Las Vegas Sun

November 30, 2015

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Jon Ralston:

When Reidisms are no longer funny

On Thursday, Harry Reid was mad (or so it seemed). And when Reid gets mad, Reidisms follow.

The Senate majority leader has made many off-the-cuff comments over the years that have raised eyebrows, evoked guffaws and, occasionally, sparked outrage (calling George W. Bush a “loser” in 2004 comes to mind.) But rarely has the majority leader packed so many Reidisms into one day and of varying types as he did Thursday in talking about Olympic uniforms, Mitt Romney and Shelley Berkley.

If you want to know why the majority leader’s staff has a private prayer group (“Our senator, who art in Congress, careless be his tongue …”) and has a special “Reidism alert” button on their BlackBerrys, consider:

“The USOC should be embarrassed, they should be humiliated. ... Our athletes should not wear clothes manufactured in China.”

This was part of Reid’s rant against the United States Olympic Committee for allowing America’s athletes to commit the unforgivable sin of wearing Ralph Lauren uniforms made in China. Forget the obvious inanity of this attack — where do the Clothes Police draw the line and with whom?

But how does Reid make the case for being apoplectic about this scandal of mammoth proportions when he is as enthusiastic as ever about his Chinese billionaire friend, Wang Yusuo, making a fortune by building a solar plant near Laughlin — an enterprise that coincidentally now employs his son, Rory Reid, as a lobbyist?

And when is Reid going to let the Nevada gamers have it for investing so much money in China that could have been used to reinvigorate the Nevada economy?

No, let’s save our ire for Olympic uniforms designed by Ralph Lauren but — the horror! — made in China.

“(Mitt Romney) not only couldn’t be confirmed as a Cabinet secretary, he couldn’t be confirmed as a dog catcher. Because a dog catcher — you’re at least going to want to look at his income tax returns.”

Those comments, as reported by the Sun’s Karoun Demirjian and others, came a day after Reid declared Romney could not get confirmed as a Cabinet secretary because of his reluctance to release more of his tax returns. I understand that Reid relishes playing the attack dog for national Democrats on Romney, but this one does not hunt.

No, I don’t mean that dog catchers don’t actually need to be confirmed. Nor do I want to argue about whether presidential candidate should be browbeaten into releasing tax returns — while Romney’s date of withdrawal from his Bain Capital may be germane, I’m not sure his tax returns are. (Maybe Reid should agree to release his wardrobe — any Ralph Laurens made in China? — if Romney agrees to hand over his IRS documents.)

We get it — Romney is super-rich and the Democrats want to rub that and his offshore accounts in his face to win the support of middle-class families. But to sneer at Romney by using the dog catcher line is to show a level of viciousness that, I think, too often populates rhetoric from a left that has lost too many message battles and prefers ad hominem attacks to defense of policy initiatives.

“If you are from Southern Nevada, everyone knows she is married to a nephrologist.”

That was Reid on a conference call with reporters Thursday defending Rep. Shelley Berkley on allegations she helped her kidney doctor husband by her actions as a congresswoman. That’s an obviously false statement. But even if I give Reid latitude for exaggeration, it is an absolutely ludicrous defense of Berkley.

A very small percentage of Southern Nevada’s 2 million residents know a lot about Berkley, much less about what her husband does for a living. And even if they did, how does that immunize her against disclosure and perhaps less activism on issues that could affect her own pocketbook — the issues the House tribunal is exploring?

Reid later went on to produce another Reidism — in this case, another obvious prevarication — when he said he was “glad this is all out in the open,” echoing the Berkley campaign line that has to be one of the most unbelievable in history. Yes, happy days are here again when the House Ethics Committee announces it is forming a special investigative subcommittee after every Democrat votes to move forward with a more extensive, subpoena-laden probe. Maybe Dean Heller should be the one to drop out because things are going so well for Berkley.

Folks, I understand the need to be a good soldier in politics as well as the imperative for a leader to be the partisan sniper. But Reid’s loose Thursday lips, entertaining and amusing though they may be for us Fourth Estaters, are part of the dumbing down and nastying up of politics, where truth is not valued but discarded and civility is not strained but trashed.

Isn’t there a Reidism for that?

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