Earlier today, I noted that George Will had ripped Harry Reid for his baseless accusations of tax evasion thrown at Mitt Romney, even from the Senate floor, calling it “McCarthyism from the desert.” Will is a conservative commentator, of course, so it’s perhaps unsurprising to see him aggressively attacking Reid. What do liberal commentators think of Harry Reid? Richard Cohen is Will’s colleague at the Washington Post, and Cohen leaps to Reid’s defense*:
For Reid, this is yet another brazen and tasteless partisan attack. As majority leader, he has managed to sink the public image of the Senate even lower than it would otherwise be. He contributes to bad feelings, gridlock and the sense — nay, the reality — that everything is done for political advantage. Reid is a crass man, the very personification of the gaudy and kitschy Las Vegas Strip.
Still, he is not some backbencher, but the Senate majority leader. He is the face of the Democratic Party in the Senate and the ally of President Obama. Yet, not a single Democrat has had the spine to rebuke Reid. The White House has been given the chance and explicitly ducked its duty. Other members of the Senate have run for cover. They fear Reid and, if truth be told, sort of like what he’s doing — constantly needling Romney, keeping him on the defensive about taxes and his insistence on releasing only two years of his returns. …
When Reid accuses the Republicans of being overly partisan, he now lacks all credibility. For a long time it’s been difficult to believe anything he says. Now, it’s impossible.
D’oh! Looks like a consensus is forming about Reid’s ethics and politics, which is that they both stink to high heaven. Still, not everyone is on board with this opinion. Reid’s counterpart in the House Democratic caucus insisted to the Huffington Post that Reid has told the truth … about having a conversation:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fired back at Republicans accusing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of lying about a Bain Capital investor telling him that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid taxes in 10 years. They don’t know what they’re talking about, Pelosi says.
“Harry Reid made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact,” Pelosi told The Huffington Post in a Sunday interview. “Whether he did or not can easily be disposed of: Mitt Romney can release his tax returns and show whether he paid taxes.”
Cohen has an answer for this as well:
It could be that someone did indeed tell Reid that Romney paid no taxes for 10 years. Journalists get that sort of tip all the time, and their responsibility is (1) to check it out and (2) identify the source. Reid has not done the latter and apparently has not done the former, either. The truth is that Reid doesn’t really care if the charge is true or not.
Responsibility. Cohen’s right, of course, but is that a word that a Senate Majority Leader who has gone more than a thousand days without passing a budget would heed? That’s what is wrong with the Senate, along with Harry Reid himself, and what’s wrong with Democratic leadership in general who have enabled Reid’s McCarthyism either though overt support as Pelosi has done, or tacitly with their silence.
Update: Looks like the White House has begun to think that this might be a loser — at least if it has Barack Obama’s fingerprints on it:
The White House on Monday distanced President Obama from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s comments that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes in a decade.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Monday that Reid “speaks for himself” and had spoken on the issue without any guidance from Team Obama.
“He certainly speaks for himself,” Carney said, adding that Obama hasn’t expressed an opinion on Reid’s recent comments.
That’s not exactly a denunciation, either. It is a hint that the scorching criticism from the Sunday talk shows, including Bob Schieffer’s comparison to Joe McCarthy on CBS, might have the West Wing worried.
Update II (*): I was being sarcastic about Cohen riding to Reid’s defense. Obviously, he’s doing anything but defending Reid. A few readers were confused at my sarcasm, so consider this a clarification.