Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, 79, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May and isn’t expected to live much longer. In his own words, “As soon as you discover you have something on your pancreas, you’re dead.” Reid was always known for being a blunt pragmatist and that hasn’t changed. He held forth with his views on present day Washington and Donald Trump. New York Times:
“You can’t legislate when you have a chief executive who’s weird, for lack of a better description,” he told me. He said he could never understand how his former Senate colleague Jeff Sessions allowed himself to be so abused and humiliated by the president. “Why in the hell didn’t Sessions leave?” he said. “Same with Kelly,” referring to the departing chief of staff, John Kelly. “I’d say, ‘Go screw yourself.’ I could not look my children in the eye.”
Reid prides himself on being a pessimist, but doesn’t identify Trump as a pessimist at all.
In some ways, Washington, under Trump, has devolved into the feral state that Reid, in his misanthropic heart, always knew it could become under the right conditions. Politicians are always claiming to be eternal optimists; Reid is no optimist. “I figure, if you’re pessimistic, you’re never disappointed,” he told me.
I asked him if he could identify at all with Trump’s dark worldview. “I disagree that Trump is a pessimist,” Reid said, as if to allow him that mantle would be paying him an undeserved compliment. “I think he’s a person who is oblivious to the real world.”
Some of the plot for the movie “Casino” was based on Reid’s experiences.
“Organized crime is a business,” he told me, “and they are really good with what they do. But they are better off when things are predictable. In my opinion, they do not do well with chaos. And that’s what we have going with Trump.”
Still, Reid added: “Trump is an interesting person. He is not immoral but is amoral. Amoral is when you shoot someone in the head, it doesn’t make a difference. No conscience.” There was a hint of grudging respect in Reid’s tone, which he seemed to catch and correct. “I think he is without question the worst president we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve had some bad ones, and there’s not even a close second to him.” He added: “He’ll lie. He’ll cheat. You can’t reason with him.” Once more, a hint of wonder crept into his voice, as if he was describing a rogue beast on the loose in a jungle that Reid knows well.
Reid’s legacy is the elimination of the filibuster with respect to judicial appointments, about which he remains unrepentant. “They can say what they want,” he told me. “We had over 100 judges that we couldn’t get approved, so I had no choice. Either Obama’s presidency would be a joke or Obama’s presidency would be one of fruition.”