Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid became the latest Democrat to stray into rhetorical trouble Tuesday, botching statements on three subjects in one news conference – including the fragile health of the chamber’s most senior members.
The Nevada Democrat reported that one of them, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., was absent because he was receiving a new round of treatment for his brain cancer. Asked if the cancer was in remission, Reid replied, “As far as I know, it is, yes.”
Kennedy’s office refused to confirm Reid’s comments or make any statement in response, the public silence a classic Washington disavowal.
Reid was then asked about Sen. Robert C. Byrd, at 91 the longest-serving senator in history, who was hospitalized over the weekend for an infection. Reid reported that Byrd was to be released from the hospital Tuesday or perhaps later in the week.
“Senator Byrd is improving,” responded his spokesman, Jesse Jacobs. “But his doctors, in consultation with his family, have not yet determined when he will be released.”
Reid also mangled his party’s position on the congressional news of the day, that Senate Democrats would join their House counterparts in withholding the money President Barack Obama needs to close the Guantanamo Bay prison until Obama comes up with a plan for relocating its prisoners.
But Reid went further than saying he wanted to see a plan for the money before Congress approves it. “We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States,” he said.
No one, of course, was talking about releasing terrorism suspects among the American populace. Imprisoning them, perhaps, but not releasing them.
“Part of what we don’t want is them be put in prisons in the United States,” Reid clarified but digging himself into a bigger hole by departing significantly from some of his colleagues and administration officials. “We don’t want them around the United States.”
Did the administration put Democrats in an awkward position, asking for the money before setting out how it would be spent?
“Not at all,” said Reid.
“Yes,” his deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin replied to the same question.
Maybe this performance explains this one:
Nearly half of Nevadans have had enough of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as the powerful Democrat heads into his re-election campaign, a new Las Vegas Review-Journal poll finds.
About a third of the state’s voters would re-elect Reid if the 2010 election were held today, according to the poll, but 45 percent say they would definitely vote to replace him. Seventeen percent would consider another candidate.
The findings are echoed by another poll question about Reid’s popularity that finds the four-term incumbent to be a polarizing figure in his home state.
Half of Nevada voters had an unfavorable view of Reid, while 38 percent had a favorable view and 11 percent a neutral opinion.
The statewide poll of 625 Nevadans who vote regularly was conducted by telephone last week by Washington-based Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. for the Review-Journal. It carries a margin of error of 4 percentage points in either direction.