No, Harry Reid’s Comments Weren’t A ‘Gaffe’

No, Harry Reid’s Comments Weren’t A ‘Gaffe’

It’s got to be a tough day in politics when your party is pitted against World War II veterans and children with cancer. If Republicans were smart they’d figure out a way to ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid what he thinks about kittens and handicapped octogenarians. Why not? He seems intent on helping the GOP extract something from this shutdown. As you’ve probably already heard, when CNN reporter Dana Bash queried him on why Senate Democrats wouldn’t agree to a GOP mini-appropriation that would fund the National Institutes of Health and help kids with cancer, Reid answered like so:

HARRY REID: Listen, Sen. Durbin explained that very well, and he did it here, did it on the floor earlier, as did Sen. Schumer. What right did they have to pick and choose what part of government is going to be funded? It’s obvious what’s going on here. You talk about reckless and irresponsible. Wow. What this is all about is Obamacare. They are obsessed. I don’t know what other word I can use. They’re obsessed with this Obamacare. It’s working now and it will continue to work and people will love it more than they do now by far. So they have no right to pick and choose.

BASH: But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?

REID: Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own. This is — to have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing maybe means you’re irresponsible and reckless…

BASH: I’m just asking a question.

This is what happens when someone accidentally asks a tough question in Washington. But it’s unlikely to change many minds. A slip of the tongue or an “inartful” moment (even if true) rarely tells us anything useful, though it can often reinforces what voters are already inclined to believe about a candidate or party. Even fake ones. Think Mitt Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor” or “binders full of women” or “like to fire people.” Clumsy and out-of-context, those comments still allowed Democrats to ratchet up the outrage machine and bring attention to the fictional war on insert-here. Now, I suspect many in media believed Romney wasn’t only a subpar politician but that he detested the underprivileged, so a gaffe, whether it’s unfair or not, was only exposing a deeper truth.

Reid, on the other hand … well, he had an unfortunate blooper.

Actually, it’s not that insane. Reid articulated the Democrats’ position on the shutdown clearly.

Granted, I agree with Reid that the “if it saves one life!” formulation is preposterous – whether Barack Obama or Dana Bash is bringing it up. Anyone making policy decisions based on the fortunes of a single life is unfit for office. The larger question is: why not fund the NIH? And I’m sure Reid cares about children with cancer, in general, it’s just that in this case he believes 1,100 government employees (and Nevada voters) who may have to wait a couple of weeks for back pay are equally as important. This isn’t about people it’s about politics. I’m not sure how that qualifies as a gaffe. The Democrats want to inflict as much pain on the American people as possible to beat the Republicans by teaching everyone vital big government is in their lives.

Reid also asked: “What right do they have to pick and choose what parts of government are funded?” (You mean, other than it being explicitly‎ empowered by the Constitution?) Allowing targeted funding for the NIH would mean conceding political ground to the GOP, allowing the House to make a seemingly reasonable decision on funding. The tradeoff is not worth it to Democrats. It has to be all things or no things.So you can call it a Kinsley Gaffe if you like, but judging from his actions, Reid meant every word of what he said.

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David Harsanyi is a former Senior Editor at The Federalist. He is the author of First Freedom: A Ride Through America's Enduring History with the Gun. Follow him on Twitter.
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