Commentary - December 28, 2021 - by Ray Hagar
He never wanted the questions in advance. "Just ask me anything," he said.
Harry Reid was my first interview with a United States Senator, on my radio show back in 1993, in Reno. I kept bugging him about a couple of issues and he finally answered them both because I was polite but persistent. At the end of the interview I thought, "Well, he’s not coming back. He got up, shook my hand and said he enjoyed it and was looking forward to coming back, and for 31 years he did exactly that.
In tiny radio stations, Nevada TV stations, the United States Senate TV studios, my office next to the Federal building, his office at the Bellagio and finally via Zoom.
I learned then that you can ask anyone anything if you’re polite about it.
In 1994 I had a heart attack. The entire congressional delegation sent get-well cards. Not Harry, he called the emergency room and spoke to my wife to see how I was doing.
A few years back one of his press people wouldn’t set me up for an interview. I saw the Senator at a private function and told him what was going on. He said, “Give me your business card and I’ll be on your show within three weeks.” His staff called three days later and he was on that week.
His pockets were full of cards and notes of things that others wanted or needed to get done and that’s how he knew what every Senator wanted.
A Nevadan beyond anything else, he told me once that even though they were Republicans, if Sheldon Adelson or Steve Wynn needed something, he was there to help.
CityCenter would never been completed if Harry Reid had not personally intervened with the banks.
A lifelong Republican leader Sig Rogich formed Republicans for Reid to make sure Nevada had a powerful voice on the water issues on the Colorado River.
Senator Richard Bryan forced the SETI program to get private funding in its search for extra-terrestrial life. Senator Reid found money to investigate UFOs in his last years in the Senate. He said, “Just don’t call them little green men.”
Harry had a straight face but he also had a wonderful sense of dry humor. He could have been British.
As you will read in many places, Harry was the a good family man. He wouldn’t do interviews for quite a while with a prominent Nevada reporter. He told Senator Dean Heller, in front of me, it wasn’t because the reporter went after him. That came with the territory. It was because the reporter had gone after his sons.
One of my favorite memories was of a breakfast for Nevadans in DC at the Senate. Then-state Sen. Aaron Ford was there. The Senator was about to take questions and he spied a young man about 10 years old and said you get to ask the first question. It was the first time I had seen the grandfatherly side of Harry Reid.
His Senate office was formerly that of LBJ. But Reid didn’t conduct meetings from the bathroom as LBJ had done, to the consternation of his aide, Doris Kearns Goodwin. Reid had the bathroom blocked off.
How does a penniless man from Searchlight go from losing his father to suicide, his mother doing laundry for the local brothel, to becoming the Majority Leader of the United Senate? Well it’s easy to find out, just read any biography of Harry Reid.
A remarkable man, a remarkable life.