LAS VEGAS – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid made a pitch Saturday to enlist bloggers as a Democratic force in upcoming elections, and said he'll ask Congress for stiffer reporting requirements for the president and the intelligence community.
"I know fighters when I see them. You're fighters," Reid said as he began a warmly received keynote speech to the YearlyKos Convention of Internet bloggers at a Las Vegas Strip resort.
Reid, D-Nev., said he intends to introduce legislation in coming days to hold senior Bush administration officials accountable for statements on Iran — similar to the Democratic fight to hold them accountable for their statements about the Iraq war.
"The White House cherry-picked and politicized intelligence to sell the war," Reid said. "All of us as Americans need to know if we were intentionally misled, I think we were, to go to war in Iraq, so we can make sure it never, never happens again."
The audience of about 1,000 at the Riviera hotel-casino ballroom included members of a liberal blogosphere who became involved in politics during Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean's bid for president in 2004.
They cheered a video produced by a 15-year-old conference attendee that cast first-ever conventioneers as patriots, motivators and — over images of headlines reporting President Bush's low approval ratings — representatives of a national majority.
"This is a paradigm shift taking place," said Ann Reinhart, 45, a writer from Los Angeles who said she contributed money recently to campaigns in Montana and Connecticut. "People are finding their voice. People are doing it themselves."
Many waved placards that were provided reading "Give 'Em Hell, Harry," and applauded Reid's declaration that "Iran cannot and will not be another Iraq."
"Because of you, no attack will go unanswered," Reid told the audience. "Because of you, no lie will avoid the truth."
Reid's proposed bill, called the Iran Intelligence Oversight Act, would require an updated national intelligence estimate on Iran, with an unclassified summary made public.
It also would require the president to report to Congress his objectives and strategies for Iran.
The administration's national intelligence director would have to show Congress that he has a process in place for reviewing administration officials' statements and ensuring they are consistent with the work of professional intelligence analysts.
"I have no doubt the White House won't like this requirement," Reid said, "but after Iraq, the American people deserve nothing less."
Responding to Reid's remarks, the White House declined to address the senator's proposals directly.
"We are pursuing a diplomatic solution to the current situation with Iran," said Christie Parell, a White House spokeswoman. She pointed to the most recent European proposal calling for Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and reprocessing before entering talks aimed at defusing tensions over nuclear development.
"We look forward to a response from the Iranian regime," Parell said. "And we look forward to continuing to keep Congress informed as we pursue a diplomatic solution."
Reid, who lives about an hour south of Las Vegas, was the top Democrat among several at the convention. Others included Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., former presidential candidate and retired Gen. Wesley Clark, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and Dean.
"Democrats may be a minority in Congress, but we speak for the majority of Americans," Reid said. "I believe that. Don't you?"
Republican party spokesman Tucker Bounds characterized the convention as proof that "the squeaky wheels, no matter how wobbly, get all the Democrats' oil."
Convention executive Gina Cooper dubbed the four-day gathering, "people-powered politics in action." Some attendees who spent four days putting faces to words posted by Internet Web log, or blog, authors and readers, saw strength in their numbers.
"I think what we've learned is, we've got a community," said P.Z. Myers, 49, a University of Minnesota biology professor from Morris, Minn. "It's more than people just sitting and chatting over the wires."