Alex K. Fong
Saturday, March 1, 2008 | 2 a.m.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is at his best unfiltered, when he’s impulsive, passionate and shockingly funny. Left to his own wit, he can serve up one-liners that can be mischievous, poisonous and sometimes spot on.
True, he gets into trouble when he goes off script. Sometimes he lets his thoughts fly and uh-oh, what did he just say about the president?
But the one quality Americans seem to overwhelmingly appreciate in politicians is frankness. We’ve all seen enough slick politicians who could play themselves on TV. Americans’ appetites are strong for leaders who can cut through the argot and niceties that reduce our deep thoughts to meaningless platitudes.
Reid’s new book, “The Good Fight, Hard Lessons From Searchlight to Washington,” due in stores in early May, offers this version of Reid for public consumption.
Reid is rarely praised as the best face for the Democratic Party. In fact, he’s often criticized for lacking the force and verve of great political leaders.
Those who know Reid only from his bland nightly news sound bites may be surprised to find such a colorful character inside those dark, sometimes drab, suits.
The chapters alternate between old and new, juxtaposing stories about the desert kid and the Capitol politician.
This isn’t the sequel to “Searchlight: The Camp That Didn’t Fail,” Reid’s first book, about his melancholy hometown. The senator has often said writing that book was one of the hardest thing he’s ever done. Sometimes it reads that way, too.
In the hands of Mark Warren, the executive editor of Esquire who was tapped to work with Reid for the past year on this 293-page book, Reid the storyteller plies his craft.
Those who know Reid will feel as if he is sitting there telling you a story, his story. They will hear his cadence, his familiar anecdotes and his sometimes goofy expressions.
We’re not allowed to release excerpts until the edited version is complete. But if the early copy holds up, readers will find Reid in prime form.
He riffs anew on President Bush, lifts the veil a bit on the Democrats’ maneuvering in the Senate and pokes fun at a few colleagues in Washington and Nevada.
He rates the presidents he has known, and the House speakers. (No, he doesn’t say which Democratic candidate would make the better president.)
He uses (or repeats others using) bad words.
There are not a lot of bombshells here, but there’s enough new material to keep those who know the story of Reid interested.
Usually politicians write a book when they are running for higher office. Reid never seemed to aspire for a job in the White House. He sometimes still seems a little surprised he landed where he did. In fact, his name on the book appears simply as Senator Harry Reid, perhaps a subtle nod to the one-vote margin that makes him majority leader.
This book seems to be more about filling in the picture of Reid for the public — his debut on the national stage, where he still is unknown to many Americans.
A poll conducted in July, six months after Democrats took control of Congress, showed that more than 40 percent couldn’t offer an opinion on Reid because they hadn’t heard of him.
If Reid’s early proofs make it to bookstores without much editing, Americans might have a better understanding of the man from Searchlight who is now running the U.S. Senate.