It is hard to recall fully today what a bleak and desolate year 2004 was for Democrats.
Despite mounting American casualties in an increasingly unpopular war, Democrats failed to roust from the White House George W. Bush, a man they were convinced was out of touch, disliked and dumb.
In addition to outsmarting them at the White House gates, Mr. Bush pulled off an extraordinary victory at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Not only did he keep both chambers of Congress in Republican hands, he actually managed to strengthen those majorities — nearly unheard of for a sitting president seeking his second term.
Adding wicked insult to political injury, the Democratic leader of the Senate, Tom Daschle of South Dakota, became the first sitting Senate leader in more than a half-century to be booted from office.
Dazed Democrats wandered their cramped minority quarters on Capitol Hill and wondered if they would ever see the light of power again.
It was in this desperation and darkness that they turned to an unpolished, little-known, mumbling backroom operator with the broad fists of a boxer. Fiercely loyal to his fellow Democrats and unmovable, he was known for playing dirty and for his estrangement from the truth.
Democrats did not care. All they wanted was someone to steel their spine and do whatever it took to win fights.
Thus was hatched the improbable reign of Harry Reid.
The world soon learned what a volatile concoction comes from mixing that soft, mumbling voice with the microphone normally afforded a leader of his stature.
The Nevada Democrat once mused how sweaty tourists — aka “voters” — visiting the Capitol stunk. He marveled at how President Obama had no discernible “negro” dialect.
And most unforgivably, Mr. Reid declared that the war in Iraq “was lost” even as the boys he dispatched there were still dying and bleeding trying to carry out the mission he had sent them on.
A typical Reid press conference would have top Senate Democrats groaning, covering their eyes or stifling a laugh, while sending aides scrambling to somehow try to undo the damage of their leader’s words.
That is because he brings the same honor and integrity that he has used to slime so many to the task of running the Senate, which is to say he will say anything and do anything to win any little skirmish over tactics, policy or anything else.
Which is how we found him last week on the floor of the Senate pushing sneaky lies on behalf of the Obama campaign. On the floor and later in a conference call with reporters, Mr. Reid smeared GOP challenger Mitt Romney with lies, accusing him of not paying his taxes as a ploy to get Mr. Romney to release his tax returns.
“So, the word’s out that he hasn’t paid any taxes for 10 years,” the gangster from Vegas told reporters. “Let him prove that he has paid taxes, because he hasn’t.”
As is often the case, there isn’t the slightest whiff of truth to Mr. Reid’s calumny. This is entirely about wanting the press to spend yet another week wallowing in the fact that, yes, Mitt Romney is one rich dude. And though “Dirty Harry” has been plenty scorned for his malicious lies, he has once again succeeded in keeping the media busy talking about Mr. Romney’s wealth instead of all Mr. Obama’s and Mr. Reid’s failures.
Indeed, there is not a Porta-Potty in the land that Harry Reid won’t climb down into if it means he can score a cheap point against Republicans. It is why Democrats love him so much.
• Charles Hurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org