Ed Driscoll

Harry Reid: The Triple-Threat Democrat

What makes Harry Reid such an awesome leader for Senate Democrats is his willingness to work with the media. Particularly the local media.

Or perhaps not. In the Politico, Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Review-Journal reminisces about his 25 years of covering Harry Reid:

I remember in the early 1990s, shortly after I had made the transition from reporter to columnist, asking to speak to him about a column I was working on about him accepting honoraria for speaking engagements. Reid insisted to me that he needed the money to pay for his wife’s medical condition—she has Crohn’s disease—and when I suggested he was quite wealthy and could sell some of his vast real estate holdings (he reported assets of between $2.8 million and $6.3 million earlier this year), he responded by telling me he would not speak to me again if I wrote the column. I don’t believe he said goodbye.

I wrote it. And Reid cut me off for about two years.

I still recall the day the freeze-out ended. His longtime assistant, Marge Van Hoove, who died earlier this year, called to tell me the senator wanted to see me in his Las Vegas office. When I sat down in front of him, Reid told me, “I’ve decided to speak to you again.”

“Senator,” I replied, “you might have noticed that I continued to write about you all of this time. Who do you think lost in this proposition?”

As if he hadn’t heard me, Reid pivoted and began talking about some policy issue. I remember thinking: He just doesn’t care.

OK, let’s try this from another angle. What makes Harry Reid such an awesome leader for Senate Democrats is that he’s truly a man of the people, salt of the earth populist kind of guy:

“My staff has always said ‘don’t say this,’ but…” is a frightening disclaimer for the communications staffers of any member of Congress to hear. But it can be especially cringe inducing when the person reciting the line has a terrible habit of not only saying things over the warnings of his staff but also saying things he shouldn’t even have to be told not to say. Joe Biden falls into this category. And so does the author of the above line, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The full version of that quote, from 2008, is: “My staff has always said ‘don’t say this,’ but I’m going to say it again, because it’s so descriptive because it’s true. Leader Boehner mentioned the tourists lined up in summer, winter–long lines coming into the Capitol. In the summertime, because the high humidity and how hot it gets here, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. And that may be descriptive, but it’s true.”

OK, so much for that idea. Let’s try this angle, then: What makes Harry Reid such an awesome leader for Senate Democrats is his willingness to cross the aisle to work with Senate and Congressional Republicans to get the job done:

Senate majority leader Harry Reid, in particular, has had a rough week. Reid, who is reportedly the driving force behind the Democrats’ hardline negotiating strategy — or, rather, their refusal to negotiate — has lost his cool on more than one occasion. On Wednesday, he challenged the intelligence of a female reporter who asked why Democrats opposed the GOP plan to fund individual aspects of the government, such as clinical trials for children with cancer. “Why would we want to do that?” Reid wondered, much to his regret. On Thursday, the majority leader blocked a Republican attempt to vote on a bill to fund services and benefits for military veterans, even though the measure had passed the House with significant bipartisan support.

He has repeatedly lashed out at House speaker John Boehner, calling him a “coward” behind closed doors, questioning whether he had the “courage” to stand up to conservative “anarchists” (a favorite buzzword of his), and suggesting that Boehner is “keeping the government shut because I hurt his feelings.” Veteran GOP aides recognized the latter comment as a transparent attempt to cast Boehner in the mold of former speaker Newt Gingrich, whose proclivity for temper tantrums made him an easy political target, and a liability to his own party. Democratic efforts to paint Boehner, a much more modest man, as a Gingrich-like character have thus far been in vain.

Reid’s animosity toward Boehner is said to have reached a fever pitch after the House passed a continuing resolution to fund the government that also included a provision to eliminate Obamacare subsidies for members of Congress and their staff. The measure, often referred to as the Vitter amendment, is controversial, but polls extraordinarily well. Senate Democrats even sought to derail it by dredging up Republican senator David Vitter’s 2007 prostitution scandal.

OK, one last try at this. What makes Harry Reid such an awesome leader for Senate Democrats is his careful preparation before moving to the microphone, so that he never, ever, says the wrong thing. The man is one of the great orators of the 21st century, a Caesars Palace Cicero. OK, considering that Ralston’s article today at the Politico is titled “Machiavelli With Malaprops,” we all know that one is the biggest counterfactual of all: