At that point, the students began to laugh. Seemingly emboldened, Reid blurted, “I think President Bush is doing a bad job. He’s driving this country into bankruptcy. He’s got us in this intractable war in Iraq where we now have about 1,600 American soldiers dead and another 15,000 injured.”
Almost immediately after the meeting, Reid staffers informed him that he had made a tactical error.
“The problem is, Reid and guys like Dodd, Kennedy, Biden and others have been talking like this forever. They say even worse in private meetings,” says a Senate Democratic leadership staffer. “I think it is becoming so familiar that it is bleeding out into their public discourse. In this situation, I don’t think the leader was even aware that he said it.”
To be sure, the harrumphing about Bush has been going on for quite a while. But some Republicans aren’t so sure it isn’t intentional. “I’ve heard that they are looking to try to diminish the President as much as possible,” says a senior Republican Senate official, of his Democratic counterparts. “They meet in caucus and rail against him, his intelligence, his political instincts. I think they believe if they insult him enough, reduce him to caricature, then the media will play along and it will affect the public perception.”
According to another Democratic leadership staffer, Reid’s comments were in line with remarks other Democrats have uttered before young people. “We have talked about these kinds of settings,” says the aide. “These young people are more likely to buy into the MoveOn.org ideology. They are more likely to go to left-leaning websites. They certainly turn to The Daily Show for information. These are the people who will be voting for us next time around, and we need to line our views up with theirs so they mesh for the long-term. That Reid said that stuff just confirmed in their own minds that the Democrats think like they do, which is a good thing.”p> BOLTON INTERCEPTS br> Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Richard Lugar
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