How in the world did the wallflower from Searchlight play such a key role in both political conventions this year?
I’ll tell you how. Socially inept though he may be, he’s the third most powerful politician in America. So it’s a no-brainer that he’d command a speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. But, unfortunately for him, his penchant for verbal gaffes and blunders earned him a prime time spot in the Republican convention and a footnote in what is destined to become a long-remembered speech in American politics.
It wasn’t some no-name Republican citing Harry Reid to demonstrate why Republicans are better suited for the White House. It was no less than America’s 9/11 mayor, Rudy Giuliani, followed by the groundbreaking speech from VP phenom Sarah Palin.
I might have felt more sorry for the home state kid except for this: Harry Reid deserved every bit of the negative attention he received from the huge, 55 million-plus who tuned in to see the speeches.
Nevada’s most prominent politician has been serving up juicy and unwise sound bites for more than a year, and the GOP, which has an uphill fight to win this election, could hardly lay off.
In April 2007, Reid told the world that the war in Iraq was “lost.” It was the dumbest thing Reid’s ever said. It will haunt him for the rest of his political career.
Remember at the time President Bush was under fire for the Iraq war. The war was going badly. Reid and virtually all Democrats wanted America to run away. Unbelievably, they still do. Sen. John McCain, however, said we ought to double down to win, now commonly called “the surge.”
Eventually that’s what the president decided to do.
For a man in Reid’s position to publicly say the war was “lost” while our troops were still on the battlefield was improper and unwise. It’s one thing to oppose the war, it’s quite another to proclaim the enemy victorious while soldiers remain in harm’s way. It was bad judgment and Harry caught — and continues to catch — holy hell for it.
It was the kind of comment you knew would keep on giving Republicans ammunition. And on Wednesday Giuliani reloaded the Reid quote and delivered it in a red-meat speech to the GOP convention. Reid said the war was lost, Giuliani reminded us.
John McCain said the surge would win the war. Barack Obama said it wouldn’t. John McCain was right. Obama was wrong.
Expect to hear this refrain, courtesy of Harry, over and over again.
Palin, then, found another Reid blooper upon which to hang a speech line.
This quote came weeks ago when Sen. Reid visited the Review-Journal for a brown-bag lunch. Reid said he “couldn’t stand John McCain.” Senators are usually respectful of fellow senators. They may disagree, but hardly ever does it devolve into a nasty personal attack.
So Reid’s dislike of McCain hit the newspaper and eventually the desk of Palin.
She served up the quote in her now-famous speech along with Harry’s head. Reid can’t stand John McCain? Palin said. What Reid should have said is that he can’t “stand up to John McCain.” Sen. Reid received a standing ovation as the poster boy for what’s wrong with Washington.
It wasn’t a good week for Harry. And it’s entirely his fault.
And, for the record, the war is not lost. How about an apology, Harry?
Sherman Frederick (email@example.com) is publisher of the Review-Journal and president of Stephens Media.