Former Nevada Democrat Sen. Harry Reid announced on Wednesday that he is on his death bed.
He told a reporter for The New York Times that his time is nearly done.
Reid, who is 79, does not have long to live. I hate to be so abrupt about this, but Reid probably would not mind. In May, he went in for a colonoscopy, the results of which caused concern among his doctors. This led to an M.R.I. that turned up a lesion on Reid’s pancreas: cancer. Reid’s subdued and slightly cold manner, and aggressive anticharisma, have always made him an admirably blunt assessor of situations, including, now, his own: “As soon as you discover you have something on your pancreas, you’re dead.”
When I went to see him in December, he was confined to a desk near the front door of the house, unable to move without the aid of a walker that rested behind him. Still, he looked better than I thought he would. The last time I saw Reid, during the 2016 presidential campaign, he was wearing dark glasses and was still bruised from a freakish exercise-session mishap in early 2015, when an elastic band apparently snapped and propelled him into some cabinets, breaking ribs and bones in his face and blinding him in his right eye. The visible damage from this incident had abated at last. Wearing a tan sweater over a dress shirt, he looked about how he did a decade ago: roughly his current age, in other words.
Reid’s health, even before the cancer diagnosis, was a factor in opting not to seek re-election for a sixth Senate term in 2016.
It is sad that Sen. Reid has such a disease.
But before he goes he wanted to make certain that he took some shots at President Donald Trump.
The former F.B.I. director James Comey, after he was fired by Trump, compared Trump to the head of a mafia family, with its codes of silence and loyalty, its fear-based leadership style and fealty to a single godfather. “It’s not about anything else except the boss,” Comey said in a recent interview at the 92nd Street Y in New York. Others have drawn the same parallel, and I asked Reid if, given his unusually relevant professional experience in this area, it rang true. Reid expelled a quick and dismissive chuckle. “Organized crime is a business,” he told me, “and they are really good with what they do. But they are better off when things are predictable. In my opinion, they do not do well with chaos. And that’s what we have going with Trump.”
Still, Reid added: “Trump is an interesting person. He is not immoral but is amoral. Amoral is when you shoot someone in the head, it doesn’t make a difference. No conscience.” There was a hint of grudging respect in Reid’s tone, which he seemed to catch and correct. “I think he is without question the worst president we’ve ever had,” he said. “We’ve had some bad ones, and there’s not even a close second to him.” He added: “He’ll lie. He’ll cheat. You can’t reason with him.” Once more, a hint of wonder crept into his voice, as if he was describing a rogue beast on the loose in a jungle that Reid knows well.
The Trump era and Reid’s illness have occasioned an inevitable reconsideration of Reid’s legacy and all its contradictions. The Affordable Care Act, which Reid managed to navigate past the oppositional tactics of his persistent nemesis, the Republican Senate leader (and now majority leader), Mitch McConnell, has so far withstood McConnell and Trump’s efforts to dismantle the legislation. Reid was also prescient in urging the Obama administration and congressional Republicans to go public about the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election; the letter that Republican leaders agreed to co-sign weeks after they were briefed on the investigation did not identify Russia by name. “They did nothing — or nothing that I’m aware of,” Reid said.