A week ago tomorrow —on Wednesday 23 August— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is up for re-election this year, told an employee of a home state newspaper that had just run the results of a poll indicating that his road to re-election might not be entirely smooth, that he hoped the paper would go out of business.
The wish, as is well known, is father to the thought. And, as is also well known, Senator Reid is a man of estimable —and in many respects inestimable— power; a man who should be careful what he wishes for. Or at least careful about taking his wishes out for walks in public.
On Sunday, a columnist for the newspaper in question —Sherman Frederick of the Las Vegas Review-Journal— revealed the encounter and took the Senator to task:
This newspaper traces its roots to before Las Vegas was Las Vegas.
We’ve seen cattle ranches give way to railroads. We chronicled the construction of Hoover Dam. We reported on the first day of legalized gambling. The first hospital. The first school. The first church. We survived the mob, Howard Hughes, the Great Depression, several recessions, two world wars, dozens of news competitors and any number of two-bit politicians who couldn’t stand scrutiny, much less criticism.
We’re still here doing what we do for the people of Las Vegas and Nevada. So, let me assure you, if we weathered all of that, we can damn sure outlast the bully threats of Sen. Harry Reid.
On Wednesday, before he addressed a Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Reid joined the chamber’s board members for a meet-’n'-greet and a photo. One of the last in line was the Review-Journal’s director of advertising, Bob Brown, a hard-working Nevadan who toils every day on behalf of advertisers. He has nothing to do with news coverage or the opinion pages of the Review-Journal.
Yet, as Bob shook hands with our senior U.S. senator in what should have been nothing but a gracious business setting, Reid said: “I hope you go out of business.”
Later, in his public speech, Reid said he wanted to let everyone know that he wants the Review-Journal to continue selling advertising because the Las Vegas Sun is delivered inside the Review-Journal.
Such behavior cannot go unchallenged.
You could call Reid’s remark ugly and be right. It certainly was boorish. Asinine? That goes without saying.
But to fully capture the magnitude of Reid’s remark (and to stop him from doing the same thing to others) it must be called what it was — a full-on threat perpetrated by a bully who has forgotten that he was elected to office to protect Nevadans, not sound like he’s shaking them down.
No citizen should expect this kind of behavior from a U.S. senator. It is certainly not becoming of a man who is the majority leader in the U.S. Senate. And it absolutely is not what anyone would expect from a man who now asks Nevadans to send him back to the Senate for a fifth term.
I banked this story on Sunday because I was curious to see if it would attract any attention —or grow any legs— in the mainstream media.
The Review-Journal, which Wikipedia describes as taking “a libertarian editorial stance,” isn’t just some marginal blatt bordering on pennysaver status. It’s one of Las Vegas’ two dailies, and the largest circulation daily paper in Nevada. So while it is undoubtedly a pain in the ass to the Majority Leader, one might expect that his ill wishes would be considered a story.
One might. But one would be mostly wrong.
It surfaced —under the anodyne headline “Reid in Flat for Reported Remarks About Newspaper”— in The New York Times’ “Caucus” blog.
The Washington Post, which reported the unfavorable poll, has yet to note this result.
And here’s where the DSPQ comes in. As an exercise, substitute Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Louisville Courier-Journal for the names in this story. And tell me, honestly, how long it would take before there was a nationwide groundswell of third estate indignation about assaults on free speech and the dangers of legislators threatening newspapers at the best of times, much less when the few surviving dinousaurs are already on the ropes.