Harry Reid, a Bare-Knuckle Brawler as Senate Majority Leader, Dies at 82

REMOVELiving in a Nevada mining town in 1939, Harry Mason Reid grew up in a house accurately described as a shack with no indoor toilet, hot water or telephone. Years later, when he had suddenly risen to become majority leader of the United States Senate, he published his memoir, The good fight: Lessons learned from the spotlight on Washington, a nostalgic look at where he started his life and the people who helped him to look beyond that difficult start.

John L. Smith, then a Boulder City Review columnist and a Nevada native like Reid, wrote that Searchlight’s native son must work to erase the nostalgia and find worthy qualities in the “ruined, contaminated mines.” sick from a brothel south of Las Vegas on U.S. Highway 93. When the local proprietor, Willie Martello, was seen as a positive influence on the local population in part because he let the kids swim in it. El Rey Motel’s pool, you know, you’re in the rough countryside. ”

In his memoirs, Reid credits a high school teacher, Mrs. Pickard, for sparking a spark for learning he didn’t even know he had. “I can’t remember one thing she taught me, not one thing,” Reid wrote. “But she was the first person to teach me that learning is good, she was the first person to instill in me the desire to read.”

There was no high school in Searchlight, so Reid stayed with relatives 40 miles away in Henderson, Nevada, so he could attend Elementary School. Yes, that’s the name of it. There, he met civics teacher Mike O’Callahan, a Korean War veteran and future governor of Nevada. Callahan became the school’s boxing coach and introduced Reid to the Henderson boys’ club. “It was an act of diving, which should have been condemned, but they have a ring. I always love the sport of boxing,” Reid recalled after he was inducted into the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame in August 2018.

Photos of boxers lining up a wall at his home in Henderson and joining their ranks, even if only in a museum, mean a lot to Reid, who is three months old. previously, in May 2018, underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his pancreas. Reid was particularly undeterred about his diagnosis, saying New York Times in early December 2018, “As soon as you find out you have something on your pancreas, you’re dead.”

Harry Reid and his wife, Landra, acknowledge the audience during the Nevada Democratic Party’s “First in the West” event at Bellagio Resort & Casino on November 17, 2019, in Las Vegas.

David Becker / Getty

Reid survived for another three years, passing away on December 28, 2021.

“He was one of the great legislative figures of the last half century,” said Jonah Blank, a longtime former staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “He knows the process, he’s tough, he gets the job done. He’s a Democrat and all Americans should be proud. ”

Republicans may not share that full assessment. They were outraged in 2012 when Reid took to the Senate floor and claimed he had good authority that the Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, had failed to pay taxes in the past decade. Romney released his taxes shortly after, proving Reid wrong. Challenged by CNN, Reid replied, “Romney didn’t win, did he?”

When asked about the incident, Reid told Marc Leibovich, writing to New York Times magazine, “I am always willing to do what others are not willing to do.” Such was the case in 2014 when Reid, with a majority in favor of the Democratic caucus, removed the 60-vote threshold for executive and judge appointments, with the exception of the Supreme Court. He has received a lot of criticism from Democrats and Republicans, who worry that this partisan change in the rules will undermine the Senate’s bipartisan tradition and excessive executive power. to whatever faction or ideology is in power.

“God bless Harry Reid for breaking the dam, and getting us started on this path,” said Republican strategist Scott Jennings, who is not a fan of Reid. By invoking what both sides call “Nuclear Choice” In making his request for 60 votes, the Republican said Mr. Reid had made it inevitable that once the GOP was in power, they would continue to change the rules to their advantage. With President Trump in the Oval Office and Republicans in control of the Senate, GOP leader Mitch McConnell denied the Supreme Court a requirement to prove 60 votes. Judges Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett were confirmed by a significantly fewer votes of 60 (54 for Gorsuch; 50 for Kavanaugh; 52 for Barrett).

“They can say what they want,” Harry Reid said of his critics, explaining in Times magazine interview, “We had over 100 judges that we couldn’t get approved, so I had no choice. Either Obama’s presidency will be a joke or Obama’s presidency will be an outcome. “

Reid helped shepherd through Obama’s signature act, the Affordable Care Act, a remarkable achievement because of Republican opposition. The bill did not receive a single Republican vote. It passed the Senate in 2009 with 58 Democratic votes and 2 independent votes. Obama signed it into law in 2010, sparking what has come to be known as a Tea Party backlash.

Reid is a mismatched tripod when it comes to politics. “He was exceptionally competent at making the ballot,” recalls Jonah Blank, who credits the “Reid machine” in electing Democrats in Nevada and for saving the candidacy. his own when he appeared in 2010 running for a fifth term against Republican Sharron Angle. The website Real Clear Politics commented that if Reid were a cat, he would be 15 years old. His luck was organized. The website notes that Angle is operating as a “proud Christian conservative in Sin City” and that she is proving herself “often exposed”. This combination allowed Reid to win a race everyone expected he would lose.

It is a suitable stone for a career that no one could have predicted. He attended college in Utah, where, after being raised an agnostic, he converted to the Church of Latter-day Saints. He earned a law degree from George Washington University while serving as an officer for the US Congressional Police. He ran away at the age of 20 with his 19-year-old high school girlfriend, Landra Gould, who had also become a Mormon. Her Jewish parents tried to break up the couple, and Landra in 2009 told Front, a recurring episode focusing on the Jewish community, for which she remembers “a lot of shouting and shoving” between Reid and her father ended, as Reid narrates, when he beat her father, who was a man. orthopedic, to the ground.

After the official marriage took place, the parents were satisfied, and Reid said New Yorkers that all five of his children are proud of their eligibility for Israeli citizenship.

Reid returned to Nevada after earning his law degree, and his former boxing coach, Mike O’Callahan, who was running for governor, selected Reid as his running mate in the 1970 election. During his year as governor, Reid ran unsuccessfully for the United States Senate and later for mayor of Las Vegas. Appointed by O’Callahan, he chaired the Nevada Gaming Commission for five years in the late ’70s, the heyday of organized crime. He is remembered for his efforts to impose regulation on some of the famous mob figures who controlled the casinos in Las Vegas at the time.

He appeared in a video at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas (aka the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement), where the director of content, Geoff Schumacher, told KNPR in 2016 that the experience gave Reid “a thick skin, if he hasn’t already.” Threats to Reid and his family are routine, and he has installed a bomb detector in his car. Reid’s experience is documented in Nicholas Pileggi .’s 2011 book Casino and in the Martin Scorcese film of the same name.

It was not until 1982 that Reid won a House seat, then he won a successful bid for the United States Senate four years later, in 1986. The strategic sense in baseball and the tactics of playing hardball brought the he ascended the leadership ladder. When Democrats regained the Senate in 2006, he became majority leader in the Senate in January 2007, a position he held until January 2015, when Republicans regained their majority.

That same January, Reid had an accident at his home. due to a faulty treadmill. He suffered serious injuries, including broken ribs and facial bones, and required surgery to repair his facial bones and remove a blood clot in his right eye. At the end of March 2016, he announced that he would not seek a sixth term, explaining that he did not want precious resources to be used in a presidential election year for what would be a war. another difficulty for him. He supported New York Senator Chuck Schumer, an ally of 30 years, to succeed him as Democratic leader.

During his final months in office, Reid made public letters he had written to FBI Director James Comey on August 29 and again on October 30, 2016 demanding to know why the Bureau did not public the investigation that has opened into Donald Trump and his campaign may have collusion with Russia. Reid’s claims were denied, and in an interview with CNN in late February 2019 at his office at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas, Reid said that the Democratic candidates were running for president. system “no need to talk about How bad is President Trump?, they just need to talk about what’s good for the country.”


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