The New York Times Magazine has posted a preview of a profile it plans to publish about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, written by Adam Nagourney.
Here are a couple interesting passages, including President Barack Obama’s views on Reid.
Reid is a transactional politician, unashamed to dole out an earmark to win a vote, a bit of sausage-making that draws him condemnation in editorials. There are days, aides say, when they almost feel like concierges as Reid — hearing a fellow senator was going to Las Vegas, and seeing a way to build good will and promote his home state — asks them to line up restaurant reservations, choice hotel rooms and hard-to-get show tickets. By contrast, "I have never heard him threaten a member," Durbin says. Reid said he disdains the tough-guy style of one of his more famous predecessors, Lyndon Johnson. "I don’t think he’d last for five minutes today," Reid said. "You can’t bully." Besides, he added: “I couldn’t be Lyndon Johnson if I wanted to be. He was too crude and physical for me.”
For the White House, Reid is a gift in a challenging year. Conciliatory, endlessly patient and pragmatic rather than dogmatic, he has different skills from those of some senators who might otherwise be in his spot — like Schumer or Durbin — and he seems suited to this time and this caucus. Nor is he perceived as carrying an ideological agenda. Unlike most of his colleagues, he opposes gun control and abortion, but those views are reflected only when he votes and do not color the way he manages or negotiates a bill. "Harry by any normal criteria would be considered a moderate Democrat," Obama told me. "He’s someone who doesn’t think in big ideological terms."
Obama said he understood why Nevadans are opposed to the health care bill now, but he says that will change. "Well, if you’ve got insurance companies spending hundreds of millions of dollars scaring the daylights out of people into thinking that somehow this is a government takeover of health care, that it’s unpaid for, that it means huge new taxes on them, that it’s going to mean higher premiums — if that’s the information you’re getting, shoot, I’d be against it, too," the president told me. "Once this thing is passed and signed, then suddenly The New York Times and other newspapers are going to have a big article saying what does this mean for you, and people will take a look at it and say, You know what, this is a lot better deal than I thought. And I think that will serve Harry very well."
Health care will almost certainly be the toughest legislative challenge (Reid) will ever face. But after this, there are more assignments from Obama in the year ahead, potentially on contentious issues like immigration and climate change. And they are again going to force Reid to balance the demands of his president with his own campaign. "The caucus has great loyalty to Harry," Obama told me. "So I want Harry there for the rest of my first term."