Is Harry Reid a racist?

Mitt Romney isn’t the only recent target of vicious language by Harry Reid. In an interview with the Huffington Post, the Senate Majority Leader called Bill Magwood “one of the most unethical, prevaricating, incompetent people I’ve ever dealt with.” Reid went on to say that Magwood is a “treacherous, miserable liar.” He added that he considers Magwood “a first class rat” and a “sh*t stirrer.”

Who is Bill Magwood, and why is Reid saying such terrible things about him?

Magwood, a Democrat, is a member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He also happens to be African-American.

Before going any further, try to imagine the outcry if a Republican politician had called an African-American public official a “treacherous miserable liar,” or a “first class rat.” Such a remark would fuel fake left-wing outrage for days, and the Republican in question would be branded for all time as a racist. But because Reid is a liberal Democrat, there is no outcry. Indeed, the Huffington Post story does not even mention Magwood’s race or provide a picture of him.

But since we’re not leftists, let’s not accuse Harry Reid of racism until we consider what led him to denounce Magwood.

With the Huffington Post’s complicity, Reid tries to make it appear that his outrage stems from Magwood’s alleged failure to keep his word that he would oppose storing nuclear material in Yucca Mountain. But Reid and the friendly HuffPo reporter fail to make this case.

First, Reid doesn’t show that Magwood promised Reid he would oppose Yucca Mountain. Rather, that promise allegedly came from former Obama chief of staff Pete Rouse. Reid does say that when they discussed the issue, Magwood said, “Senator, I know this industry like the back of my hand. You don’t have to worry about me.” I don’t take Reid’s word on this, but let’s assume Magwood made that statement. There is no promise to take a specific position on Yucca Mountain. If Reid wanted such a promise, he should have extracted it, rather than contenting himself with an ambiguous statement.

Second, where’s the evidence that Magwood turned into a supporter of Yucca Mountain? The Huffington Post cites one of its prior stories. But that story doesn’t show that Magwood supported Yucca Mountain. Rather, the story criticizes Magwood for attacking Greg Jaczko, who Reid had installed as the NRC chair. To be sure, Jaczko opposes Yucca Mountain, but that doesn’t mean that, by attacking Jaczko, Magwood was supporting Yucca Mountain.

There was ample reason to attack Jaczko. An internal investigation of the Reid protege concluded that, as NRC chair, he engaged in bullying and intimidation, and created a tense working environment at the agency. The NRC’s inspector general found at least 15 instances when Jaczko acted in a way that senior employees or fellow commissioners found intimidating or bullying. The report also said Jaczko’s testimony before House and Senate committees in December was “inconsistent” with testimony provided to the inspector general by senior NRC officials. So who is the “miserable liar?”

These findings provide more than enough reason for Magwood to have supported Jaczko’s ouster. But I’m told that the findings of the person who actually investigated Jaczko were even more damning – apparently the IG toned them down.

In any case, Magwood was joined by his three other colleagues on the NRC in denouncing Jaczko. As the Huffington Post itself reported at the time:

In an extraordinary public rebuke, four fellow commissioners sat next to Jaczko in December and told Congress they had “grave concerns” about Jaczko’s actions. The four commissioners – two Democrats and two Republicans – said women at the agency felt especially threatened.

Now look back at Reid’s HuffPo attack on Magwood. I think it’s clear that the attack isn’t about Yucca Mountain; rather, it’s about Reid’s relationship with Jaczko:

“Magwood was a shit-stirrer. He did everything he could do to embarrass Greg Jaczko.” Reid has donated $10,000 to help Jaczko pay the considerable legal bills he racked up defending against Magwood’s allegations. Jaczko was “the first chair that has never been part of the nuclear industry,” Reid said, explaining the intense opposition. “That commission was a tool to the nuclear industry. Greg Jaczko, this young guy, he of course worked for me. He was against Yucca Mountain. But they knew that going in.”

In Reid’s mind, Magwood is disloyal because he helped blow the whistle on Reid’s guy. That’s an unpardonable act if you’re a member of the mob, but one’s duty if you’re a public official who learns of wrongdoing.

So is Harry Reid a racist? Possibly, he once had to apologize for racial remarks he made about Barack Obama.

But that’s not what this incident is about. This incident is about the fealty to which “Boss” Reid believes he’s entitled.

UPDATE: Note also the worshipful tone in which the Huffington Post presents Reid’s over-the-top tirade. “Harry Reid isn’t known for hyperbole,” we’re advised. No, just for inventing absurd claims like the accusation that Mitt Romney didn’t pay taxes.

The HuffPo also reports with a straight face this self-assessment provided by the Majority Leader: “I can be as partisan as I have to be, but I always try to be nice. I try never to say bad things about people.” It seems that Reid tries harder to be “as partisan as he has to be” than to “be nice.”

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