Sen. Harry Reid made the right decision not to seek re-election in 2016. The 75-year-old Reid would turn 83 before the end of another term and his January accident resulted in more serious physical injuries than initially acknowledged by his protective Senate staff, including the loss of sight in one eye.
Beyond age and infirmity, Sen. Reid has now exceeded his political “expiration date,” including his demotion to minority leader in January. The 2014 Senate election was a debacle for Democrats in a loss of nine seats, with Reid complicit in the outcome. Reid pursued a strategy of obstructionism in the Senate, refusing to vote on House-passed bills and closing down the Senate amendment process, fearful of Senate Democrats being required to make politically difficult votes. The strategy backfired with Senate Democrats not having a positive record of accomplishments they could highlight in their re-election campaigns.
After the 2014 election Reid came under fire from Democrats. Despite a secret ballot, six Democrats went to the media volunteering they had voted against Reid as minority leader. Reid’s deputy leader, Sen. Dick Durbin, lamented the condition of the Senate under Reid’s leadership and welcomed a return of the Senate to “regular order” with more debate and an open amendment process under new majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell.
Reid remains an anathema to the entire Republican Senate Conference. The normally mild-mannered moderate Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander penned an op-ed in 2014 entitled: “This Is the End of the Senate. It’s Harry Reid’s fault”, excoriating Reid for destroying the Senate’s capacity to forge consensus, protect minority views and counter presidential excess.
Meanwhile in Nevada, Reid’s political blunder in not recruiting his promised credible Democratic candidate for governor resulted in failure of the vaunted “Reid Machine” to produce votes on election day. An anemic Democratic turn-out resulted in an historic statewide sweep by Republicans of all constitutional offices, the “flipping” of both state Legislative houses and loss of a “safe” Democratic House seat.
Reid’s greatest failing is his evolution into ruthless hyper-partisanship devoid of a moral compass. It was Reid who called President Bush a “loser” and a “liar.”
It was Reid who hurt troop morale when he declared the Iraq War “lost” at the time of the successful “surge.” And it was Reid who slandered the Republican presidential candidate in 2012 with the reckless and baseless lie Mitt Romney had not paid any federal income taxes over the previous 10 years.
Reid shamelessly told CNN’s Dana Bash on March 31 he had no regrets over his McCarthy-like tactics, shrugging it off with the observation “Romney didn’t win did he.”
Reid’s notion all means justify the ends is toxic for politics.
Many Nevadans will laud Senator Reid for his Legislative achievements for the state. In the end, his Legislative record will always be overshadowed by his character flaw — Reid will forever be justifiably linked with the sobriquet “Dirty Harry”. It’s time for him to exit the political stage.
Jim Hartman is an attorney and resident of Genoa.