"Domestic enemies" comment hits nerve with Reid

The idea that there are people within Congress who would want to harm the United States has hit a nerve with Sen. Harry Reid.

Reid personally called out Sharron Angle earlier today after an audio clip came to light this week in which his Republican challenger agreed with a conservative radio host that there are "domestic enemies" in the Senate and Congress.

Just a short while ago, Reid launched into a further defense of the Senate -- and its members from both parties -- when he was asked about the comment outside a renewable energy conference at the J.W. Marriott in Las Vegas.

"To suggest anyone in the United States Senate is a domestic enemy of the country is really taking it way beyond the pale," Reid, the Senate majority leader, told reporters including Laura Myers from the Review-Journal.

"You know, I understand what the Second Amendment is," Reid said. "But I defend members of the United States Senate, Democrats and Republicans. If Mitch McConnell (the Republican Senate leader) were here, he would do the same thing."

Reid has been in Congress for 28 years, and is seeking six more. He is one of the Senate's leading institutionalists, much like one of his mentors, the late Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who died this summer. Which might explain a strong reaction.

But at the same time, Republicans are pointing out that Reid also has flirted with the line between acceptable and unacceptable criticism of fellow senators, if he has not crossed it entirely. Angle campaign spokesman Jarrod Agen pointed out Reid just months ago suggested Republicans were "anti-American" in filibustering a financial reform bill.

"Of course I did that, on the Senate floor, talking about Wall Street reform. I thought it was wrong they were opposing that," Reid said when reporters pointed that out. "But remember, I am not talking about Second (Amendment) rights. That is talking about taking guns to people."

The Reid campaign distributed a Web ad today calling further attention to the "domestic enemies" comment, and also Angle remarks on a radio talk show in January in which she suggested the possibility of citizens taking up arms as a "Second Amendment remedy" if Congress "keeps going the way it is."

When she was challenged on the comment in a June interview with Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston, Angle said she was "speaking broadly about the Constitution."

And as for Reid's "anti-American" remark, the senator's people at that time, and again today, rushed to put a fine point on it. "If you read what Reid said, Reid didn't call Republicans anti-American, he was referring to their tactics," a Reid strategist said in an email. "Important distinction. And that doesn't come close to calling them 'domestic enemies'".

At the Marriott, Reid said he is confident senators have their hearts in the right place, "even some of those who are Democrats that I don't agree with all the time, and Republicans I don't agree with.

"Second Amendment rights against members of Congress, I mean, what is that supposed to mean?" Reid said. "I believe every member of the United States Senate, and I know them very well, are all very patriotic."