Politics & Policy

The Pugilist at Rest

Harry Reid, a boxer and a brawler, is throwing in the towel.

Good riddance.

There is no gentle way to characterize Senator Reid’s career: He is and long has been one of the worst things about American government — a self-interested, dishonest, sanctimonious, unscrupulous charlatan who began his career with an act of cheap theater — choking Jack Gordon, who had offered him a bribe, for the benefit of the FBI’s cameras — and capped it by filibustering a bill intended to help people being held as slaves because it did not allow for shunting public money into the coffers of Planned Parenthood for subsidized abortions, a stunt he pulled after boasting of his pro-life voting record.

He has grown wealthy in office and made fortuitous investments in real estate that later benefited from federal projects. He used campaign funds as a family slush fund, channeling money to his granddaughter and taking dubious steps to conceal the fact — omitting her surname from official documents — all while posing as a champion of campaign-finance reform. He invested an extraordinary amount of time and effort — including speeches from the Senate floor — denouncing two private citizens for their philanthropic and political donations. He flat-out lied when it suited him, for example announcing during the 2012 campaign that Mitt Romney hadn’t paid any taxes in ten years, a complete and utter fabrication that is, unfortunately, the sort of thing in which Reid has been all too happy to traffic.

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He is a lifelong friend of Harvey Whittemore, the Reno businessman and lawyer (whose firm has employed all of Reid’s sons at one time or another) who was convicted of three felonies and sentenced to prison for evading campaign-finance laws to funnel money into Reid’s reelection campaign.

Later, Reid had the audacity to call it “campaign-finance reform” when he attempted to gut the First Amendment — and got every Senate Democrat to vote with him — so that independent political groups could be stifled with speech restrictions in the interest of protecting incumbents.

#related#When he was majority leader, Reid used the power of his position to stall effectively all significant legislation coming out of the Republican-controlled House and cynically complained about “obstructionists” while acting as Washington’s obstructionist-in-chief. He bears a great deal of responsibility for the mess that is Obamacare, for the shocking waste of the stimulus package, for the unprecedented deficits produced by his joint congressional leadership with Nancy Pelosi, and for the undermining of U.S. policy in the Middle East when sabotage suited him.

He has been as near to a personification of everything that is wrong with American public life as we ever hope to see.

His retirement announcement leaves only one thing to be lamented: that Nevadans will be denied the opportunity to finally discover sufficient reserves of self-respect to defeat him at the ballot box.

As Harry Reid leaves government, we wish him good health and long life. It will give him the opportunity to reflect on his career in politics and, perhaps, to find a way to atone for it.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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