There’s something liberating about not caring about your reputation, your institution or the truth.
By those standards, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is a blissfully free man.
The Nevada Democrat maintains that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes for 10 years. Reid’s charge is an intellectual and moral mess that makes the notorious question “When did you stop beating your wife?” seem rigorous by comparison.
Reid has a super-double-secret source he says is an investor in Bain who called to tell him, “Harry, he didn’t pay any taxes for 10 years.” Ordinarily, before repeating such a charge publicly, one would want a little proof, especially given that there’s no more reason that a Bain investor would be familiar with Mitt Romney’s tax returns than a Facebook investor would be familiar with Mark Zuckerberg’s.
Harry Reid, though, is liberated from all such mundane evidentiary standards. Not to mention logic. His statements on Romney’s tax returns lurch from outlandish premise to completely unconnected conclusion. Listening to Reid try to make an argument is like watching the late besotted journalist Hunter Thompson try to solve a quadratic equation while high on acid.
The only thing that holds together Reid’s jumbled case is the vein of idiot malice that runs through the whole rancid thing.
“Now, do I know that that’s true?” Reid mused to The Huffington Post about Romney not paying taxes. “Well, I’m not certain.” With that bow to epistemological modesty, he proceeded in the next breath to indict Romney yet again: “But obviously he can’t release those tax returns. How would it look?”
Reid took his case to the Senate floor, where he concluded a meandering oration, “Let him prove he has paid taxes because he has not.” In the twisted world of Harry Reid, if something is not proven false, it must be true. He has all the cool analytic powers of the “birthers” and the “truthers.”
“I don’t think the burden should be on me,” Reid told Nevada reporters about proving his charge. “The burden should be on him. He’s the one I’ve alleged has not paid any taxes.” Reid has the judicial instincts of someone who might have enjoyed the legendary witch trials of hundreds of years ago when the accused were thrown into the water — and considered innocent only if they sank.
Reid’s alleged sources are evershifting. In The Huffington Post interview, it was one knowledgeable investor. On the Senate floor, it was a vague “the word is out.” To Nevada reporters, it was “a number of people.” Tomorrow it may be the queen of England, and the day after that H&R Block.
Democrats relish the Reid smear. Anything to keep the attention off the economy and on Romney’s taxes or some other extraneous matter. Nancy Pelosi says “it is a fact” that someone told Reid that Romney didn’t pay taxes. If she’s right, all it proves is that Reid is indeed repeating hearsay. Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt, working for the re-election of the man who still professes to regret the pettiness of American politics, cheered the Nevadan on: “Sen. Reid rightfully pointed out that Gov. Romney has something to hide.”
No, he made a specific, fantastical charge. Reid isn’t a blogger, a cable host or even a Senate backbencher. He’s the highest elected Democrat in Congress. But his station doesn’t mean anything to him; he’s a hack at heart. Reid’s chief of staff, David Krone, shot back at the senator’s critics as “cowards” and “henchmen.” According to Krone, the Republicans’ scorching reaction “shows you how scared they are that Harry Reid was telling the truth.” Yet more evidence for the majority leader’s files!
Republicans have condemned Reid’s unsupported allegations as modern-day McCarthyism. Old Tail Gunner Joe was deflated at the Army-McCarthy hearings when he was confronted with the famous question, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” In the case of Harry Reid, it isn’t even worth asking.
Rich Lowry can be reached via email: email@example.com.