When contemplating Harry Reid, it's a mistake to attach extraordinary tactical meaning to his actions, or to give him the benefit of the doubt when he blurts out weird things.
There is no deep side to Harry Reid. What you see is what you get. To understand the Senate majority leader the way longtime Nevadans do, one must quickly come to the realization that he's got the grace and instincts of an outhouse rat.
Nevadans have known for years about Reid's, shall we say, quirks. It is only now that the rest of the nation is discovering that his erratic behavior and antisocial personality is no aberration. Weird is what weird does, and the more Reid finds himself in the spotlight, the more his weirdness manifests itself to others.
Although Reid stories abound in his home state, it wasn't until the advent of Barack Obama that the nation began to pay closer attention to the idea that Reid's thought process and his social skills were one bubble off level.
The breakout moment came with the publication of the book "Game Change." It chronicled the 2008 presidential campaign and quoted Sen. Reid remarking in amazement about Obama's "light skin" and his ability to speak "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Even I, a longtime Reid watcher and no fan of his politics, defended Sen. Reid on that remark. I'd never heard him speak in such a stilted (some might say racist) way, and I said so.
But we're way beyond making excuses for Sen. Reid now.
Last fall, during the presidential campaign, Sen. Reid accused Mitt Romney of not paying taxes for 10 years. He said he knew this from an unidentified mutual friend. It was a baseless accusation. Reid came under wide criticism. Yet there were still those in the media inclined to see rationality behind Reid's behavior. It was said, for example, that Reid was practicing some kind of political "dark art" to keep the Romney questions alive in the public's mind.
Are we then supposed to believe that Reid's comment about Obama's light skin color was also some kind of stroke of genius designed to fool the public into thinking Barack Obama's not really, as Harry Reid would say, a "negro"?
No, these were not "dark art" political tactics. These were examples of Harry being Harry.
Or, consider the interaction that took place at the end of the year between Reid, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell over the so-called "fiscal cliff" negotiations.
Reid publicly called Boehner a "dictator." That provoked Boehner to tell Harry to "go f- yourself." Reid then dealt with McConnell by saying he was done negotiating. Reid tossed a list of suggested concessions from the Obama administration into his fireplace.
It is hard, indeed, to negotiate with an outhouse rat. To get things back on track, President Obama had to bench Reid and replace him with Vice President Joe Biden. Then Reid voted for the Biden deal.
If there's ever a story that articulates the peculiar, amoral legacy of Harry Reid, it is that one.
But the Reid parade never ends: Just a little over a week ago, Reid rose to publicly condemn Republicans for holding up a $60 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill. "The people of New Orleans and that area, they were hurt, but nothing in comparison to what happened to the people in New York and New Jersey."
What? Hurricane Katrina was "nothing in comparison" to Sandy? I don't care who you are, Democrat or Republican, that's weird. And inaccurate.
Katrina killed 1,833 people, destroyed 1.2 million homes and caused $145 billion in damage. Sandy killed 200 people, damaged 380,000 homes and caused $80 billion in damage.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., called Reid an idiot. Democrats cringed at the racial implications of Reid's comparison.
Eventually, Reid sent out a statement retracting his comment.
Retract? If only it were that easy. It's time to stop making excuses for Sen. Harry Reid.
Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at www.lvrj.com/blogs/sherm.