Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada showed up in Washington earlier this year with a face that looked like it had been worked over by some brass-knuckled mobsters, along with an improbable explanation about a rubber band snapping on an exercise device in his bathroom, and most of the media were content to leave it at that. The general public and those pesky bloggers are more curious about such things, however, so there was eventually talk that the improbable tale of the exercise device in the bathroom was too improbable to be true and that maybe the rumors circulating in Las Vegas about Reid being worked over by some brass-knuckled mobsters were at least somewhat more probable.
Such gossip has now reached a point that the impeccably liberal Matt Yglesias at the impeccably liberal Vox.com site acknowledges it has “migrated from the water cooler to the mainstream,” the Bloomberg news service feels obliged to give it a “second installment of ‘Whoa, If True,’ an occasional look at the conspiracy theories that migrate from the wilds of the internet to the well-covered tundra of presidential campaigns,” and the left-wing Wonkette.com web site gave it the full snark. None of Reid’s defenders can definitively disprove the beaten-up-by-mobsters theory, of course, and none of the right-wing crazies being criticized for perpetuating the theory have actually said that Reid actually was beaten up by mobsters, just that it sure looked like he had been beaten up by mobsters, and that it seemed somewhat more probable than that obviously phony-baloney story about rubber bands and exercise devices in his bathroom, but such is the state of modern journalism, and the state of modern American politics.
Ordinarily we would feel some sympathy for any person forced to defend himself against fact-free slander, even a politician, but Reid is not an ordinary case. Among the myriad characters flaws that have made Reid one of the most odious public figures of his generation is his tendency to level the most outrageous accusations against his political opponents with no proof but full confidence that the target won’t be able to disprove them in time to ward off electoral defeat. The most notable example occurred during the 2012 presidential election when Reid took to the Senate floor to declare that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hadn’t paid federal income taxes in several years, which was not a mere mistake or slight exaggeration or the usual election-year rhetoric but rather an outright lie, and in a recent interview with CNN he said “They can call it whatever they want. Romney didn’t win, did he?”
So if that’s the standard Reid wants to set, we’ll go ahead and figure that he got roughed up by some mobsters that he double-crossed. Come to think of it, it does seem at least more probable than that rubber band in the bathroom story.
— Bud Norman