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EDITORIAL: Harry Reid should lead, not attack and distract

As majority leader of the U.S. Senate, Harry Reid is supposed to lead. The Nevada Democrat should be focused on the concerns of Americans and on shaping debate on important matters of national interest.

Sen. Reid is doing neither. In fact, he’s working so hard to ignore the taxpaying public’s priorities that he has become a parody of his position.

The senator has attacked billionaire oil businessmen Charles and David Koch with over-the-top frequency in recent months — calling them out by name more than 100 times on the Senate floor alone. He inserts a reference to the brothers in virtually every statement he makes, whether he’s asked about the economy or his support for an increase in the federal minimum wage. On Friday, when House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced the creation of a special committee to investigate al-Qaida’s 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Sen. Reid’s response mentioned the Koch brothers before the attack that killed four Americans: “Republicans are showing yet again that they have nothing to offer the middle class. Republicans care more about defending billionaires like the Koch brothers …”

In recent years, the Kochs have poured nine figures into political attacks on the Obama administration and Democrats, and in support of Republicans and conservative and libertarian causes, largely through their nonprofit political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity. Their ability to lawfully spend unlimited sums in the exercise of their First Amendment rights drives Democrats bonkers, never mind that despite all that messaging, President Barack Obama won re-election and Democrats retained control of the Senate in 2012.

To Sen. Reid, the Koch brothers are the country’s top concern. Polls say otherwise. More than half of Americans don’t know who they are. Meanwhile, a March Gallup poll that asked Americans to identify the country’s most important problem found jobs, the economy in general and dissatisfaction with government at the top of the list.

But Sen. Reid doesn’t want to talk about jobs and the economy, or the negative effect Obamacare is having on them. And he loves to blame Republicans for public dissatisfaction with government.

On Wednesday, Sen. Reid took to the Senate floor to demand that the NFL’s Washington Redskins change their name because it’s offensive to Native Americans. Set aside that a poll released in January by Public Policy Polling found 71 percent of Americans do not think the team should change its name. Why is Sen. Reid wasting the Senate’s time talking about a pro sports nickname controversy?

Americans expect their politicians to play politics, especially in an election year. But they’re smart enough to know when an elected official is trying to distract them. No wonder they’re fed up with Washington. It’s time for Sen. Reid to change the subject — to one the public actually cares about.

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