Harry Reid Didn’t Care What You Thought of Him

However nobody will ever have the conjunctions Harry Reid put collectively: a poor child from Nowhere, USA, who escaped from his hardscrabble beginnings and have become the state’s youngest-ever lieutenant governor after which misplaced each a U.S. Senate race (by 600 votes) and mayor’s race (in a landslide) after which was resurrected by his mentor (Gov. Mike O’Callaghan) to function the state’s high on line casino regulator, the place he confronted the mob and each helped and was investigated by the FBI, and who seized on a brand new congressional seat to return to elected politics and who then gained the identical Senate seat he misplaced 12 years earlier and who ascended to heights the place no Nevadan had gone earlier than and who saved a president’s first-term agenda and who grew to become Nevada’s electoral gatekeeper, creating and destroying candidacies, and who made a tiny state a nationwide drive that mattered and who’s, barely arguably, crucial public determine in Nevada historical past.

Harry Mason Reid, who died Tuesday at 82, by no means stopped transferring ahead, all the time looking for the sunshine, making the offers, cajoling these he may along with his strategic brilliance, operating over these he couldn’t with out grace or regret, by no means wanting again.

He simply didn’t have time or the temperament for social niceties or for the self-editing mechanism most politicians have. However the caricature of Harry Reid — the previous boxer who was not afraid to land a low blow, the ruthless tactician who would do something to win, the charismatically challenged curmudgeon — is so one-dimensional.

All people are complicated, however some are extra complicated than others. Reid was as type in non-public to individuals, vital and never, as he was dismissive, even nasty to foes in public. He engendered — and nonetheless does even in demise — deeper loyalty from his staffers and others than any pol I’ve encountered, at the same time as he rose to turn into probably the most highly effective man in Nevada politics. And his six-decade-plus love affair along with his spouse, Landra, is one for the ages.


It might be exhausting for some to imagine that Reid, the person who referred to as George W. Bush a “loser,” who made unsupported allegations about Mitt Romney not paying taxes and who even as soon as referred to Barack Obama as having “no Negro dialect, until he wished to have one,” may very well be so type, so caring in non-public. There are various, many tales like this one, of Reid’s non-public acts of kindness and compassion.

This can do little to mollify his legion of critics, many of whom took to social media upon information of his demise to place out unspeakably merciless sentiments — who takes the time to declare “good riddance” after somebody dies? I’m pretty sure Reid wouldn’t care about any of that, apart from the impact it has on his household.

As a lot as he cared naught for what individuals wrote about him, Reid brooked no criticism of his household. I do know. I do know as a result of the person I lined for 35 years minimize me off for years after I wrote important columns about his youngsters.

“It was by no means about what you wrote about me,” Reid instructed me when he summoned me to his workplace on the Bellagio on the Las Vegas Strip and agreed to cooperate for a ebook I’m writing about him. “It was all the time about my household.”

Don’t misunderstand: I come to not reward Reid, however I additionally don’t want the great he did to be interred along with his bones. Belief me — he wouldn’t need this to be a love letter, simply as he instructed me he knew the ebook wouldn’t be all sweetness and lightweight.

He simply wished the actual story of Harry Reid instructed.


For all of the unhealthy he shall be remembered for by some — his function in polarizing Washington, D.C., his brandishing of the nuclear possibility, his smash-mouth method to politics — Reid did what few have finished: He modified historical past. A number of instances.

He helped discuss Obama into operating for president. He made positive Obama’s first-year agenda handed — maybe averting a despair, making certain hundreds of thousands had well being care, well being care he by no means had as a toddler. When Hillary Clinton was in bother in 2016 throughout the primaries, he quietly ensured Bernie Sanders’ momentum was stopped. He saved the Las Vegas Strip throughout the Nice Recession, going as far as to threaten bankers MGM Resorts wanted to outlive. He was prescient on renewable vitality, the Hispanic vote in Nevada and public lands.

He was a person of contradictions who both advanced in his views or modified them for political causes, relying in your level of view.

Who else may very well be revered by environmentalists and but be cozy with the mining business? Who may have given a nativist speech on the Senate floor and later ensured the DREAM Act handed? Who else may have been a religious Mormon, but finally press for homosexual marriage, even talking at a homosexual staffer’s marriage ceremony?

Regrets? He had only a few. Just one, in actual fact, he instructed me: voting for the Iraq Struggle.

Reid had no time for such emotions. That may imply wanting again, which he hardly ever did. He was too busy, with no time for introspection and even for saying “goodbye” on the cellphone.


He knew he may very well be polarizing and offensive, however he additionally knew that when it got here time to run for re-election, his incomparable workers would save him. And save him they did, in 1998, by 400 votes, and in 2010, when nobody thought he would survive. It’s virtually as if he determined he couldn’t be anybody however who he was, and he deliberate to offset that with numerous private connections to strangers and by hiring one of the best accessible operatives.

Reid’s place within the nationwide firmament shall be perpetually debated — the great, the unhealthy and the ugly. His use of the nuclear possibility, particularly, shall be seen as a throughline to Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. And his fashion shall be cited as half of the sluggish degradation of the nationwide political discourse.

However his influence on the state he liked can’t be questioned. All roads by means of Nevada, figuratively and actually, ran by means of Harry Reid.

He hated the phrase “pork” — he noticed all of them as important initiatives — and he introduced lots of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to Nevada, together with to rural counties that rewarded him by hanging him in effigy and voting towards him by landslides. However it was the highway not constructed, the highway that would have led to vehicles of nuclear waste rolling by means of the state to Yucca Mountain, which will have been his best Nevada accomplishment.

If Reid had not ascended to the bulk chief’s spot, waste would have descended on the state. Harry Reid stopped Yucca Mountain. Interval. Full cease.

Reid additionally constructed many intangible buildings, too, together with the state’s enduring Democratic political machine named for him and too many careers to say, together with these of each present senators, Catherine Cortez Masto, whom he anointed as his successor in 2016, and Jacky Rosen, whom he plucked from obscurity to run for Congress in 2016 after which towards Dean Heller 4 years in the past.

This has been a 12 months bookended by distinguished deaths in Nevada — Sheldon Adelson, a seminal determine in gaming and within the Republican Social gathering, at the start, and Reid, a towering affect in politics, on the finish. Certainly, Reid and Adelson weren’t all that dissimilar — blunt, polarizing and supremely influential and achieved. They preferred one another, truly, and had an interesting non-public relationship.

The distinction, maybe, is that Adelson had a number of friends in his sphere — Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, at the very least. However Harry Reid, the grasp of the Senate and the king of Nevada, stands alone.

I knew quite a bit about Reid earlier than, however even I didn’t know the depth and breadth of what he had finished for Nevada or what his opinions had been of different senators till I began researching the ebook. I interviewed him for hours, experiencing all of his laconic fashion and his lesser-known wry humor, listening to tales of different elected officers, marketing campaign travails and brushes with the mob.

He was a fighter by means of and thru. Certainly, Reid’s final couple of weeks of life had been characterised by his refusing to succumb — he texted me as lately as two weeks in the past to thank me for my diligence on the ebook. Till he lastly, unimaginably, may combat the great combat no extra.

(A model of this story has been revealed by the Nevada Impartial.)

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