My favorite Harry Reid story comes from an incident that unfolded fairly early in his career, not long after he was appointed to chair the Nevada Gaming Commission, which meant confronting systemic organized crime. In July 1978, a man named Jack Gordon offered Reid $12,000 to approve some new gaming devices for casino use.
Reid, of course, quickly contacted the FBI, which set up a sting operation. The trap was set: Reid would host a meeting with Gordon, with FBI agents waiting in the next room, watching on secret video cameras recording the exchange for use in trial. Reid would say, “Is this the money?” at which point, the agents would rush in and arrest Gordon.
But when it came time for the sting, Reid, a former boxer, found it hard to control his temper. As the New Yorker reported several years ago, “the videotape shows [Reid] getting up from his chair and saying, ‘You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!’ and attempting to choke Gordon.” The FBI agents rushed in to arrest Gordon – and to pry Reid away from the man trying to bribe him.
I’ve always thought American politics should have more lawmakers who try to strangle those who offer bribes and fewer lawmakers who accept bribes.
I thought of this story this morning after learning that the Senate Minority Leader has decided to retire.
Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid will not run for reelection next year, he announced Friday morning through a YouTube video. The Nevada lawmaker has been recovering from injuries he endured from an exercise accident on New Year’s Day.“The decision that I have made has absolutely nothing to do with my injury, has nothing to do with my being minority leader, and it certainly has nothing to do with my ability to be reelected,” he said.
Reid, who’ll wrap up his 30-year career at the end of 2016, leaves behind an amazing legacy of legislative accomplishments. After leading Senate Democrats for a decade, his departure also shakes up the Capitol Hill landscape quite a bit.
It’s far too soon to say with confidence who’ll replace Reid as the Senate Democratic leader, though the most likely contenders are New York’s Chuck Schumer and Illinois’ Dick Durbin, both of whom are already Reid’s top lieutenants in the party leadership. It’s probably also worth watching to see if some of the less-senior Democratic leaders – Washington’s Patty Murray, Virginia’s Mark Warner, and Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren – make a move, citing the need for a fresh perspective.
But all of that can wait; today is Harry Reid’s day. He’s a humble, soft-spoken man, who knows how to strangle those who infuriate him. On a personal level, I’ve always liked the guy and Capitol Hill won’t be the same without him.