Last week, the RGJ asked me to contribute my thoughts to Harry Reid’s retirement – here they are. It’s amazing, though, how fast the news cycle can be. Since I submitted my piece, two new items came to light which make my critique seem almost quaint.
First is Reid’s disgusting confirmation that he was perfectly comfortable – even proud – of his lie, given its political success.
At least this, finally and belatedly, is earning Reid some of the derision he should have been subject to years before by everyone in the State of Nevada and beyond.
Consider the (justified) liberal outrage over this scenario: An ambitious young DA gets a sensational murder case on his desk, and a suspect has been arrested. This case will make him famous – and electable. The problem is that the case is weak – the young man in custody may not even have been in town. So maybe the DA “finds” a few witnesses. Maybe he “loses” some lab results that shows the DNA doesn’t match. Maybe the DA is cleverly vague with the Grand Jury. Hey, the kid has a record and it’s not like he was ever going to make anything of himself anyway. And this conviction will give the DA the power to help out all kinds of people when he’s in a higher office! No real loss, and it’s all for the greater good, right? Right?
Americans find such a scene repulsive, and we should. To a moral person, the respective political persuasions of the parties involved are irrelevant, as are their respective socio-economic positions. So why the shrugs and silence on the left for Reid?
Reid is a powerful government official who falsely accused another man of committing a crime. Romney wasn’t going to jail, but it certainly damaged his career ambitions. Romney’s extraordinary wealth insulated him from the consequences most of us would face in such a scenario, but as they say – it’s the thought that counts. Justice does not excuse the criminal because his victim is wealthy. And Romney is far from the only such victim of Reid’s.
The other piece is this one from Jon Ralston in Politico.
I have written before about how Reid has refused to talk to me during a couple of periods in my career, including since 2011, this time for perceived slights to his family. The stories were legitimate—how he helped get his son, Josh, a job as city attorney by calling the mayor and council members and how he funneled money to his granddaughter’s jewelry business. But Reid did not just refuse to appear on my television program; he tried to get me fired, and more than once.
Reid called his close friend, the late Jim Rogers, who owned all the NBC affiliates in the state that until late last year aired my program. The senator complained bitterly about my coverage.
Rogers summoned me to his office or called me more than once in the year or so before he died in June. “He said, ‘Ralston is trying to bury me and my family,’” Rogers told me Reid had told him. Rogers actually canceled the program once—I managed to persuade him otherwise—after hearing from Reid. Rogers explained to me more than once how much he owed Reid, thus making my coverage more problematic.
Ultimately, Jon did lose a job due to Reid’s complaining, after a column critical of Reid – critical of the same false accusations as I talk about in my column – was killed by another Reid media ally. (He left rather than submit to that sort of censorship – courage too seldom seen in the face of such corruption.)
Consider that, and let it chill your American bones. One of the most powerful men in the government didn’t like what a reporter said about him, and so he tried to take that reporter out of circulation. If not for the internet, he would have succeeded.
This is who Reid is. This is what he does. And we’re supposed to be happy he’s slung a few million bucks in highway funds out way? Some pork projects, 30 pieces of silver… When you’re left haggling over the price, you no longer get to claim you aren’t part of problem.
America as it is presently conceived cannot work without a fundamentally moral culture. I don’t mean gay marriage or prayer in schools. I mean a generally accepted understanding that people ought to be restrained by some sense of fair dealing and public decency, and that there are social consequences when that restraint is lost. There must be an agreement by the citizenry as a whole that we cannot condone naked abuses of power simply because a politician is on our “team”. Hyperbole is fine, broken campaign promises are disappointing, lapses of personal integrity are Tuesdays – but knowingly false accusations of felonious behavior on the floor of the Senate must be a dealbreaker. We get more of what we reward with our votes. Do we want more Harry Reid, even though he’s everything we all claim to hate about politics?
In my column, I mention Reid’s anointed successor, who once took a page from his playbook. Consider this scenario:
An ambitious young DA gets a sensational political corruption case on her desk, and a suspect has been indicted. This case will make her famous – and electable. The problem is that the case is weak – the man under indictment didn’t take any money, and was following advice from the DA’s own office before he did anything with it. So maybe the DA “finds” a few witnesses. Maybe she’s cleverly vague with the Grand Jury. Hey, the man had political ideas that weren’t “correct” anyway – it’s not like he was going to help the middle class. And this conviction will give the DA the power to help out all kinds of people when she’s in a higher office! No real loss, and it’s all for the greater good, right?
Fortunately, this time the judge dismissed the case. Attorney General Catherine Cortez-Masto was given the chance to re-file with a better drafted complaint. But by then, Lieutenant Governor Brian Krolicki had been effectively sidelined as a potential challenger to Harry Reid. So this ambitious prosecutor held a press conference and declared victory. She noted that her failed indictment would make “[O]ther state officials … think twice about carrying out a similar conduct in the future…”
Could the warning be any more transparent? Could the effect be any more chilling to a free society?
My liberal friends and I disagree about many things. Surely, though, we can agree that this sort of behavior by powerful government officials is unacceptable, no matter the party affiliation. Surely, we can agree not to vote for people so petty and yet so monstrous that they would unjustly ruin lives merely to win an election.