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Give 'Em Hell, Harry | The Nation

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Give 'Em Hell, Harry

The Senate majority leader is being portrayed as an awkward duck who doesn't look the part and can't talk it either. Harry Reid, it's true, is given to saying the most inappropriate stuff, opinions that disturb Washington pundits and the third-string political consultants who appear of TV talker shows. They tut-tut and scold. The kinder ones think he must have misspoken. Others insist Democrats should give him the hook and replace Reid with a more responsible leader.

What did the man say? "This war is lost." "The President is in a state of denial." A few years back, Reid shockingly called Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan "one of the biggest political hacks we have in Washington."

What do these and other outrageous remarks have in common? They are all true.A political leader who speaks the truth in unambiguous ways is naturally suspect in the capital city. But he ought to become a hero in the hinterland where citizens dwell. People who care need to rally around Harry Reid now and express their feelings because the political establishment is coming after him. White House slime agents are leading the campaign

Reid is being caricatured in ways designed to destroy his legitimacy and influence. If it really tries, the press can accomplish this. Remember how leading newspapers depicted Albert Gore as an egotistical goof back in the 2000 campaign?

Honk if you like Harry Reid. Bloggers, unite and bite back in his behalf.Washington Post columnist David Broder (a friend and former colleague of mine) is the chief tut-tutterer among media influentials. Broder took a truly ugly swipe at Reid in today's Post by comparing him to Alberto Gonzales, the "dead man walking" attorney general.

But wait a minute. Gonzales is ruined goods because he lied and disremembered and ran away from obvious facts. Harry Reid is guilty of the opposite behavior – saying aloud what most everyone in Washington knows to be true. Shame on you, David.

The cynical presumption among Washington "wise guys" is that Reid's remarks are bad politics. Some things can't be said, even if they are true. The insiders are wrong, wrong, wrong about that too.

Reid has an old-fashioned quality that sounds unhip to media junkies, but he is a savvy, tough politician known among insiders for an old-fashioned loyalty and willingness to stand up in a fight (ask labor leaders if you doubt this). A week ago when Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Bush, the majority leader told the president to his face that Democrats knew the White House was coming after them with slurs. Reid said he intended to fight back sound bite for sound bite.

That's essentially what the Senate leader is doing now. It can pay big dividends with the American public, never mind Beltway pundits. The disgust with this president and his war is general throughout the land. People do not want David Broder's version of "bipartisan" compromise" on war-making. They want out. And they want Democrats to stand their ground.

If you want to understand Harry Reid, think back to another Harry who was also feisty and blunt – President Harry Truman. Running in 1948, Truman was ridiculed by major newspapers as a hopeless loser. But voters picked up the beat and they gave him a surprise victory.

On the campaign trail, Truman would encounter voices from the crowd shouting, "Give ‘em hell, Harry." The president would respond, "I don't give them hell. I just tell the truth about them and they think it's hell."

This is Harry Reid's old-fashioned politics. The country desperately needs it.

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