With less than three months to go before the election (Tuesday, November 6), the rhetoric has already heated up. Once the conventions are behind us – Republicans will convene in Tampa the week of August 27th and the Democrats in Charlotte the week of September 3rd – we can expect even more explosive comments – attacks on the opposition, while pandering to one’s base.
Nevertheless, Senator Harry Reid, the grating (and certainly not ingratiating) senior Senator from Nevada, has set a standard that will be hard to beat. When syndicated columnists from such leftwing newspapers as the New York Times (Frank Bruni) and the Washington Post (Richard Cohen) call him out, we know he has overstepped the bounds of decency. Senator Reid took to the floor last week, claiming that Mitt Romney had not paid taxes for an unstated ten-year period. His alleged source was an unnamed “former Bain employee” who “whispered in his ear.” Mr. Bruni wrote that it was not enough for Mr. Reid to level the charge, but “as days pressed on, to double and triple down on it, his language and manner growing more righteous even as his evidence grew no more detailed or persuasive.” Mr. Cohen was far more direct. He referenced “The Godfather Part II”. Mr. Cohen wrote that in that movie, “…a senator from Nevada is portrayed as corrupt. His name is Pat Geary. In real life, a senator from Nevada is a jerk. His name is Harry Reid.”
Now, “Godfather II” was made in 1974, and Nevadans have only suffered with Mr. Reid as their U.S. Senator since 1987; so Francis Ford Coppola’s reference to a corrupt U.S. Senator was obviously not aimed at Mr. Reid. However, it is worth noting that the Senator has accumulated assets of between $7 and $10 million – not bad for a man who spent virtually his entire working life in public office. Straight out of law school he became Henderson’s city attorney; at the age of 28 he was elected to the Nevada State Assembly, in 1968. Two years later he became Nevada’s Lieutenant Governor. In 1977 he served four years as Chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission; a year later he was elected to the House of Representatives. In 1987, he became a U.S. Senator, where he has served since. Not ever having made public his tax returns, we have no idea how he accumulated so much wealth on so little income. Presumably his response would be like that of Senator Huey Long who, when asked how he had garnered so much wealth while earning so little, allegedly responded, “Thrift, my son, thrift.” However, it is more likely that we would discover that special real estate deals available only to compliant members of Congress played a role, an example of the crony capitalism that has permeated Washington.
There are examples of crony capitalism on both sides of the aisle, but to keep kicking Senator Reid while he is down: The Senator blocked plans by NV Energy to build coal-fired plants in Nevada. Thanks to Mr. Reid the request was rejected on the basis that not enough of their energy production was generated through renewable sources, even though the utility has exceeded all necessary. It turns out that the Senator has been fronting for a Chinese company – ENN Mojave Energy LLC, a firm he helped recruit to Nevada – to build a billion dollar solar energy and generating plant. By an odd coincidence, Mr. Reid’s son’s law firm has been hired by ENN. Certainly, an increase in the solar generation of electricity has long term benefits, but the costs include increases in the current cost of electricity – costs borne by the electorate. In an unrelated matter, David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, accepted a $100,000 speaker’s fee in 2010 from MTN Group, a South African telecommunications company with known business ties to Syria and Iran. In a difficult economic environment, the mixture of business and politics has proved a good way to keep the wolf from the door, just ask Mr. Clinton or Mr. Gore.
Politics has always been a messy business. Party affiliation and support, with rare exceptions, has always been more important than taking the morally correct, but more difficult, high road. Richard Nixon is perhaps the most reviled President of all time. Yet, when Connecticut’s junior Senator Lowell Weicker began his investigation into the Watergate break-in in early 1973, he was blasted by his fellow Republican senators. Turning on one’s own has never been considered good for one’s future, despite the righteousness of the act. Only five Democratic House members and no Democratic Senators voted to impeach President Clinton in 1998. The Affordable Healthcare Act was passed solely along Party lines. Not one Republican voted for the Act that the President claims was the people’s choice. When House members have been cited for corruption, votes are almost always along Party lines. When Harry Reid made the accusations he did, with no supporting evidence, not one Democrat even gently chastised him. We frequently read that loyalty is a lost art in our internet-dominated world, but in politics loyalty trumps integrity every time.
The war of words, particularly those emanating from the mouths of Democrats and which are getting increasingly nasty, is a sign of growing desperation – a good thing, I believe, for the fiscally conservatives among us.
The biggest problem facing Democrats is the economy. President Obama goes out and says that the private sector has added 4.5 million jobs since his inauguration. That may be true, but he does not mention the far more important fact that there were about 146.6 million people working when he assumed the Presidency and today the number is about 140.5 million. In the meantime, the workforce has increased by about 3.5 million. Job creation has not come close to offsetting firings and new entrants. He can spin the numbers, but that will not help put people back to work. Those that are working have seen their standards of living decline. The cost of living has increased, especially for low and middle income people, with oil prices up 114% and corn prices up 59%. Stocks and bond prices have done well, but that has done little for the middle class, for whom Mr. Obama claims such devotion. And, Mr. Obama has been able to achieve these dubious results while adding $5 trillion to the national deficit.
The President knows his cause is on very thin ice, and the people do as well, which explains his personal nastiness toward Mr. Romney. It also explains the recent victories by Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Ted Cruz in Texas. Further, it explains why the citizens of San Diego and San Jose said no to out-of-control spending and unfunded budget-breaking pensions. And last week we had Chick-fil-A. The President knows that his only hope is to demean Mitt Romney by taking the campaign into the gutter, a place not unfamiliar to a man who spent years listening to the hate-filled sermons of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, reading “Rules for Radicals” by Saul Alinsky, and spending time with friends like Bill Ayers.
Gallop polls put the election at a dead heat, which may or may not be accurate. But I suspect that the Democrats should be less concerned as to which voting bloc they intend to target, and more concerned with a general lack of enthusiasm for their candidate. In 2008, enthusiasm for Mr. Obama was broad, if not deep; keep in mind that John McCain, who ran perhaps the worst campaign in American electoral history and was attempting to follow a President with one of the lowest approval rates in history – a situation not unlike that of Adlai Stevenson in 1952 – still garnered 46% of the popular vote. If people stay home this November, the President’s cause may be hurt more than Mr. Romney’s.
The antics of those like Mr. Reid may be colorful, but as one commentator put it, “Like Pelosi, his mental skills are unimpressive and his personality is grating at best.” If these are the Democrat’s warriors, this fall’s elections should prove interesting to Republicans. Enough is enough. The people do not want a banana republic.