This week several journalists and bloggers had breakfast with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid just published a book, "The Good Fight: Hard Lessons from Searchlight to Washington." It is a very honest book and very direct, not the usual political fare from Washington politicians. There are journalists from both the right and left who do not think he is an effective majority leader, but I beg to differ. He is very effective precisely because he flies under the radar as soft spoken but tough.
There are pundits who think that if Sen. Clinton does not win the Democratic nomination she will come back and claim the majority leader position. Sen. Reid is not about to be displaced, and when asked about his tenure he said he has the full support of the senators and added, "keep in mind also that a senator coming back that's running for president is not very unique around here. John Kerry ran, he's back; Chris Dodd ran and he's back; Joe Biden ran, he's back … Clinton has a lot of fine committee assignments. She has plenty to do." Spoken like a very wily leader who is not going anywhere.
When Bill Clinton ran for president, he was tagged as "the man from Hope," which referred to his birthplace, Hope, Ark. Harry Reid is the man from Searchlight, Nev., and it puts the spotlight on what can happen in America. His parents were alcoholic. His father did not finish eighth grade and later committed suicide. He lived with various relatives while growing up, met his wife when in high school and has been married to her for 50 years. He and his wife have 16 grandchildren. If that is not an American success story, I do not know what is.
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What makes Harry Reid so successful is that he is not one to step in the spotlight or the searchlight, he can let other senators take the grandstand while he keeps the Democratic majority stepping in the same direction. He calls it as he sees it and lets the chips fall where they may. In his book he plainly says that President Bush lied and lists examples, once about the nuclear waste site in Yucca Mountain and once about the so-called "nuclear option" regarding filibusters in the Senate. Anyone who knows Sen. Reid can just imagine him plainly telling the president that he was lying – not a lot of fan fair, just a sentence or two delivered with precision.
Children of alcoholic parents are often keen observers of behavior. My favorite personality sketch in "The Good Fight" is a scene from the White House cabinet room on the sixth anniversary of 9/11. He quotes the president saying, "Of course al-Qaida needs new recruits because we're killing 'em. We're killing 'em all." Reid's observation is that, "We are spending $12 billion a month and has no end in sight, (and) here's the president of the United States speaking of the situation as if it's some kind of action movie or sporting event."
Reid understands the rhythm of American politics. At the breakfast, he predicted the tactics of the GOP, "The Republicans are trying to conduct this coming election as they have in past elections, going after people for being unpatriotic. For example, Max Cleland who is missing three limbs as the result of being hurt in Vietnam. Tom Daschle, being unpatriotic. So this is the record they are dusting off and going back and playing it again." Will Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats be "swift boated" this election? Not a chance. He is ready for them, and as a former college boxer, Harry Reid knows when and where to throw the punch.
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Throwing the punch is one thing, and picking up Senate seats is another. Sen. Reid estimates that the Democrats are going to pick up four to five seats in November. If I were a betting woman, I would bet on Harry Reid. He comes from the state that has had legalized gambling the longest, and I would say he understands the odds and knows how to win.