Saturday, August 06, 2005

Give 'em hell, Harry

There's a very good, but long article on Harry Reid in the New Yorker. I'll excerpt my favorite parts:

On John Roberts:

Roberts, Reid recalled, said, “ ‘Oh, on the Supreme Court you can change precedent only if there’s this and this,’ and he was rattling them off. I hope I didn’t act surprised, but I’d never heard anything like that before.” Roberts, in Reid’s view, left no doubt that he would be very reluctant to overturn precedents. To do so, Roberts had said, the Court would first have to consider a series of objective criteria, two of which stood out: whether a precedent fostered stability in the nation; and the extent to which society had come to rely on an earlier ruling, even a dubious one.

How he grew up:

There were about two hundred people left in the town when Reid was born, in 1939, the third of four sons of Harry Reid, Sr., a gold miner with an elementary-school education, and his wife, Inez, who did laundry for some of the local bordellos, which were by then the town’s primary business. Reid’s boyhood home was built out of scavenged railroad ties; it had no indoor toilet and no hot water. There were no telephones in Searchlight until the nineteen-fifties.

How he fought the Mafia:

Reid confronted wiseguys like Tony (the Ant) Spilotro, who had been sent to Las Vegas by a Chicago branch of La Cosa Nostra, “the Outfit,” and was known for killing his victims by squeezing their heads in a vise. In 1979, Reid barred Spilotro from all casinos.

In July of 1978, a man named Jack Gordon, who was later married to LaToya Jackson, offered Reid twelve thousand dollars to approve two new, carnival-like gaming devices for casino use. Reid reported the attempted bribe to the F.B.I. and arranged a meeting with Gordon in his office. By agreement, F.B.I. agents burst in to arrest Gordon at the point where Reid asked, “Is this the money?” Although he was taking part in a sting, Reid was unable to control his temper; the videotape shows him getting up from his chair and saying, “You son of a bitch, you tried to bribe me!” and attempting to choke Gordon, before startled agents pulled him off. “I was so angry with him for thinking he could bribe me,” Reid said, explaining his theatrical outburst. Gordon was convicted in federal court in 1979 and sentenced to six months in prison.

One day in 1981, Landra Reid noticed that the family station wagon was not running properly, and she discovered a cable under the hood and “something” sticking out of the gas tank. Police found a device that would have exploded had it been correctly grounded. Reid always blamed Gordon for the bomb, and the incident frightened his family—by then there were five children, four sons and a daughter—so that for a year they started the car by remote control. Gordon died in April, at the age of sixty-six, and his connection to the bombing attempt was never proved. McCue, Reid’s chief of staff, says that the episode changed Reid. Whatever the issue, she says, his approach is always “No one is going to kill me over this.”