Tom Reed says Trump had mix of successes, missed opportunities, poor leadership style
Rep. Tom Reed arrived back in Washington on Jan. 18 to a U.S. Capitol on lockdown in the run-up to Inauguration Day.
Reed walked through the Capitol to find National Guard soldiers sleeping on the grounds, part of the beefed up security presence after rioters stormed the building Jan. 6. He even bumped into a soldier from the 23rd District, a Hammondsport native, while asking how to get through a barrier.
“It was intense,” Reed said. “That is something I did not think I’d see in my tenure in Congress, and as an American citizen, to be perfectly honest.”
Joe Biden’s inauguration as the nation’s 46th president proceeded without incident Wednesday. President Donald Trump was not in attendance, having already flown home to Florida in one final break with tradition.
Reed was among the first congressmen to endorse Trump’s run for the White House in 2016. Reed -- whose 23rd District includes Yates, Schuyler, Seneca Steuben and several Southern Tier counties -- “worked closely” with the president during his term and was named honorary chair of Trump’s New York reelection campaign in 2020.
The week of the inauguration, Reed reflected on Trump’s four years in office, the achievements and the missed opportunities.
Reed hailed several domestic policies passed during the Trump administration. The First Step Act, a criminal justice reform bill signed into law in 2018, was a “significant policy,” Reed said. For the Corning Republican, Trump’s biggest achievement came early in his tenure with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
“I believe it’s one of the most significant pieces of reform that will lead to the economic strength of America for decades to come,” Reed said.
In the foreign policy arena, Reed believes Trump’s “disruptive style” was instrumental in advancing opportunities for Middle East peace over the last four years.
On the home front, though, that unconventional style of governance may have soured many voters and played a role in Trump’s 2020 defeat. Trump’s abrasive Twitter account was eventually banned by Twitter in the days after the riot, a move followed by other social media platforms.
“I don’t think you can discount those historic policy achievements. I’m also open to reflection on the criticism we’ve gone through the last four years about the style of the delivery of President Trump,” Reed said. “I’ve kept my personal conversations with the president private and I will keep them there. There’s obviously a disagreement between him and I on the style of how you conduct your leadership as an elected official. That’s a legitimate criticism that I recognize history is going to be judging him on.”
Reed believes there may have been a window to close the gaping political divide, even slightly, as the American economy posted historic numbers for much of Trump’s term.
“One of the missed opportunities is the ability, with such economic greatness that was upon us, to bring the country together, to unite the country,” Reed said. “I encourage President Biden to bring us together and heal this country. My hope is he now transitions the country into a more healing, united country than upon which he clearly finds it today.”
Reed has heard from constituents who believe election fraud played a role in the 2020 election. The congressman did not object to the election results, noting that the courts, which included Trump-appointed judges, found no evidence of widespread issues.
“I’ve listened to these folks, I’ve talked with them through this process,” Reed said. “I don’t agree with their conclusion that there was widespread voter fraud in this election. I trust the state judicial proceedings that did not find widespread voter fraud.
"I also recognize there were proceedings that found isolated incidences of voter integrity issues with dead people voting and things like that. It plays into this self-fulfilling conclusion that many folks are reinforcing.”
Addressing election integrity is among several areas Reed believes the Biden administration may find bipartisan support, along with expanded COVID-19 vaccinations and an infrastructure bill.
“It would serve us well as a country to do whatever we can together to reinforce our election integrity issues and make sure our elections are as safe and secure as they possibly can be going forward,” Reed said. “I think that is somewhere you can actually get bipartisan Republican and Democratic support, because I don’t know how you can be opposed to that if asked.”
‘Jury still out’ on bipartisanship
Democrats in the 23rd District have noted Reed’s bipartisan tone over the last several weeks of political turmoil. Shawn Hogan, the Steuben County Democratic Party Chairman in Reed’s home county, believes the approach is born of pragmatism with Democrats now controlling the House and winning a slight majority in the Senate.
“To his credit, he has tried to work in a bipartisan manner,” Hogan said. “I think he sees the realization if you want to get anything done in Washington, everyone is going to have to work together. They can’t be so stuck in their ways and their ideologies. I think that’s what led us to this point. People failed to listen to each other. They failed to find that common ground we always have in past times in America. It got out of hand on both sides.”
Hogan commended Reed for being among the first Republicans in Congress to acknowledge Biden’s victory in November. He also credited Reed for not objecting to the certification of the election results, and for working across the aisle on COVID relief packages.
However, Reed’s refusal to vote for impeachment was “disappointing,” Hogan said. Reed did not join 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. Rep. John Katko, of the 24th District, was the only New York Republican to vote for impeachment.
“(Reed) sponsored legislation to censure the president and legislation that would’ve prohibited him from running for federal office again. I think that was just an effort to deflect from the fact he wasn’t going to vote to impeach,” Hogan said. “Those 10 Republicans that did showed exemplary courage. It was painfully evident to anybody who watched the news of what happened Jan. 6, how it transpired and who promoted the gathering on Jan. 6 in Washington, it was directly related to Trump and people he surrounded himself with.”
Hogan said Trump’s departure from the White House may free some Republicans from the fear of Trump’s ire — not to mention his Twitter account, which blasted derision to 88 million followers on a near-daily basis until it was suspended Jan. 8.
Reed will once again act as co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus in the 117th Congress, the group announced Friday. The caucus features 28 Democrats and 28 Republicans ready to “help the nation heal,” Reed said in a press release, adding there is a “growing number of proud Republicans and proud Democrats in Congress willing to put country before party.”
Hogan welcomes the words, and would like to see further action in the coming weeks and months as Congress addresses a long to-do list.
“The jury is still out if he’s really going to be a bipartisan legislator and work to make things better in Washington or fall back to some of the more conservative principles,” Hogan said. “There’s nothing wrong with being conservative, I was very fiscally conservative when I was mayor of the City of Hornell. We’ve got to stop pigeon-holing people as conservatives or liberals, left wing or right wing, red or blue. We’ve got to start working together.”