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Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Gambler

Let's talk about Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D - NV).

Harry Reid is like a character from a Martin Scorcese movie. Actually, he's LITERALLY a character from a Scorcese movie. Remember that scene in Casino when the gaming board deny Robert De Niro his gaming license and he flips the fuck out and starts calling them out on taking advantage of all kinds of star treatment (hookers, free rooms, etc, etc) and now not wanting to play? Yeah, well when that hearing happened in real life, Reid was the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission (1977-81).

Of course that's not to say the part about the bribes was necessarily about him... There's only one big story about someone trying to bribe the most powerful Democrat in the Senate, and it reads a little differently. In '78, a man named Jack Gordon offered him $12,000 to approve some new type of slot machines, and he reported him to the FBI. When the Feds set up a sting, and he was supposed to clue them in to raid the room with the phrase "Is this the money?" he instead lost his shit, jumped over the table and tried to throttle the guy while yelling, "You tried to bribe me, you son of a bitch!"

He has a history of taking things personally. In fact, as far as I can tell Harry Reid is the kind of politician I would end up being if I wasn't so decidedly unelectable. By many accounts, he's an a bit of asshole. He hangs up on people on the phone without saying goodbye, he calls out even his own party members on their bullshit, and is willing to use language supposedly unbecoming of his position to describe his opinion of some of his colleagues, like "embarrassment," "political hack," and "liar."

He's been in Congress since 1983 (2 terms in the House of Representatives and 5 and counting in the Senate), and is up for re-election next year. There's some debate as to whether or not he's going to run again, considering his advancing years and a recent exercise accident that may lead to him losing his left eye. For those of you who haven't put two and two together yet, I'm going to spell it out. The Senate Minority Leader, a man who once had a bomb attached to the bottom of his car by mobsters, and takes no shit from anyone, may soon be permanently clad in an eyepatch. That's some James Bond villain shit.

He doesn't get much love from either side of the ideological aisle. He opposes Roe v. Wade, was against gay marriage until he realized it was an inevitable development, is for the death penalty, and supported a proposed amendment to prevent flag-desecration despite saying it was merely a "pet issue" of the right wing only 2 months earlier. At the same time, he's a huge environmental proponent, helping Nevada become one of the country's leading producer of solar energy, and pushing a bill to cut $15 billion of oil subsidies and putting that into renewable energy. In 2007 (the last time his side was outnumbered by Republicans) he brought to a vote an ethics bill that barred members of the Senate from accepting gifts, meals, and trips from lobbyists and organizations employing them, and borrowing corporate jets for travel, among other things. On the flip side, he also regularly votes against gun control and voted for a measure preventing people from suing gun companies when their products are "misused." Then again, he was instrumental in pushing through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare for those who listen to the talking heads to much [not the band]).

All that said, everyone who knows him personally seems to love him. And because of that, he's been able to - more effectively than most - keep his caucus together and somewhat effective despite being in the minority. It makes sense to me, that, since he himself straddles the traditional political platform affiliations, he'd be able to pull stragglers in line with what needs to happen politically at any given moment.

See, Reid is a leftover of the old school of politics, when it was exclusively a boys club, and deals were carried out in dark, smoke-filled rooms. He knows the system and how to bend it to his will. He came up dealing with criminals (that's what we used to call organizations that were hurting and robbing people while throwing money at politicians). Most of the politicians in office when he took power only supported civil rights reform because they knew their jobs depended on it. Shit, this dude took office during the Reagan administration; he knows everything there is to know about being surrounded by Republicans running wild.

It's probably obvious to anyone who's familiar with me or my writing that I'm being much more positive in my analysis of this guy than I've ever been of another politician (except for Bernie Sanders, whom I'm gonna hold out on writing about for as long as I can because it's basically just gonna be a puff piece). Part of that likely has to do with the fact that he's an asshole, and I have a soft spot in my heart for assholes. Thing is, disagree as I might with about half of his policy, reading up on him, I've realized that if you're a liberal, this is EXACTLY the dude you want in your corner. He's a shark. He's a cutthroat bastard if he needs to be. He may not be terribly progressive, but he consistently votes for what he believes is in the best interests of his constituents (even when that goes against his personal beliefs), and more importantly, he knows how to bend the political machine he's a part of to actually accomplish those goals.

I don't know if Harry Reid is a good man. I can't honestly say I'd vote for him. But there's a part of me that's glad he's in the position he's in right now. Like a necessary evil, without a guy like Harry Reid, the Democrats would truly be a bunch of idealistic morons lost in the woods without a chance in hell of stopping the march of religious extremists, bigots, and corporate shills that is the GOP.

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