Politics & Policy

There’s Something about Harry

The Editors would like to extend our condolences to Senator Harry Reid and his family as they go through this difficult time. While we can only guess at the exact nature of the psychiatric or neurological trauma the Senate majority leader has suffered, we assume that it is severe, judging by his symptoms, the most prominent of which is his new habit of taking to the Senate floor to deliver speeches that sound like they ought to be coming from a man wearing a bathrobe in front of a liquor store in Cleveland.

The Washington Post, which once had the fine discretion to overlook the embarrassing personal defects of Democrats within its good graces, recently awarded the poor man the dreaded “three Pinocchios” from its fact-checkers, who noted that the senator’s latest claims about the proprietors of Koch Industries, about whom Senator Reid obsesses the way Rosie O’Donnell obsesses about metallurgy, were largely disconnected from reality. Senator Reid, citing a recent White House report, claimed that Koch Industries was one of the main causes of global warming and that it was responsible for more greenhouse-gas emissions than Dow Chemical, Exxon, and General Electric combined. The report said no such thing and identified Exxon as a much, much larger emitter than Koch, which is no surprise, given that Koch is not in the oil-drilling business but in the refining and derivatives business. General Electric does not appear in the report at all. We deplore the Washington Post’s cheap exploitation of the troubles of an obviously confused man to sell newspapers.

By the fact-checkers’ reckoning, Koch Industries is, under the most damning calculation, responsible for one six-thousandth of 1 percent of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. PriceWaterhouseCoopers, which issued a report ranking the world’s worst corporate global-warming offenders, did not see fit to put Koch on the top-50 list, and Richard Heede of Climate Mitigation Services, who published a similar list, also excluded Koch Industries.

Senator Reid’s office is not doing him any favors, having issued a statement that “the overall point of Senator Reid’s speech was true,” despite the senator’s nearly complete break with reality on the matter of Charles and David Koch.

Senator Reid’s obsession is a strangely narrow one. Asked about the similar political activism of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose politics are not Senator Reid’s but whose employees are his voters, he scoffed: “I know Sheldon Adelson. He’s not in this for the money.” We hold Mr. Adelson in some esteem, but we are pretty sure that the Las Vegas Sands Corp. is, like Koch Industries, a profit-oriented enterprise. Mr. Adelson’s support of Israel and his interest in various Republican campaigns is not, we suspect, directed at furthering his gambling interests, and it is difficult to see how the Koch brothers’ various charitable and educational enterprises — which run the gamut from gay-marriage activism to the New York City Ballet to providing mentoring for future history professors — is designed to help them sell more asphalt or paper towels. But that’s the funny thing about conspiracy theories: The fact that there is no evidence for them is itself taken as evidence of the conspiracy. Of course you don’t believe that there’s a secret U.N. mind-control ray — that’s exactly what they’re telling you to think!

We pray that Senator Reid has not slipped into some sort of sudden-onset dementia; given our knowledge of the man, our money is on his having been kicked in the head by some kind of livestock, and the good news is that they’re doing wonderful things for rehabilitation from blunt-force trauma to the head these days. In any case, we wish him a speedy and full recovery, and hope that his colleagues can keep him from embarrassing himself further on the Senate floor until such a time as he is back in full command of his senses.

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