Today, Republican voters in Nevada will choose a candidate to be their nominee against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.). The contest between this GOP candidate and the most powerful Democrat in the Senate will, in all likelihood, become the “race of the year” for conservatives nationwide.
It’s not difficult to understand why. After 28 years in Congress (four in the House and 24 in the Senate), the last six as Democratic leader in the Senate, the 70-year-old Reid is, along with Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the three most powerful Democrats in America. Whatever the cause that comes down the liberal pike—the massive “stimulus” package, the 2009 omnibus spending bill, the Obama budget, the TARP package to bailout troubled banks, and the Obama-backed healthcare package—voters can count on the Silver State senator’s not only supporting the measure, but being in the fight for its enactment.
In his last trip to the polls in ’04, Reid rolled up a 61%-to-35%margin over little known Republican opponent Richard Ziser. That same year, then-Senate Dem. Leader Tom Daschle lost his re-election bid in South Dakota and Reid (who held the No.2 position of Democratic whip) moved up to the top job in the Senate Dem. hierarchy. Two years later, with Reid a premier fund-raiser for his party’s Senate candidates, Democrats picked up the six seats needed to take control of the Senate and made the Nevadan their majority leader.
Since then, his constituents and the nation have gotten full exposure to Harry Reid in action. Once considered more moderate than many of his fellow Senate Democrats (he supported a ban on partial-birth abortion and the Gulf War resolution in 1991 and opposed many gun-control measures), Reid has steadily moved to port, becoming not only a decidedly leftist national Democrat but one of the most powerful. In just his last term, the Nevada senator’s American Conservative Union rating went from 21% in ’04 to an anemic 8% in ’09. (Reid’s lifetime ACU rating is 18.56%).
In addition, Nevada voters have gotten to see the dark side of their senior senator of late, since his mean-spirited comments about political opponents are amplified because of his position. As the Almanac of American Politics observed,“[Reid] seems quick to take offense and is sometimes ready with insults. He has called former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan “a political hack,” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas “an embarrassment,” George W. Bush a “loser,” a “liar,” and “King George.”
You get the picture: Harry Reid is one of the nation’s most powerful liberals and one of the most partisan and nasty ones at well. The case for conservatives’ unseating Harry Reid this fall is overwhelming.
A Leftist On Everything
Nearly every respected taxpayers’ groups gives Harry Reid basement-low ratings or failing grades: The non-partisan National Taxpayers Union awarded him a 6% (“F” grade) rating in ’09. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce gives Reid a lifetime rating of 36%. Citizens Against Government Waste(CAGW) has Reid’s lifetime rating at18%. In 2009, the year he quarterbacked the Obama stimulus and healthcare packages to passage in the Senate, Reid was named “Porker of the Year” by CAGW.
But well before Obama became President and Reid majority leader, the Nevadan was backing big-spending government programs. He supported the 1993 Clinton-backed Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, which raised taxes on Social Security benefits, gasoline and corporations. Passed by one vote in the House and a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Al Gore in the Senate, the ’93 bill raised taxes by $241 billion and was, according to economist Alvin Rabushka, “the largest tax increase in history.”
More recently, Reid opposed final passage of the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and ’03 and has fought for their expiration (which is now scheduled to come early next year).
A Mormon, Reid has long styled himself “pro-life” and did vote for a ban on partial-birth abortions seven times. However, in both 1999 and ’03, he voted against tabling and thus killing amendments offered by liberal Sen. Richard Durbin (D.-Ill.) that would have negated the ban under most circumstances.
During the healthcare debate, the majority leader came under fire from the National Right to Life Committee for permitting pro-abortion language to be in the bill passed by the Senate. For voting against an amendment by fellow Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) that would have restricted federal funding of abortion in the bill and then shepherding the legislation to passage, Reid “impersonates a pro-life senator,” charged the NRLC.
“Reid seeks to cover elective abortions in two big new federal health programs,” NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson told reporters, “but tries to conceal that unpopular reality with layers of contrived definitions and hollow bookkeeping requirements.”
Not content to move to the left on social and economic issues, Reid has also clearly done the same on the national security front—very possibly to cultivate the moveon.org antiwar movement that flexes increasing muscle within the Democratic Party. He was vehement in opposition to President Bush’s surge in Iraq in ’07 (“absolutely wrong,” he called the ultimately successful strategy) and has fully embraced the cause of trying enemy combatants in civilian courts. As far back as ’05, Reid backed a bill to permit enemy combatants the right to petition for habeas corpus in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and, in ’09, he voted to table an amendment sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.-S.C.) to bar Justice Department funds from being used to prosecute in a federal court anyone linked to the 9/11 attack.
Taking His Nasty Pills Regularly
Based on Harry Reid’s move toward the left and unyielding partisanship on a wide range of issues, a strong case can be made that the Nevadan is a more partisan majority leader than were fellow Democrats Lyndon Johnson (Tex.) or George Mitchell (Maine.) when they held the post.
But there is no doubt that Reid is the nastiest person to serve as majority leader. His many mean-spirited comments about political opponents such as Bush and Clarence Thomas and even about the citizens who went to town hall meetings to protest Democratic healthcare legislation (“evil mongers,” he branded them in a Las Vegas speech in August ’09) suggest someone who daily ingests high-octane nasty pills .
This is nothing new. Over lunch with a colleague and me last December, former Sen. Paul Laxalt (R.-Nev.) recalled his first winning Senate campaign back in 1974. His Democratic opponent was then-Lt. Gov. Harry Reid.
Laxalt said that Reid’s campaign team “conducted a negative campaign that attempted to question the integrity and reputation of my entire family. We Laxalts had been around Nevada a long time, and no one had ever tried to sully our reputations before.”
At one point late in the race, Laxalt told us, “the Reid campaign “demanded financial disclosures not only from me, but from each of my brothers and sisters. When I pointed out that Sister Sue was a Catholic nun with a vow of poverty, the requests died right away.” Laxalt beat Reid by 624 votes, making Reid the only Democrat in the so-called “Watergate Year” not to hold on to a Senate seat that had been held by a fellow Democrat.
That “dark side” of Reid hasn’t changed much. Speaking about Republican-led efforts to slow down the healthcare bill last year, Reid told Fox News: “If you think you’ve heard those same excuses before, you’re right. This country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said slow down, it’s too early, let’s wait. Things aren’t bad enough.” (Fox News, Dec. 7, 2009). He, of course, never mentioned that it was Republican President Abraham Lincoln who freed the slaves.
In February 2010, he called for passage of a jobs bill because “Men don’t have jobs. Women don’t have jobs either. But women aren’t abusive, most of the time. Men, when they are out of work, tend to become abusive. Our domestic crisis shelters in Nevada are jammed. It’s the way it is all over the country.” (“O’Reilly Factor,” Feb.24, 2010).
Of course, the most recent notorious “Reid remark” was his statement, reported by authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in their book Game Change, that presidential hopeful Barack Obama could be successful in part because of his “light-skinned” appearance and speaking patterns “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” An understandably embarrassed Reid telephoned the President upon early release of the quote and, rare for Reid, apologized to him.
Asked by Eric Zimmerman of The Hill about one of his controversial salvos, Reid commented: “I feel I haven’t done anything to embarrass [my children]. Except maybe call somebody an evil monger.”
“Nevada’s Most Powerful Senator”
As he seeks his fifth term under trying circumstances in what is shaping up to be a difficult political year for Democrats, Harry Reid bills himself “Nevada’s Most Powerful Senator.”
And this is accurate: He has risen to a higher and more influential perch than other Senate titans from Nevada such as fellow Democrats Key Pittman (1913-40), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Pat McCarran (1932-54), Judiciary Committee chairman.
In so doing, Reid has become not only the most influential of all senators but one of the “Big Three” Democrats instrumental in helping Barrack Obama implement a dangerous leftist public policy agenda for America.
And that, in a nutshell, is the reason that the campaign of whoever wins the Republican Senate primary today must be the true “race of the year” for all conservatives.
For the sake of our country, Harry Reid must go.