Harry Reid is trying to get back in the news. In a lengthy interview in the New York Times, Reid held forth on all manner of things as though his opinion actually mattered.
Efforts were underway to rename the Las Vegas airport in his honor, preferably before his own time of departure. Reid refuses to believe that this honor will ever happen. “When I practiced law, I did a lot of personal-injury work, and I never spent one penny until that check was cashed,” he explained to me.
They’re still pushing the bizarre “exercise injury” story.
When I went to see him in December, he was confined to a desk near the front door of the house, unable to move without the aid of a walker that rested behind him. Still, he looked better than I thought he would. The last time I saw Reid, during the 2016 presidential campaign, he was wearing dark glasses and was still bruised from a freakish exercise-session mishap in early 2015, when an elastic band apparently snapped and propelled him into some cabinets, breaking ribs and bones in his face and blinding him in his right eye. The visible damage from this incident had abated at last.
I’ve broken three sets of black bands. They can’t “propel” you anywhere.
He prides himself on being an uncivil douchenozzle.
Reid once called the Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan a “political hack,” Justice Clarence Thomas “an embarrassment” and President George W. Bush a “loser” (for which he later apologized) and a “liar” (for which he did not). In 2016, he dismissed Trump as “a big fat guy” who “didn’t win many fights.” Reid himself was more than ready to fight, and fight dirty: “I was always willing to do things that others were not willing to do,” he told me.
Indeed, Harry Reid epitomizes the old joke about why lab scientists prefer lawyers to rats for experimental subjects–because there are things rats just won’t do.
And he has opinions on President Trump.
Still, Reid added: “Trump is an interesting person. He is not immoral but is amoral. Amoral is when you shoot someone in the head, it doesn’t make a difference. No conscience.” There was a hint of grudging respect in Reid’s tone, which he seemed to catch and correct. “I think he is without question the worst president we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve had some bad ones, and there’s not even a close second to him.” He added: “He’ll lie. He’ll cheat. You can’t reason with him.” Once more, a hint of wonder crept into his voice, as if he was describing a rogue beast on the loose in a jungle that Reid knows well.
…Reid takes an anthropological interest in the changes that Trump has wrought on his old institution. “You can’t legislate when you have a chief executive who’s weird, for lack of a better description,” he told me. He said he could never understand how his former Senate colleague Jeff Sessions allowed himself to be so abused and humiliated by the president. “Why in the hell didn’t Sessions leave?” he said. “Same with Kelly,” referring to the departing chief of staff, John Kelly. “I’d say, ‘Go screw yourself.’ I could not look my children in the eye.”
I asked him if he could identify at all with Trump’s dark worldview. “I disagree that Trump is a pessimist,” Reid said, as if to allow him that mantle would be paying him an undeserved compliment. “I think he’s a person who is oblivious to the real world.”
What struck me about this was both the flash of insight (Trump is, I’d agree, amoral in the same means-to-an-end way that the Democrats are, the difference is that he doesn’t mouth pieties about all the people he’s helping) with the total lack of introspection that one finds somewhat shocking at a time when he’s looking Death in the face and should be taking stock of his life and perhaps regretting the evil he’s done. There is really nothing Reid said about Trump that can’t be laid at his own doorstep. I don’t think there was a single person in DC, of any political party, who thought you could rely on Reid’s word or honor. I’m not sure there are very many…including Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin and, famously, Claire McCaskill…who thought he was ever a competent caucus leader.
Where I really think he gets Trump wrong, however, is in saying he’s “oblivious to the real world.” I don’t see the man that way. I think he’s very aware of the world but is dismissive of processes and traditions that constrain his ability to act. To a great extent, I think Reid was pretty much the same. He slandered Mitt Romney on the floor of the Senate because he thought it gained him an advantage. He imposed the “nuclear option” for federal judges because the immediate outcome, in his mind, outweighed any future downside.
Truth be told, a lot of Reid’s criticism of Trump as president comes directly from Trump not hesitating to play hardball rather than be the Republican piñatas he was used to dealing with.
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