Saturday, March 28, 2015

Harry Reid's rural, working class upbringing—and his consequent attachment to place and bluntness

On the occasion of Harry Reid's announcement that he would retire from the U.S. Senate at the end of this term, Amita Kelly reported today on NPR that Reid has never forgotten his path to the Senate, starting with his childhood in Searchlight, Nevada, population 539, where he grew up in a miner's shack made of repurposed railroad ties.  Reid moved back to Searchlight, which is in Clark County (also home to Las Vegas) with his family in the 1990s.  Reid stayed there until last year, when he moved to Las Vegas to be closer to his children. 

President Obama surprised Reid by calling into KNPR yesterday during an interview with the Senate majority leader.  The president commented on Reid's respect for where and how he grew up:   
I don't know anybody who understands more his roots, where he came from, what it means to not have anything when you're born, and scramble and scrape and work to get something.  He has never forgotten the path that he took ... in terms of someone who's got heart and cares about ordinary people trying to chase the American dream, I don't think there's been anybody ever.
In a 2005 profile of Reid, the New Yorker noted that he has called Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan a "political hack," Clarence Thomas an "embarrassment" and George W. Bush a "liar" and a "loser." The writer seems to find this remarkable, but I see it as a working class kid speaking with the characteristic bluntness associated with those who grew up in the sort of hardscrabble circumstances in which Reid was raised.

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