Edit ModuleShow Tags

Jack Reed – The Good Soldier

In the rancorous mosh pit that’s Washington politics, why would a liberal, unflashy workhorse like Jack Reed — the only member of Rhode Island’s delegation not in this year’s election crosshairs — want to stick it out in the Senate?

Pretend you’re a professional political consultant, flipping through resumes of potential candidate-clients. There’s the vociferous ideologue, the one who rallies the base by promising never to compromise with the other side. There’s the rich businesswoman, who can give her campaign a solid financial head-start and tap wealthy friends for contributions. Then you look at another contender, a quiet, middle-aged son of a school custodian, with no real personal wealth. He went to West Point and then served in active duty and the reserves, the resume reads. He went to Harvard’s prestigious Kennedy School of Government and Harvard Law School, working in private practice back in his home state. He ran for the state legislature and won, going on to serve in the United States House of Representatives. He built a legislative record and waited his turn to try for the Senate, running when his state’s longtime senator, Claiborne Pell, opted to retire.

This is Jack Reed, Rhode Island’s senior senator, lauded by Democrats and veteran Republicans alike as one of the most unsung members of the chamber. He has, they say, the ideal skill set for successful legislating in Washington and effective representation of his constituents back home: working-class roots, an Ivy League education and a military career that gives him a disciplined demeanor and political street cred with Republicans. But the Senate he toiled to join barely exists anymore, and Reed — one of the last of a breed of old-school workhorses of the Senate — is struggling to do serious work in an environment where compromise is viewed as capitulation, and vitriol trumps reason. 

The frustration isn’t always clear in Reed’s permanent poker face; he doesn’t raise his voice and isn’t one of the lawmakers in both parties who fight legislative battles on cable TV and in news conferences.
He’s not one of those who compare people in the other party to notorious dictators. He convinced Bush-era Defense Secretary Robert Gates to stay on under President Obama — even though, Gates says, he was very ready to leave the job. 
In an environment that has gotten increasingly nasty, Reed doesn’t get personal with his colleagues. But the underlying frustration is evident as Reed presses ahead on such issues that at one time might have been no-brainers: campaign finance disclosure, honoring the nation’s debt obligation, providing help to the long-term unemployed and figuring out the complicated — but potentially wide-reaching — implications of the banks’ alleged manipulation of the Libor, the world’s benchmark interest rate.
“I think there’s been a transformation, in the sense that the newer members coming into the Senate — displacing people on both sides, but particularly on the Republican side — felt there was a very important, vigorous debate about the role of government,” Reed says. “The newer, more ideological members come in with this notion that there’s no real role — maybe national defense” for government, he says. “A whole shift has taken place — it’s more ideology than ideas. More rhetoric than solutions. More speeches rather than legislative action. Basically not cooperation, regardless of the merits” of the legislation.

To read more of this story please visit your nearest newsstand or click the link below.



Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags


Gift Subscriptions

Gifting the best of Rhode Island all year long just got better - only $17.97 for a combo print/digital subscription.

Engaged 2016

Read the 2016 edition of Engaged!

Home Design 2016

Read the 2016 edition of Home Design featuring kitchen updates, inspired décor and tips from the pros.

Faces 2015

Get to know some of the Faces of Rhode Island.


Sign up for our e-newsletters to keep up with the latest events, dining and more.

The 401

Sign up for our weekly newsletter and you'll be in the know with the five best events of the week as well as additional local food, shopping, home and design news.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Popular Articles

25 Places to Party on New Year's Eve

Ring in the New Year at one of these NYE local events, parties and dinners from Providence to Newport to Westerly and everywhere in between.

Q-and-A: Kiel James Patrick

The Kiel James Patrick jewelry, clothing and accessories brand evolved from humble beginnings to international success.

Rhode Islanders of the Year

These people helped make the world a better place this year.

24 Local Options for Thanksgiving Dinner and Desserts

Whether it's a sit-down feast or takeout turkey and side dishes, we've rounded up some places that are accepting reservations. Plus, where to place your to-go dessert orders!

28 Best Seafood Restaurants in Rhode Island

Edit ModuleShow Tags