Republicans May Be Cynical, But Democrats Need Better Answers

| Thu Oct. 3, 2013 2:54 PM EDT

As you know, the latest Republican ploy on the budget is to pass mini-CRs that fund a tiny handful of high-visibility programs: national parks, cancer treatment for kids, and keeping Washington DC running. This is all breathtakingly cynical, based on the idea that maybe the public won't get too mad about what Republicans are doing as long as all the damage from the budget impasse is behind the scenes.

Still, the optics of the Republican ploy are pretty obvious, and it's a little unnerving that Harry Reid could have been so unprepared to respond:

CNN's Dana Bash asked Senate Democratic leaders if they'd back the new piecemeal bill.

"What right do they have to pick and choose what parts of government can be funded?" asked Reid.

"But if you can help one child with cancer, why wouldn't you?" asked Bash.

...."Why would we want to do that?" asked Reid, keying off Bash. "I have 1100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home." He concluded by asking why someone of Bash's "intelligence" would ask something so silly. The video below reveals the gobsmacked faces of reporters.

Ugh. It's irksome that reporters like Bash are so eager to play gotcha with obvious Republican talking points, but them's the breaks. That stuff happens. Democrats need to have better answers, and they need to explain just why the Republican CRs are such contemptuous exercises in trying to gull the American public.

UPDATE: Commenters are upset about my interpretation here. There are two parts to this.

First, just as Reid started to say "Why would we want to do that?" Chuck Schumer interjected "Why pit one against the other?" A lot of you think Reid was keying off Schumer's statement, not Bash's question. That's possible, though the video isn't clear about this, and it's not how I initially read it.

But here's the second part: that's not what I meant to criticize anyway. Honestly, I just took it for granted that Reid wasn't literally saying "why would we want to help kids with cancer?" That's Sean Hannity crap. I was objecting to his comment about Nellis Air Force base. He sounds as though he's comparing some furloughed civilian workers in his home state with kids who have cancer. Fair or not, that's going to sound bad.

Reid also needs to learn to stay on message. He began his statement with a decent enough response to the CRs, but before he finished he wandered off into an aside about Republicans being obsessed with Obamacare. That may be true, but it was completely nonresponsive and stepped all over the point he needed to make.