Harry Reid Gone Wild

The senator's unhinged politics at their worst.

The Obama administration and Democrats are desperate to turn the national conversation away from the economy. Nothing both reflects and personifies that desperation better than the scurrilous attack on Mitt Romney by Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV). Without producing a shred of evidence, Reid has made the claim that the presumptive Republican presidential candidate hasn't paid any taxes for 10 years.

Reid's ostensible source(s) for the claim have varied. On July 31st, Reid told the Huffington Post that a "Bain Capital investor" had called him to reveal the information. Yet even as he made the accusation, he hedged. "He didn't pay taxes for 10 years! Now, do I know that that's true? Well, I'm not certain," said Reid. "But obviously he can't release those tax returns. How would it look?" Reid reiterated his assertion with a bit of class warfare thrown in. "You guys have said his wealth is $250 million. Not a chance in the world. It's a lot more than that. I mean, you do pretty well if you don't pay taxes for 10 years when you're making millions and millions of dollars," he added, further noting that Romney's deceased father "must be so embarrassed about his son."

A day later, Reid's story changed. "I am not basing this on some figment of my imagination," Reid said in a telephone call with Nevada reporters. "I have had a number of people tell me that." When Reid was asked to elaborate on his sources he declined. "No, that's the best you're going to get from me...I don't think the burden should be on me," Reid said. "The burden should be on him. He's the one I've alleged has not paid any taxes. Why didn't he release his tax returns?"

One could ask Harry Reid and most of Congress the same question. As reported by McClatchy newspapers both Democratic leaders of the Senate and the House of Representatives, namely, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) respectively, "are among hundreds of senators and representatives from both parties who refused to release their tax records."

On August 2nd, Reid upped the ante again, repeating his accusation on the floor of the Senate. “So, the word’s out that he hasn’t paid any taxes for 10 years. Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn’t,” Reid contended.

Note the despicable tactic to which Harry Reid has resorted. He makes an unsubstantiated allegation--one that could be made about virtually anything--and then claims the burden is on Romney to prove that the allegation is untrue. This is the stuff of banana republics and totalitarian regimes, but the Senate Majority Leader does it anyway, knowing that his media allies are more than willing to keep the story alive, and that other Democrats will rally to his side.

Some of the highest ranking Democrats, in fact, have indeed risen to the occasion. On Sunday, both Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Republican National Committee Chairman (RNC) Reince Priebus took to the airwaves and called Reid a liar and a "dirty liar," respectively. House Minority Leader Pelosi fired back: "Harry Reid made a statement that is true. Somebody told him. It is a fact," Pelosi told the Huffington Post in an interview. "Whether he did or not can easily be disposed of: Mitt Romney can release his tax returns and show whether he paid taxes," she added. What could be even more easily disposed of is Nancy Pelosi's proof that Reid is telling the truth. But asking Pelosi that seemingly obvious question was apparently a bridge too far for the leftist Huffington Post.

Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, (D-FL) who appeared on “This Week”  also believes the burden is on Romney to disprove Reid's allegations. “I do know that Mitt Romney could clear this up in ten seconds by releasing the 23 years of tax returns that he gave to John McCain when he was being vetted for vice president. Or even 12 years of tax returns that his own father said were what was appropriate.  Because one year of tax returns, like he’s released, could just be for show,” she said--even as she added that she does not know who Reid’s source is either.

Former Counselor to the Treasury Secretary under President Obama Steven Rattner played the game as well. “I don’t think [the accusation] was appropriate," he said. "But you still come back to the question, why won’t he release his tax returns?  If he’s paid all the taxes he says he’s paid, he says he’s paid a lot of taxes every year, why not just release them and move on?  And end this discussion.”

This tactic is about anything and everything except ending the discussion. It is about beating up Mitt Romney as a tax cheat if he doesn't release his taxes, or more than likely beating him up as an out-of-touch elitist who makes far too much money if he does.

As for Reid, making venomous, unhinged statements is par for the course. He called Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas "an embarrassment to the Supreme Court" in 2004, referred to president George W. Bush as "a loser" during a speech at Del Sol High School in 2005, and claimed that former Republican Senate Majority leader Bill Frist had "no institutional integrity" in the same year. And on April 12, 2007, Reid revealed where his true concerns lay regarding the war in Iraq. “We’re going to pick up Senate seats as a result of this war. Senator Schumer has shown me numbers that are compelling and astounding,” he gushed at a press conference.

Thus, it was no surprise that five days later, while American troops were in harm's way in Iraq, he characterized the war there as "lost." "I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense and--you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows - [know] this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday," he said. A day later on the Senate floor? “No one wants us to succeed in Iraq more than Democrats.”

Reid rationalized his erratic behavior in a 2006 interview with the New York Times. "I’m going to throw bombs sometimes--I’m going to be conciliatory other times,” he said, November 10, 2006.

Yet Reed isn't quite as forthcoming about his own questionable behavior. He hasn't had much to say about a 2003 article in the Los Angeles Times noting that a bill he presented to his Senate colleagues as an environmental measure contained provisions that "benefit a real estate development headed by a senior partner in the Nevada law firm that employs all four of Reid's sons..." Nor have Americans heard much about a 2006 Newsmax article revealing that Reid "collected a $1.1 million windfall on a Las Vegas land sale even though he hadn't personally owned the property for three years, property deeds show." That story also notes the often Senator "hung up the phone when questioned about the deal during an AP interview last week."

And just last Friday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published a story about Reid strong-arming NV Energy, Nevada's primary electricity provider, to buy more "green energy" from a Chinese solar company. This was occurring despite the fact that NV Energy had exceeded its state-mandated green energy quota, and the fact that green energy generates higher electric bills for customers. "There's another factor, however, one more personal to Reid: His son, Rory Reid, is one of the attorneys for the ENN Mojave Energy project," the paper reveals. "A Reid spokeswoman said the senator did not suggest Reid's firm--Lionel, Sawyer & Collins--to ENN, nor has the elder Reid spoken to this son about the deal."

Has Harry Reid enriched himself and his family illegally at taxpayer expense? Journalistic standards do not allow one to reach such a conclusion absent conclusive proof. Yet if one imposes Reed's own standard regarding on whom the burden of proof is placed in such a situation, it compels him to respond to such an accusation, valid or not. If the media kept such accusations alive, it might even distract the public from the fact that the Democratically-controlled Senate, led by the Senator from Nevada, has refused to exercise one of its primary constitutional mandates: it hasn't passed a budget in more than three years.

Thoughtful Americans are well aware of what Harry Reid is trying to do. If Reid is attacking Romney and Romney is responding such as he has, challenging Reed to "put up or shut up," and insisting that he has paid "a lot of taxes," then the focus is drawn away from both Barack Obama and the economy. Romney has a right to be angry, but he is not running against Harry Reid, or any of the other Democrat or media hacks trying to steer the focus away from the current president and his dismal record.

As for Barack Obama, yesterday White House press secretary Jay Carney claimed that Reid “speaks for himself” and did so without any guidance from Team Obama. Carney then reiterated Reid's talking points. “You know, [releasing tax returns is] not always every candidate’s favorite part of the process, but it’s a tradition that’s important,” he said. “It’s valuable to the American people as they decide who should be president." Not as nearly valuable as deciding who should be president based on living through the worst economic recovery in the nation's history. Moreover, despite Carney's denial of Team Obama's involvement, does anyone seriously believe Jay Carney "speaks for himself"?

Harry Reid has crossed a line, and it is telling that not a single Democrat, especially the president, has seen fit to criticize him. Nothing speaks to the self-repudiation of Barack Obama's "politics of inclusion," "hope and change," or "we're in this together" more tellingly than that. Harry has substantially lowered the bar of public discourse. And most Democrats are more than willing to stoop down and join him.

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