Harry Reid isn’t talkative. But the Senate majority leader chatted freely with the two disarmingly charming book authors who came to his office at the Capitol shortly after the 2008 election.
They — and their tape recorder — were soaking in his reminiscences about the wild campaign that had turned a backbencher in his caucus into president of the United States.
Reid wasn’t on guard — perhaps because he’d been told by his staff that the meeting would be “off the record,” according to a person with knowledge of the exchange.
Although Reid is a master of the Senate’s mysterious inside game, he’s often botched the outside game because of what one colleague calls a “penchant for saying things without a filter.”
But Jim Manley, Reid’s senior communications adviser, wasn’t too worried as he and his boss sat down with John Heilemann of New York Magazine and Mark Halperin of Time magazine — two veteran reporters who were working on what their publisher had billed as “a sweeping, novelistic, and ultimately definitive portrait” of the 2008 race.
Like virtually every Washington political insider, Manley had a long and warm relationship with Halperin, the longtime political director for ABC News who once set conventional wisdom in Washington with “The Note.”
Maybe Reid and Manley — thinking back to their many candid exchanges over the years — simply assumed that Halperin wouldn’t burn him or his boss. Or maybe he expected that Halperin would check back with him on any quotes he planned to use?
Whatever they were thinking, they were wrong.