A hard week for Sen. Reid

Did you ever have a week where it didn’t pay to get out of bed?

Nevada’s senior senator had such a week.

Majority Leader Harry Reid forced the Senate into weekend duty to craft a health care “reform” bill. His campaign folks, like under-worked elves in Santa’s workshop, waited anxiously for the stocking gift of his “Big Legislative Achievement” so they might begin to repair the senator’s sagging re-election chances next November. But, drat! Nothing but lumps of coal.

(As a disclaimer for those who might have found this column for the first time, I think Democrats have the wrong prescription for what ails health care. So from my perspective, when the Democratic powers that be have a royal cluster-nut Barney Fife week such as the one just concluded, it’s a good thing.)

Reid doesn’t care much about what I think. He’s told me so, and I’m just going to have to live with that. But I take solace in the fact that he also doesn’t care much about what most Nevadans think, as illustrated by all the polls that show state voters strongly disapprove of his handling of health care “reform.”

Harry’s a Washington creature now. He’s working to please the denizens there.

That’s why Sen. Reid included a public option in his ever-changing health care “reform” bill. So it must’ve hurt when Sen. Joe Lieberman started Harry’s week with the surprise announcement that he won’t vote for any bill with any kind of public option. President Barack Obama then told Sen. Reid to reverse himself and take out the public option to keep Joe’s vote.

Sen. Reid did as he was told, only to wake up Wednesday to the voice of former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean barking about what a monstrosity the “reform” bill had now become.

Great. Harry had managed to not only irritate most of Nevada, he was ambushed by Lieberman, whipsawed by the White House and he had sparked the angst of Dean, the former head of the Democratic National Committee who, by the way, is not just any left-wing voice — he’s a physician who has become the left-wing voice of Democratic politics. He told Vermont National Public Radio this:

“The best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill and go back to the House. … This is not health care reform, and it’s not close to health care reform.”

Dean ripped President Obama. The president had said: “You talk to every health care economist out there, and they will tell you that whatever ideas are — whatever ideas exist in terms of bending the cost curve and starting to reduce costs for families, businesses and government — those elements are in this bill.” In response, Dean snapped: “There is no cost control of any substance. … You’re going to be forced to buy health insurance from a company that is going to take an average of 27 percent of your money … and there is no choice about that. If you don’t buy that insurance, you are going to get a fine.”

Ouch. Dean’s brutal criticism no doubt resonates with left-wing Democrats, the very constituency Reid hopes to energize for his re-election campaign. One more question mark for Team Reid to deal with in 2010.

But the week wasn’t finished. To put a cherry on top of an already ugly few days, along comes Sen. Chuck Schumer, who made national news with his potty mouth — and his use of Reid’s name.

A flight attendant told Schumer, D-N.Y., to turn off his cell phone so the plane could pull away from the gate. Schumer put on his New Yorker attitude and argued for the right to continue talking.

“No,” said the attendant.

Sen. Schumer shut the cell phone off and, muttering to his seat-mate, called the flight attendant a “bitch,” adding loudly: “It’s Harry Reid calling. I guess health care will have to wait until we land.”

Good grief, if that’s not the mother of all Charlie Brown moments for Sen. Reid, I’d like to know what was. It not only brought me to the verge of sympathizing with my senator (but not quite), it made me wonder whether one day soon Sen. Reid might trundle to the microphone with Sens. Schumer and Lieberman, put each of them in a neck lock, knee them both in the gonads and yell, “I quit!”

After all, this isn’t his first rodeo (it’s his fourth term); he just turned 70; he’s already suffered a mini-stroke and has noticeably lost a step; his Nevada approval rating stinks; his crowning piece of legislation is being trashed by the people he wants to please; and his “friends” inject him into the news just for being on the other end of the phone.

Harry Reid not only got it coming and going, he got it when somebody else was going. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a tough week.

Sherman Frederick (sfrederick@review journal.com) is publisher of the Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.

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