Where does Harry Reid draw the line? My column about Reid and his Mitt Romney tax attack that was killed

Now that CNN's Dana Bash has found Harry Reid to be unrepentant about his Mitt Romney tax lies, it's finally time to publish a column I wrote contemporaneously with the Nevada senator's McCarthy-like tactic during the 2012 campaign. The column was never published because Las Vegas Sun Editor Brian Greenspun attempted to protect his friend, Reid, from the criticism.

I never wrote for the Sun again.


After Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jim Santini announced his candidacy in 1986, a

strangely hostile reporter greeted him at the news conference.

The journalist proceeded to pepper Santini with questions about an obscure Federal 

Election Commission issue he had not resolved. The candidate, prone to public 

perspiration, began sweating profusely. A TV crew hired by his foe, whose campaign had 

supplied the FEC information to the scribe to elicit the waterworks, captured Santini’s 


That image of Santini sweating became the centerpiece of a series of devastating ads 

playing on the former Democratic congressman’s ill-fitting GOP garb and helped elect 

his opponent, a two-term House member by the name of Harry Reid.

I tell this story– no, the ambitious reporter was not I – in light of the tactics Reid is now 

using to force Mitt Romney’s hand on his tax returns to show that the senator’s ruthless, 

Machiavellian side was in evidence a quarter-century ago. Reid will do whatever it takes 

to win, no matter the battlefield, and what his utterly execrable approach with Romney 

indicates is that after 25 years, we still don’t know where he draws the line – if indeed he 

draws one at all.

Reid is both fearless and shameless, a formidable combination for his adversaries, 

especially now that he has nothing to lose. I’m not convinced this is his last term (I 

consider it unlikely), but 2016 is a long time from now. And this surely won't hurt Reid 

among his Democratic caucus, whose members surely marvel that their leader is willing 

to say things they only muse about. And judging by the mindless, seal-like behavior of 

many Democratic partisans – you go, senator! – Reid’s “I heard this from someone but I 

can’t tell you who” approach is only revving up the base.

Folks, these are not the rantings of an idiot savant, but the actions of a man with two, 

contradictory sides. Reid can be the frothing attack dog willing to call a president a “liar” 

and a “loser” just as easily as he can be the consummate inside Club of 100 player able to 

stroke Republicans to cut deals across the aisle. But more to the point here, Reid is the 

very careless pol with the media, regularly making intemperate remarks that make his 

staff cringe, but he’s also the coolly calculating pol who always – always -- has a method 

to his apparent madness.

Reid knows EXACTLY what he is doing on the Romney tax returns – trying to create so 

much pressure that the candidate has to release more of his tax records. Whether or not 

Reid really has an “extremely credible source” who told him Romney did not pay taxes 

for 10 years is not the point.

He doesn’t care about being criticized for using the same tactics that Joe McCarthy used 

or, in the formulation of some overheating Republicans, that were employed at the Salem 

witch trials. He doesn’t care that an avalanche of ridicule and obloquy is raining down on 

him for his outrageous statements – ones he continues to repeat almost daily. And he 

doesn’t care that almost no one is joining him to repeat these blithe allegations-without-

proof about the Republican presidential nominee.

Is there anything more dangerous than a man who does not care?

And a related question: Is there anything more sadly desperate than a party that will do 

anything not to talk about the economy and to change the subject to Mitt Romney’s 


Don’t misunderstand: I think Romney should release more tax returns. I don’t even think 

that should be a question.

But I don’t think anyone -- the Senate majority leader or lesser beings – should be able to 

make unsupportable statements about how much Romney has paid, simply to pressure 

him to release more information. As a public figure who had had to endure vicious and 

often tenuous allegations – in the 1970s, he was even linked to organized crime after a 

mobster boasted of having him in his pocket – you would think Reid would be more 

sensitive to such tactics. I have an extremely credible source who says he is not.

I suppose it’s possible that someday we may learn Romney did not pay taxes for 10 years 

– although I highly doubt it considering the presumptive GOP nominee’s vehement 

denials. But even that would not justify Reid’s grotesque rumormongering.

It’s one thing to use every trick in the book to win a campaign or to carelessly spout 

invective about other public figures. But it’s quite another thing for one of the most 

powerful Democrats in the country to make serious assertions about a Republican 

presidential candidate, without any proof and without a named source.

Sometimes the ends do not justify the means, even in the political swamp. Someone 

needs to draw the line for Reid since he is so unable to draw one for himself.