The Current Crisis

Obscure Minority

In Harry Reid, Democrats have a small-minded leader for the ages.

By 12.8.04

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WASHINGTON -- Do you know who Harry M. Reid might be? Frankly I did not know either until he was quoted in the newspapers as having said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Justice Clarence Thomas is "an embarrassment to the Supreme Court." He also asseverated that Justice Thomas's opinions "are poorly written." As he made these utterances recently on "Meet the Press" I concluded that the man must have some stature, unless, of course, the issue being treated on the show was small-town bigotry. Well, it turns out that this fellow Reid is a United States senator. In fact, he is the incoming Senate Minority Leader from Nevada.

Senator Reid will replace the ever-purring Senator Tom Daschle as Minority Leader after Senator Daschle's mishap on November 2. This should be amusing. On the same program he also said Justice Antonin Scalia would probably get his support if the President nominates him to be chief justice because Justice Scalia is "one smart guy." So Senator Reid is not a small-town bigot. Rather he is just another vulgar mind, raised to eminence by Democrats and emboldened to favor us with his crude thoughts. If in the course of "Meet the Press" he were to have wiped his nose on his sleeve I would not be surprised. Doubtless, he would have a morally-superior explanation if anyone questioned his etiquette. This is the consequence when liberalism's morally-superior mindset affixes itself on mediocrity.

The moral pretense of the American liberal is a thing to marvel upon. So is the intellectual pretense. The Nevada senator who pronounced on Justice Thomas's record and literary merit is a man of no intellectual distinction whatsoever. Having read over the transcript of his remarks on "Meet the Press" I can tell you he articulates woodenly. His thoughts are banal. How well he writes I cannot say with total confidence, but if he writes as well as he speaks he is -- after his first few simple sentences -- unreadable.

What would provoke such a born blank to pronounce on the intellectual capacities of either Justice Thomas or Justice Scalia? The incoming Senate Minority Leader believes he is part of that large gaggle of impostors who consider themselves liberals or "progressives," as they in their florid vanity would have it. They are confident that they stand in that long line of prodigies that goes back to the New Deal and beyond to the Progressive Era. Their forebears believed in the Bill of Rights, the right of laborers to organize, public health, internationalism, and other perfectly sensible matters. Today the Harry M. Reids believe in Vast Right-Wing Conspiracies, a government as good as Sweden's, and the United Nations as a monitor of American foreign policy. Oh yes, and they believe Justice Thomas does not write very well.

They also believe that they won the presidential election in 2000 and many believe that they won it in 2004. They doubt the outcome of the 2004 election because they approached Election Day absolutely confident that they were headed for a stupendous triumph. They believed that despite the fact that their presidential candidate was the most ridiculous presidential candidate since, well, since General Wesley Clark, who could not have been more preposterous if he had run as a nudist. Of course, if Franklin Roosevelt were resurrected and forced to enunciate the positions of today's national Democratic Party he too would probably have lost in 2004.

The problem with Harry M. Reid's party is that it is about 30 years out of date. Its economic position is that of John Kenneth Galbraith, without the wit. Its foreign policy is that of Warren Harding. Its social policy is that of Betty Friedan, without the charm. If Senator Reid does not know who Warren Harding is I suggest he call Justice Scalia, that "one smart guy."

Thirty years ago Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said all the "new ideas" were coming from the right. Off and on he tried to come up with some new ideas for the Democrats. Whether he succeeded or not, the Democrats paid no more attention to his ideas than they paid to the right. They slumbered contentedly in their conceit that they were the morally and intellectually superior. Now they are being led by this preposterosity, Reid. And he thinks his judgments on Justice Thomas matter. He is in the minority and that minority will remain a minority for a very long time with him as Leader.

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About the Author
R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. He is the author of The Death of Liberalism, published by Thomas Nelson Inc. His previous books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; The Clinton Crack-Up; and After the Hangover: The Conservatives' Road to Recovery.