Patterico's Pontifications

1/2/2019

Harry Reid Heads to His Final Sunset

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:03 pm



[guest post by JVW]

The New York Times Magazine has an interesting profile of former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid which is dated today but I assume will be running in this Sunday’s print edition. Though I have always found the former senator to be a loathsome character, let’s right away acknowledge a fact of which I was unaware and that I don’t know has been widely reported:

Reid, who is 79, does not have long to live. I hate to be so abrupt about this, but Reid probably would not mind. In May, he went in for a colonoscopy, the results of which caused concern among his doctors. This led to an M.R.I. that turned up a lesion on Reid’s pancreas: cancer. Reid’s subdued and slightly cold manner, and aggressive anticharisma, have always made him an admirably blunt assessor of situations, including, now, his own: “As soon as you discover you have something on your pancreas, you’re dead.”

I had planned to visit Reid, who had not granted an interview since his cancer diagnosis, in November, but he put me off, saying he felt too weak. People close to him were saying that he had months left, if not weeks.

The writer, Mark Leibovich, is likely a Democrat of some or other stripe, though his other writing for the magazine doesn’t appear at first glance to be heavily partisan. He gives his subject plenty of room to criticize the President, the GOP, and Washington in general, but he also reminds his readers that Harry Reid bears a great deal of responsibility for the ill will that pervades throughout Washington these days:

Reid once called the Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan a “political hack,” Justice Clarence Thomas “an embarrassment” and President George W. Bush a “loser” (for which he later apologized) and a “liar” (for which he did not). In 2016, he dismissed Trump as “a big fat guy” who “didn’t win many fights.” Reid himself was more than ready to fight, and fight dirty: “I was always willing to do things that others were not willing to do,” he told me.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, he claimed, with no proof, that Mitt Romney had not paid any taxes over the past decade. Romney released tax returns showing that he did. After the election, Reid told CNN by way of self-justification, “Romney didn’t win, did he?” Reid took rightful criticism over this.

[. . .]

In some ways, Washington, under Trump, has devolved into the feral state that Reid, in his misanthropic heart, always knew it could become under the right conditions.

Misanthropic, needy, and vain are some of the characteristics of Reid that come across in this profile. Though the future senator grew up in a broken home in a town that supposedly contained “at least a half-dozen brothels and not a single church” (this might be the kind of hokum and bunkum that someone like Harry Reid passes along to a NYT Magazine profiler), he now lives in what Leibovich calls “a McMansion in a gated community outside of Las Vegas,” and the former senator has round-the-clock security protecting him. Always bumbling and clumsy where issues of diversity are concerned, the host makes a big deal of showing his guest a menorah that he has brought out for Hanukkah, even though the reporter describes himself as having only nominal Jewish identity. In an era where intersectionality is now the organizing principle of the left, we aren’t likely to see a Harry Reid type in this kind of leadership role anytime soon.

It can’t be easy to have to come to grips with your legacy on your deathbed. Reid admits that he still follows the Washington scene pretty closely. He takes pride in his role in passing Obamacare, and he defends curtailing the filibuster for judicial appointments pointing out that it helped confirm 100 judges appointed by President Obama, even if it did allow Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to win confirmation to the Supreme Court. He speaks with his successor, Chuck Schumer, from time to time though it sounds as if Schumer is not particularly interested in any advice that Reid has to offer, and he maintains contact with old friends Nancy Pelosi and Dick Durbin. But Reid’s essential weirdness continues to be a hallmark of his character. He tells Leibovich a sappy and almost certainly untrue story of his last conversation with John McCain, which even the mostly respectful reporter finds highly unbelievable:

Reading Reid can be difficult. Is he playing a game or working an angle or even laughing at a private joke he just told himself? When speaking of his final goodbye with McCain, he broke into a strange little grin, his lips pressed upward as if he could have been stifling either amusement or tears. It occurred to me that Reid, typically as self-aware as he is unsentimental, could have been engaged in a gentle playacting of how two old Senate combatants of a fast-vanishing era are supposed to say goodbye to each other for posterity.

Harry Reid’s legacy is uniformly negative. He pursued political power relentlessly and showed no scruples about impugning the character and motives of men and women far more worthy than he as he scrapped his way through Washington. He’s one of those “public servants” who arrived in our nation’s capital as a man of moderate wealth, yet left 35 years later having increased his holdings by at least tenfold and possibly as much as fifteen times their original worth, all while keeping two households (Nevada and Washington) on a Senator’s salary which topped out at $194,000 and with a wife whom I don’t believe ever worked outside the Reid home. We can wish him smooth passage to his eternal reward yet still recognize that Senator Tom Cotton’s assessment of him is just as trenchant today as it was when it was delivered two-and-one-half years ago.

– JVW

Regarding Mitt Romney: Let The Speculation Begin

Filed under: General — Dana @ 10:35 am



[guest post by Dana]

Mitt Romney published an op-ed in the Washington Post critical of President Trump and his lack of character:

The Trump presidency made a deep descent in December. The departures of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, the appointment of senior persons of lesser experience, the abandonment of allies who fight beside us, and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a “sucker” in world affairs all defined his presidency down.

It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion. His early appointments of Rex Tillerson, Jeff Sessions, Nikki Haley, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, Kelly and Mattis were encouraging. But, on balance, his conduct over the past two years, particularly his actions last month, is evidence that the president has not risen to the mantle of the office.

It is not that all of the president’s policies have been misguided. He was right to align U.S. corporate taxes with those of global competitors, to strip out excessive regulations, to crack down on China’s unfair trade practices, to reform criminal justice and to appoint conservative judges. These are policies mainstream Republicans have promoted for years. But policies and appointments are only a part of a presidency.

To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.

The world is also watching. America has long been looked to for leadership. Our economic and military strength was part of that, of course, but our enduring commitment to principled conduct in foreign relations, and to the rights of all people to freedom and equal justice, was even more esteemed. Trump’s words and actions have caused dismay around the world…

Of course, right out the gate, it’s funny to watch those who who pinned the ridiculous “binders of women” label on Romney, and blamed him for a woman’s death from cancer, now cheering him on for his bravery in speaking out against Trump. It’s also equally funny to see Trump’s base not just bash Romney for going after Trump, but for going after him in a #FakeNews outlet!

Both President Trump and GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel came out responded to Romney’s op-ed in separate tweets:

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Some people are suggesting this is Mitt’s first move toward a run in 2020. The GOP is obviously concerned about the possibility, given a sudden push to thwart any Trump primary challenge coming just two hours after Romney’s op-ed was published:

A member of the Republican National Committee, fearing primary challengers to President Trump in the wake of incoming GOP Sen. Mitt Romney’s scathing op-ed, is urging fellow committee members to change the rules to thwart intra-party threats to Mr. Trump in 2020.

In an email obtained by CBS News, Jevon O.A. Williams, the national committeeman for the Virgin Islands, urged fellow elected RNC members Tuesday night to push for an “unprecedented” rule change in the wake of the Romney op-ed’s “calculated political treachery.” Williams wants to close “loopholes” in the nomination in a way that would make it tougher for even token challengers to Mr. Trump to enter the fray. The Washington Examiner first reported the letter.

Specifically, Williams urged fellow RNC members to change Rule 40, which requires a candidate for the nomination to garner support from a majority of delegates in at least five states or territories in order to be placed on the nominating ballot at the Republican National Committee Convention. Williams also called for a resolution to declare Mr. Trump the presumptive nominee in 2020, calling for both of those moves to take place at an RNC winter meeting later this month.

“While President Trump would win re-nomination it wouldn’t come quick and it wouldn’t be inexpensive. Any contested re-nomination campaign—even a forlorn hope—would only help Democrats,” Williams wrote. “Accordingly, I am asking for your support to take the unprecedented step of amending the rules to close loopholes in the re-nomination campaign, including Rule 40.”

In light of Romney’s political history and policy stands, and the fact that he is not the “streetfighter” that Trump is (which his base loves), it’s very hard to see Trump’s populist followers shifting their support from Trump to a gentlemanly billionaire with a solid, working moral compass and less than hard right political stands. Moreover, this is the same Mitt Romney who went to meet with Trump after he was elected to kiss his ring, and praised Trump and his first year accomplishments.

There is the possibility that its Trump’s success or failure at building his wall that will be the determining factor for his supporters and fellow Republicans looking ahead to 2020, and not whether a president has character, is ethical, has executive experience, and has a complete understanding of history, law, politics, and how government works. Because those qualities obviously no longer matter to the GOP.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)

–Dana

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: Good for Mitt. I’m not going to hail him as some kind of hero; his allowing himself to be used during the hunt for a Secretary of State is consistent with his long history of lacking backbone at important moments. That said, it’s important that a Senator say screamingly obvious things like this on his way in, and not just on his way out. It could conceivably give courage to others to do so.

The United States of America is the closest thing I have seen in my lifetime to the story of the emperor who has no clothes. All you need to do to make the congruence perfect is tweak the story a little. In the tweaked version, the emperor has no clothes, and emperor’s enemies all scream that he is naked and make up false claims about a deadly rash on his naked buttocks. Meanwhile, his supporters pretend not to notice his naked body and, when asked about it directly, uncomfortably say that the emperor’s clothes may not be what they themselves would wear, but let’s focus on what’s important and next question please.

Mitt here is clearly saying that the emperor has no clothes. That should not be an act that takes courage, but for an incoming Senator it is — although the amount of courage required in Utah is considerably less than would be required almost anywhere else.

I say we applaud Mitt for this op-ed, but it’s still Mitt. If you think this is the beginning of a long Senatorial career of proudly standing on principle, you’re bound to be disappointed.

UPDATE BY PATTERICO x2: Here’s Rand Paul demonstrating a distinct lack of the sort of courage Romney has displayed:

UPDATE BY DANA: McKay Coppins sums up Romney’s appearance with Jake Tapper on CNN, which you can watch here:

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