Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Harry Reid on Harry Reid

You know what? This is why that damned guy keeps growing on me.

Despite, or perhaps because of, these precautions, he takes a schoolboy’s delight in acting out, in breaking the rules of a scripted city. At one point last year, Reid announced that the health care vote would be delayed until January no matter what the White House thought, which led Rahm Emanuel to get into his car and arrive at Reid’s office, where after a terse exchange between two terse men, Reid agreed to the White House’s schedule. He referred to angry protesters at town-hall meetings as “evilmongers.” He called George W. Bush a “liar” and a “loser.” When Bush invited Reid for coffee in the Oval Office in the final weeks of his presidency, the president’s dog walked in, and Reid insulted the president’s pet. “Your dog is fat,” he said.

“I’m just who I am, O.K.?” Reid told me before Christmas. “I didn’t take lessons on how to speak on television, and I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about who I am. I don’t like to read stuff about me, but I’ve become accustomed to it: you know, ‘Reid misspeaks.’ I’d rather people were saying, Oh, that guy is a golden-tongued devil.” He paused. “I have no regret over calling Greenspan a political hack. Because he was. The things you heard me say about George Bush? You never heard me apologize about any of them. Because he was. What was I supposed to say? I called him a liar twice. Because he lied to me twice.”

Manley, who was sitting nearby in Reid’s Capitol office, raised his hand to respectfully revise and extend the senator’s remarks. “Just for the record, he did apologize for the loser comment,” he said.

“Yes, but not because he wasn’t a loser,” Reid countered. “It’s because I shouldn’t have said that to a group of kids.” It was a Las Vegas high-school civics class. The apology also came after his most prominent Republican supporter in Nevada, Sig Rogich, a Las Vegas businessman who was a senior adviser to Ronald Reagan, called Reid to tell him that he had crossed a line.

I think this is the key to understanding Harry Reid. He isn't the "typical politician". He revels in making the deals, but just can't handle making love to the cameras.

And of course, Jon Ralston has to point it out this week in his usual curmudgeonly way.

This is the rub in all of this, folks, as numerous analysts, white and black have pointed out. Reid, in his usual clumsy way, was doing what he usually does: Saying what others are thinking, but would never say out loud.

As the Columbia Journalism Review’s Greg Marx wrote Tuesday, “Reid’s use of the word ‘Negro’ was tin-eared and offensive (not to mention, in the context of even a ‘deep background’ interview, incredibly dumb). But unlike Lott, the idea he was expressing amounted to analysis, not a prescriptive political vision. What’s more, his analysis was accurate ... Reid’s thoughts about the nature of Obama’s appeal are backed up by research about how voters perceive black candidates; they are also, as Jeff Zeleny writes ( for the Times, consistent with things that Obama himself has said.”


I still find it humorous that Reid has claimed, as Lott did in 2002, a “poor choice of words,” but has refused to say what a better choice would have been. Let me pose a question: What if Reid had actually said, “Barack Obama is not Al Sharpton, so he can win.” Or if he had said, “Obama will not be threatening to white voters as some African-Americans are. He will be much less divisive than Hillary is.”

Folks, that’s what Reid really meant. And how many serious people out there would disagree?

So of course, the kabuki dance of "Reid in peril!" will continue this week... Until the good economic news gains more traction in the media, Sheldon Adelson stirs up his own controversy, and Paris Hilton comes back to town to suck up all the media attention for herself (which I'm sure Reid won't mind now).

And another week goes by in the ongoing saga, or is that so-laughably-bad-it's-good parody of a soap opera, of Harry Reid and the politics of Nevada.


  1. I don't know. In giving what was supposed to be an anonymous interview, he bragged about how he worked behind the scenes to secretly undermine Hillary Clinton in a contest in which he had professed neutrality. Because he could not control his mouth, he got outed in that interview. His hubris got the best of him. I'd call that pretty typical.

  2. Drew-

    Yeah, Reid has his flaws... But my larger point is that he's far more unscripted & unpredictable than the typical pol, especially the typical Nevada pol. OTOH, however, it doesn't surprise me that he was working for Obama behind the scenes. Nancy Pelosi most definitely was (she never could hide that), and so were many other Dem leaders who didn't like the possibility of Hillary Clinton taking charge and doing things her way.

    Well at the very least, Reid will now be able to call in his favors with Obama by getting him to come here more often and go all out in his reelection campaign. And while I'm cautiously optimistic Reid will weather this latest storm, I do think he'll need all the help he can get in surviving it.