In “The Godfather Part II,” a senator from Nevada is portrayed as corrupt. His name is Pat Geary. In real life, a senator from Nevada is a jerk. His name is Harry Reid.
Reid is where he loves to be: the center of controversy. He has accused Mitt Romney of paying no taxes for 10 years. Romney denies the accusation and challenged Reid to put up or shut up. In an apparent response, Reid repeated the charges on the Senate floor. Countless aides have echoed their boss. They and he attribute their information to a source they will not name.
Whether such a source exists, really, is beside the point. It could be that someone did indeed tell Reid that Romney paid no taxes for 10 years. Journalists get that sort of tip all the time, and their responsibility is (1) to check it out and (2) identify the source. Reid has not done the latter and apparently has not done the former, either.
The truth is that Reid doesn’t really care if the charge is true or not. He would prefer the former, but he’ll settle for the latter.
For Reid, this is yet another brazen and tasteless partisan attack. As majority leader, he has managed to sink the public image of the Senate even lower than it would otherwise be. He contributes to bad feelings, gridlock and the sense — nay, the reality — that everything is done for political advantage. Reid is a crass man, the very personification of the gaudy and kitschy Las Vegas Strip.
Still, he is not some backbencher, but the Senate majority leader. He is the face of the Democratic Party in the Senate and the ally of President Obama. Yet, not a single Democrat has had the spine to rebuke Reid. The White House has been given the chance and explicitly ducked its duty. Other members of the Senate have run for cover. They fear Reid and, if truth be told, sort of like what he’s doing — constantly needling Romney, keeping him on the defensive about taxes and his insistence on releasing only two years of his returns.
The politics of this squabble are delightful. But Reid has managed to draw both his party and his president into the gutter with him. When Reid accuses the Republicans of being overly partisan, he now lacks all credibility. For a long time it’s been difficult to believe anything he says. Now, it’s impossible.
As for Obama, he is tarnished by this episode. The fresh new face that promised us all a different kind of politics is suddenly looking cheesy. The soaring rhetoric that Obama used in his first campaign has come to ground in the mud of Harry Reid’s latter-day McCarthyism.