NEWS ARTICLES | December 29, 2008
Impressions of 2008: Eight Rhode Islanders who left a special mark
By John E. Mulligan
The Providence Journal
Link to article
The U.S. Senate is a small town where people size each other up pretty quickly. Long before it was clear that he would be the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama sized up Jack Reed as a source of sound advice on defense and foreign affairs.
Long before it was clear that the obscure field of securitized mortgages would be the scene of an epic financial crash, the denizens of that exotic world sized him up as a lawmaker who could speak their language.
So it was in 2008 that events conspired to make clear in the national arena what Rhode Islanders have known for a long time: Jack Reed knows how lots of things work. Many senators, to be sure, can ply a range of weighty issues. What distinguishes Reed from many colleagues is the detail and subtlety of his views.
No surprise, then, that Obama looked to Reed as a traveling guide when he made a high-profile trip to Iraq and Afghanistan last summer. Reed had opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and he misread the potential of President Bush’s troop surge four years later. But the West Point graduate was among a bare handful of Democrats who almost always deferred to military leadership in their opposition to deadlines for U.S. troop withdrawals — even last summer, when it meant disagreeing with Obama. Reed was also among the first to report that the surge was succeeding militarily.
On the domestic front, Reed showed during last year’s emergencies that he’s the kind of legislative mechanic who knows where to find the right tool for a tricky job. Late in the spring, he came up with the financing mechanism that won the Republican support needed for the first installment of the housing bailout. Not incidentally, this fee on mortgage transactions will convert into a permanent rental housing subsidy for poor people — something liberals have sought in vain for years.
Reed turned aside all talk last year that he should be considered for high office in the Obama administration, arguing that he would serve better as a senior senator from Rhode Island. Reed has committee assignments that give him a prominent platform on key issues at home and abroad. That will keep Reed in high demand as the new president goes to work with a new, Democratic-ruled Congress to redeem his campaign pledge to fix things on both fronts.