance to fund the shutdown of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, told reporters yesterday, “We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States…. We don’t want them around the United States.” It led to this painful exchange.

REID: I’m saying that the United States Senate, Democrats and Republicans, do not want terrorists to be released in the United States. That’s very clear.

QUESTION: No one’s talking about releasing them. We’re talking about putting them in prison somewhere in the United States.

REID: Can’t put them in prison unless you release them.

QUESTION: Sir, are you going to clarify that a little bit? …

REID: I can’t make it any more clear than the statement I have given to you. We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States.

“Can’t put them in prison unless you release them”? What does that even mean? Isn’t locking someone up the opposite of releasing them?

At this point, the only difference between Reid’s ridiculous remarks and those of Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is that Reid is smart enough to know and acknowledge reality. Otherwise, the arguments are identical. In this sense, the Majority Leader’s nonsense is considerably worse, and far more insulting.

To be sure, there was a reasonable argument for Senate skeptics to make here. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the administration should have requested the money with a more specific plan for transferring Gitmo detainees. “The feeling was at this point we were defending the unknown. We were being asked to defend a plan that hasn’t been announced,” Durbin said. “And the administration said, ‘Understood. Give us time to put together that plan and we’ll come to you in the next appropriations bill.'” Indeed, Robert Gibbs said yesterday that the lawmakers’ move was not unreasonable.

But what Reid said — repeating transparently wrong right-wing talking points — was far different. That he repeated this nonsense the same day as a poll showed him struggling with voters in his home state is probably not a coincidence.

This isn’t complicated. Reid is the leader of a Senate in which the minority party only has 40 votes. And yet, Reid isn’t leading very well.

President Obama has asked Reid and his colleagues to shoulder a heavy burden, and work with the White House on some pretty monumental tasks. Is Reid ready to step up or not?