Majority Leader Harry Reid meant to make some news at last week’s Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce luncheon, but not the kind that subsequently filled the local media.
Mr. Reid came to the forum to reveal his plans on the Senate health care debate. He told the business leaders he would give bipartisanship a two-week trial period after the Senate returns on September 8. If Republicans refuse to pass a bill, Mr. Reid pledged to use “reconciliation,” a set of budget rules that would allow him to muscle government-run health care through with a bare majority rather than the 60 votes required to beat a filibuster.
His speech didn’t sit well with many members, who questioned if the reordering of one-seventh of the nation’s economy should be done by turning Senate rules into a pretzel. But the real explosion came when his home state’s largest newspaper, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, accused Mr. Reid of using “bully threats” against the paper in his speech and in private remarks to one of the paper’s executives.
Sherman Frederick, publisher of the Review-Journal, says that before Mr. Reid’s speech last Wednesday, Mr. Reid in a receiving line met the paper’s director of advertising, Bob Brown, and bluntly told him: “I hope you go out of business.” Mr. Brown says he was flummoxed because while his paper’s editorials have been critical of Mr. Reid’s voting record, the paper’s advertising director has nothing to do with its opinion pages.
But Mr. Reid wasn’t finished. In his public speech, Mr. Reid told the audience that the only reason he wanted the Review-Journal to continue selling any ads was that the more liberal Las Vegas Sun was delivered as a supplement inside it.
Mr. Frederick, the paper’s publisher, responded in a column on Sunday. He said he always thought that Mr. Reid “was elected to office to protect Nevadans, not sound like he’s shaking them down. . . . I can only imagine how he pressures businesses and individuals who don’t have the wherewithal of the Review-Journal.” The column then laid down what amounted to a declaration of war from the paper: “We won’t allow you to bully us. And if you try it with anyone else, count on going through us first. It’s a promise to our readers, not to you, Sen. Reid.”
No doubt Mr. Reid didn’t intend to stir up such a ruckus, and it’s entirely possible Mr. Frederick is exaggerating what the notoriously ill-tempered and peevish Mr. Reid really was trying to convey. But on the other hand, Mr. Reid isn’t either apologizing or explaining away his remarks.
Mr. Reid already trails two largely unknown Republicans in published polls in his re-election battle next year. The last thing he needs is a newspaper that’s convinced itself that either he goes or its economic independence is in jeopardy.
That Senator Reid has risen to become Democratic Senate Majority leader is, I think, a sad commentary on the state of the Democrat party.
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