Paul Greenberg

Harry Reid may be majority leader of the U.S. Senate, but that's just his day job. His real calling, his true vocation, the arena in which he seems most his lowdown self, is that of ax man. And he's got a real talent for it. By now there are few tricks of that dirty trade he hasn't mastered. Sen. Reid seems to enjoy the seamy side of politics so much it's hard to envision him being anything but the crass pol he is and may always be.

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Yes, I know, the possibility of redemption is eternal, but odds are odds. And who better to live by the odds than a U.S. senator from Nevada, epicenter of the country's gambling industry? And the odds are long against Harry Reid's suddenly turning into a knight in shining armor; his whole record demonstrates his preference for the cheap shot, the low rumor, the transparent dodge. And why not? It's paid such political dividends in his case -- from tenure in the Senate to national prominence.

The man is a case study in how to rise in politics by sinking ever lower. He may lack Richard Nixon's all-time record for general shadiness, but the senior senator from Nevada will do for this middling era, at least till a pol even lower becomes a mainstay of the news.

The way Harry Reid has played this game indicates he's going to be a lifetime recidivist where the art of the smear is concerned. Maybe he just can't help himself, he enjoys the sport so much. I hear tell there are folks who love mud-rasslin', too.

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Harry Reid's latest class act is to say he's been told that that Mitt Romney, the GOP's presidential nominee-to-be, didn't pay any income taxes for 10 years.

Really? Who told the senator so? That the senator refuses to say.

Where's his proof? He doesn't need any, this being an American presidential campaign.

When pressed by Mr. Romney ("Put up or shut up"), Sen. Reid challenges Mitt Romney to disprove his allegation. He only makes the accusations; it's up to the accused to disprove them.

The spirit of Joe McCarthy yet lives -- and once again prowls the halls of the U.S. Senate. Not that it ever entirely disappeared. Politics hasn't been beanbag at least since Mr. Dooley's turn-of-the-last-century day.

Thanks to the Harry Reids and other successors to the sainted junior senator from Wisconsin, aka Tail Gunner Joe, politics has become more like character assassination. And now it's Mitt Romney's character that's in the bull's-eye. It comes with the territory known as an American presidential election. There's no telling what you'll hear about Barack Obama, either, that Kenyan Muslim.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.