The soon to be outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid was interviewed on Tuesday by the Washington Free Beacon. The subject turned to some of Reid’s more outrageous statements on the floor of the Senate, including his accusing 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney of not paying his taxes. His answer to the question of whether he had any regrets for making the accusation that he knew was not true was illuminating and unapologetic
When asked whether his remarks were McCarthyite, Reid replied, ““Well, they can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win, did he?”
The answer suggests a man who no longer cares what people think of him, not that he was overburdened with a sense of shame before his retirement. Whether what he said about Romney was true or not was immaterial. All that matter is that he did not win the presidency. The attitude and Reid’s willingness to admit to it has a certain bare knuckle brazenness that is breathtaking and awe-inspiring all at once.
Reid’s confession reminds one of a story told about Lyndon Johnson. When involved in a tight election contest, LBJ suggested that his campaign accuse his opponent of having unlawful carnal knowledge of farm animals. When told that this accusation was untrue, Johnson replied, “I know. I just want to hear him deny it.” The idea was that if you are forced to deny an absurd charge you are not advancing your campaign. Reid’s accusing Romney of being a tax cheat is of the same character.
Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post pronounced himself “appalled” at Reid’s behavior, comparing it to cheating at sports. But Reid has a point. His smear worked. The media did not, by and large, call him out on it. Reid suffered no personal consequences for the smear.
Ironically, Reid is leaving public life, it is widely believed, because someone applied bare-knuckle tactics, this time literally, against him. That too was not right. But Reid is leaving office, isn’t he?