Wednesday, January 02, 2019
Harry Reid in full-effect
Reid is suffering from cancer. And he's letting it all hang out. Although, when you think about it he always did:
The former F.B.I. director James Comey, after he was fired by Trump, compared Trump to the head of a mafia family, with its codes of silence and loyalty, its fear-based leadership style and fealty to a single godfather. “It’s not about anything else except the boss,” Comey said in a recent interview at the 92nd Street Y in New York. Others have drawn the same parallel, and I asked Reid if, given his unusually relevant professional experience in this area, it rang true. Reid expelled a quick and dismissive chuckle. “Organized crime is a business,” he told me, “and they are really good with what they do. But they are better off when things are predictable. In my opinion, they do not do well with chaos. And that’s what we have going with Trump.”
Still, Reid added: “Trump is an interesting person. He is not immoral but is amoral. Amoral is when you shoot someone in the head, it doesn’t make a difference. No conscience.” There was a hint of grudging respect in Reid’s tone, which he seemed to catch and correct. “I think he is without question the worst president we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve had some bad ones, and there’s not even a close second to him.” He added: “He’ll lie. He’ll cheat. You can’t reason with him.” Once more, a hint of wonder crept into his voice, as if he was describing a rogue beast on the loose in a jungle that Reid knows well.
The Trump era and Reid’s illness have occasioned an inevitable reconsideration of Reid’s legacy and all its contradictions. The Affordable Care Act, which Reid managed to navigate past the oppositional tactics of his persistent nemesis, the Republican Senate leader (and now majority leader), Mitch McConnell, has so far withstood McConnell and Trump’s efforts to dismantle the legislation. Reid was also prescient in urging the Obama administration and congressional Republicans to go public about the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election; the letter that Republican leaders agreed to co-sign weeks after they were briefed on the investigation did not identify Russia by name. “They did nothing — or nothing that I’m aware of,” Reid said.
But McConnell’s and Trump’s own most substantial accomplishment to date, the appointment to the federal bench of an unprecedented number of conservative judges, including two Supreme Court justices who might well end up hearing a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, was made vastly easier by Reid’s decision, in 2013, to get rid of the filibuster for judicial appointments. Reid remains unrepentant about this. “They can say what they want,” he told me. “We had over 100 judges that we couldn’t get approved, so I had no choice. Either Obama’s presidency would be a joke or Obama’s presidency would be one of fruition.”
Reid’s successor is Chuck Schumer, his former caucus deputy who engineered much of the Senate Democrats’ communications and campaign strategy during Reid’s tenure. They had been close during Reid’s 12 years as Democratic leader, Reid serving as the arid desert yin to Schumer’s bombastic Brooklyn yang. When we spoke, Reid told me he did not wish to be seen as second-guessing Schumer. “My personal feeling should have nothing to do with it,” he said. But clearly Reid has more than a few of those personal feelings. He has told confidants that he felt Schumer was too eager to assume his job before Reid was ready to leave. Reid has also criticized, privately, Schumer’s instinct for accommodation with both McConnell and Trump.
In our conversation, Reid seemed incapable of not constantly reminding me that he did not wish to talk about Schumer, as if this itself was something he wanted me to emphasize. “I do not call Schumer,” he told me. Then: “I call him once in a while — not weekly. Let’s say monthly I may call him.” This sounded straightforward enough until he added: “I talk to Nancy often. I love Nancy Pelosi. We did so many good things, and we still talk about that.” And just the day before, he said, he called Richard Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who, along with Schumer, was Reid’s top lieutenant in the Senate and is now Schumer’s Democratic whip. “We came to the House together in 1982,” Reid said of Durbin. “We had wonderful conversations.” (Schumer declined to be interviewed; his spokesman said in a statement that Schumer and Reid “have different styles but they complemented each other well. They are still good friends and talk regularly.”)
In fairness, there’s little that any Democratic leader can do at a time when the opposing party controls the presidency and both houses of Congress, as Republicans did until this month. Durbin told me that he has sat with Schumer and Trump together at the White House. “They are discussing things at a New York level that most of us on the outside don’t understand,” Durbin said. “With Chuck, it’s his grandfather who had some business with Trump’s father or some darned thing. It’s a totally different ballgame.”
I asked Durbin whether this approach had yielded any results. “The obvious answer,” he conceded, “is it hasn’t worked very well so far.”
Ooh, thats harsh. But true. Schumer is a weak point for a lot of reasons.
His assessment of Trump is correct. He is amoral (I would add stupid and crude.) Also this:
On the Friday afternoon before Christmas, just hours before the government shut down over Trump’s demands for more funding for a border wall, I called Reid to see how closely he was following this latest brinkmanship. “Landra and I have been watching the news; we have it on now,” Reid told me. The shutdown, he allowed, was “interesting.” Reid takes an anthropological interest in the changes that Trump has wrought on his old institution. “You can’t legislate when you have a chief executive who’s weird, for lack of a better description,” he told me. He said he could never understand how his former Senate colleague Jeff Sessions allowed himself to be so abused and humiliated by the president. “Why in the hell didn’t Sessions leave?” he said. “Same with Kelly,” referring to the departing chief of staff, John Kelly. “I’d say, ‘Go screw yourself.’ I could not look my children in the eye.”
I asked him if he could identify at all with Trump’s dark worldview. “I disagree that Trump is a pessimist,” Reid said, as if to allow him that mantle would be paying him an undeserved compliment. “I think he’s a person who is oblivious to the real world.”
So are his followers. Thank the right wing media for that.
digby 1/02/2019 12:00:00 PM