When Harry Reid announced his retirement, I wrote that the worst part of this process would be listening to people praise his service, especially as Majority Leader:
By any objective measure, Reid has been a blight on the Senate and on Congress. He declared the Iraq war “lost” while Americans were still fighting there, and he derailed a budget process that had worked well before his ascent into leadership. He stripped the Senate of one of its debate functions after sabotaging the amendment process, and nearly destroyed regular order. On top of that, Reid used his post to commit McCarthyite character assassination of Mitt Romney, claiming to have inside knowledge that Romney hadn’t paid taxes in ten years, a smear that turned out to be utterly false. He has been a malevolent force for years in American politics, and nothing he did in Washington will improve the place as much as his leaving it.
When I tweeted out a shortened version of the last sentence, a few Reid fans scolded me for being a religious man full of hate. In response, I give you Harry Reid, Proud “McCarthyite,” as CNN’s Dana Bash explicitly framed it (via Free Beacon):
REID: I don’t regret that at all. The Koch brothers — no one would help me. They were afraid the Koch brothers would go after them. So I did it on my own.
BASH: So no regrets about Mitt Romney, about the Koch Brothers. Some people have even called it McCarthyite.
REID: Well… [shrug] … they can call it whatever they want. Um … Romney didn’t win, did he?
Hey, so I smeared Romney. It worked, didn’t it?
Despicable. The Senate will likely throw him a celebration on his way out; they should be censuring him instead, especially with that arrogant admission. Reid embodies the worst of American politics, and no amount of fluffery over the next two years will disperse the stench that should attach itself to his name as long as it’s remembered at all.
Although he would be challenged by what he called “second-tier candidates” and boasted of having the clearest path to victory since 1992, in the next breath he was saying it was time to go. After five terms in the Senate, he certainly had earned a break from the battle, but since when did the recalcitrant Reid want a peaceful political life?
When Reid elaborated, the confusion really began. His attempt to choreograph the media reaction wound up raising more questions than it answered. Reid said he was retiring, and he wasn’t interested in fielding many inquiries from the press.
Between Reid’s YouTube statement, a surface-skimming sidebar in The New York Times and his appearance on “KNPR’s State of Nevada” radio show, we learned all he believed we needed to know about his motivations for closing up shop.
Reid was retiring. What made perfect sense in concept, suddenly made no sense at all.
Breitbart’s Michael Patrick Leahy says his accident story doesn’t add up either.
Update: Chris Cillizza finds Harry Reid’s remarks to Dana Bash “appalling”:
If you can lie — or, at a minimum, mislead based on scant information or rumor — then anything is justified in pursuit of winning. This sort of “the winners make the rules” approach is part of the broader partisan problem facing Washington and the polarization afflicting the nation more broadly. There is no trust between the two parties because they believe — and have some real justification for believing — that the other side will say and do literally anything to win.
Think about Reid’s statement in another context. I have two little kids. What if I told my son, who has just started playing soccer, that his only aim was to win the game — no matter how he accomplished that goal. After all, it’s not cheating unless someone can prove it, right?
Would anyone think that was either (a) good parenting or (b) broadly beneficial for society? No. That is the same logic Reid is applying here but because we are all inured to the horribleness that is modern political strategy, people barely bat an eye. No, politics ain’t beanbag. I get that. But, allowing elected officials to say anything they want about people running for office — and requiring zero proof in order to report those claims — seems to be a bridge too far. And to defend that behavior by saying “well, we won didn’t we?” feels like the junior high school logic that shouldn’t be employed by the men and women trusted with representing us in Washington — or anywhere else.
Exactly. We’ve been pointing that out for years. While Chris is correct that the ends-justifies-the-means approach is common in politics, no one holds a candle to Reid for sheer dishonesty and arrogance — plus, as a party leader, he set the tone for years in the Senate with his McCarthyite approach. The explanation is appalling, certainly, but it pales in comparison to Reid’s appalling nature. Good riddance.