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Senate Majority Leader's Biography Badly Needs a Rewrite

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Reid touts himself as a “consensus builder” but his personal attacks and name-calling paint a different picture, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

“He has earned the trust of both Democrats and Republicans” and has a “reputation for integrity and fairness,” says the biography of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on his official Senate website.

The self-congratulatory 1,566-word tribute, which includes praise from Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Parade magazine, also calls the Nevada Democrat a “consensus builder.” But as Reid contemplates filibuster changes, and after the majority leader’s non-role in averting the fiscal cliff and his relatively recent nasty attacks on a couple of political opponents, his online bio needs a rewrite.

If Reid really were a consensus builder who cared about getting things done, he would not have accused Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, of running a “dictatorship” and of putting personal goals ahead of the good of the country.

“John Boehner seems to care more about keeping his speakership than about keeping the nation on firm financial footing,” Reid charged in a speech before an empty chamber in late December that suggested he was more interested in scoring partisan political points than working out a deal.

Reid’s criticism of Boehner came about four months after he said on the Senate floor that someone he refused to identify told him that the reason GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney had not released his income tax records was that Romney had not paid any federal income taxes in 10 years.

“His poor father must be so embarrassed about his son,” Reid said to Huffington Post about Romney, with a kind of cruelty that I hope isn’t typical of the people who live in, or grew up in, Searchlight, Nev., the small town where the majority leader was raised and where for years he has said his values were formed.

Reid, 72, recently became Nevada’s longest-serving member of Congress and has always been partisan. I don’t know whether he has always been mean. But I do know that he has become increasingly selective in his memories, looking more and more hypocritical.

Actually, Reid’s recent behavior and comments aren’t at odds with past utterings, as Carl Cannon noted in his engaging Jan. 9 RealClearPolitics.com column, “Harry Reid’s Corrosive Words.” And less than six months ago, CNN correspondent Dana Bash wrote this about Reid: “As a politician, he has never been afraid to punch below the belt. ... Through the years he has called President George W. Bush a loser and a liar, named then-Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan a political hack and gone after Sen. John McCain during the 2008 presidential race as someone too temperamental to be president.”

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