It's safe to assume that the mood at the White House dinner table last night was a bit more tense than usual. A few hours before dining with President Bush and a handful of others, Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) took the Senate floor to rebuke the president and his political party for a 13-page mass-mail attack on Reid, authored by the Republican National Committee.
"Is this how he wants to be a uniter?" Reid asked in his speech. The RNC, he said, "is his committee," so how can Bush call for bipartisanship one minute and then "send out scurrilous letters saying that I'm a bad guy? In great detail. I mean, is President George Bush a man of his word? . . . Mr. President, I call upon you to repudiate this document, to tell the Republican National Committee, 'Don't mail it.' "
The RNC document, first reported by Roll Call, is headlined "Reid All About It," and contains a list of complaints about Reid's voting record and statements about judges, Social Security, taxes and other topics. It says Reid is "out of touch with mainstream America," has an "extreme environmental record" and is a "Scrooge in senator's clothing." The language echoes GOP attacks on Reid's predecessor, Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.), who lost a bitter race last fall to John Thune (R).
RNC spokesman Brian Jones said his committee is sending the newsletter to about a million activists, journalists and others. "Harry Reid's record speaks for itself," he said in an interview. White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said: "The president has been reaching out to Republicans and Democrats alike, and he looks forward to continuing to do so."
As part of that outreach, the president and first lady earlier had invited Reid and Sens. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) and their wives to dinner.
Roemer Drops Bid
When the Democratic National Committee meets Saturday to select a new party chairman, it should be Howard Dean by acclimation.
The former Vermont governor lost his last remaining opponent yesterday when former representative Timothy Roemer (Ind.) announced he was bowing out -- while not backing away from his assertions that Democrats must be more inclusive on social issues and more robust on national security.
"I will continue to make this fight inside and outside my party over the next several years," Roemer said.
Pushed into the competition in part by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), Roemer ran into resistance from abortion rights advocates because of his opposition to abortion. Roemer said his message won praise as he traveled the country the past month, but he never gained significant support inside the DNC.
Roemer declined to endorse Dean but said, "I wish Governor Dean well in taking on the issues of winning elections, making our party more inclusive and uniting our party."
Staff writer Dan Balz contributed to this report.