Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Clint Eastwood’s movie character “Dirty Harry” Callaghan was clean compared to Dirty Harry Reid, the Senate Democrats’ minority leader. Callaghan may have bruised the bad guys but Sen. Dirty Harry Reid smears anybody for any reason.

While Mr. Reid’s cheap shot that President Bush was a “loser” — a strange label for someone who has twice beaten Mr. Reid’s party — got a certain amount of notice in the media, a far worse remark by Sen. Dirty Harry is that Michigan judge and federal judicial nominee Henry Saad has some things in his FBI file that should give senators pause before confirming him.

What makes this dirty is that FBI files contain anything anybody has said about you, true or not. That is why FBI files are confidential, because they include unsubstantiated statements no one has evaluated.

Most senators — including Dirty Harry Reid — have not and cannot see what is in the FBI file on Judge Saad because only Senate Judiciary Committee members are allowed to see that file. If any committee member said anything about that file to Mr. Reid, he or she violated confidentiality.

Even Judge Saad himself cannot see the file, so he has no way of knowing to what Mr. Reid refers — and therefore no way to defend himself against whatever unknown statement may be there. Nor can he or we know if whatever is in the file is serious or trivial. We have only Sen. Dirty Harry Reid’s word.

It happens my own FBI file, compiled back in the 1970s when President Ford nominated me to the Federal Trade Commission, includes a claim I was a communist. Not even people opposed to my nomination took that seriously. But anonymous statements to the FBI are a way to knife someone in the back.

Obviously the statement about me was made by someone both hostile to me and ignorant enough of my politics to think this charge would fly. That narrows down the suspects and I have a pretty good idea who it was.

But the point is anybody can say anything to the FBI in one of these investigations. That’s why the files are kept confidential, leaving their contents to be evaluated later by a few authorized people. The statement against Judge Saad might easily have come from someone who lost a case in his court.

Why is Mr. Reid making insinuations about unknown and unsubstantiated statements in Judge Saad’s confidential FBI file? Because Dirty Harry is desperate.

It is not just that a showdown on judicial nominees is pending in the Senate. Mr. Reid’s Democratic Party has been losing elections consistently in the last few years.

In the 2000 elections, they lost the White House during peace and prosperity, a time when victory usually is a slam dunk for the party in power. They even lost congressional seats in 2002, a midterm election in the midst of a controversial war, both of which usually mean the opposition party picks up seats.

After the most recent elections last year, the Democrats ended up a minority party in both Houses of Congress, with Republicans controlling not only the White House but most of the governorships and state legislatures across the country.

It is desperation time for the Democrats and Dirty Harry Reid is just one of those who is showing it. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean’s denunciation of Mr. Bush as “despicable” is just one of his bright sayings that recall his famous primal scream in the Democratic primaries last year.

Senate Democrats’ threat to obstruct the normal functioning of the Senate if Republicans stop them from filibustering judicial nominees is another sign of their desperation — and the venom to which desperation often leads.

Even to threaten to obstruct the Senate’s operation during a war boggles the mind, whether or not it is actually carried out. It also boggles the mind to see liberals defending filibusters, whose best known use in the past was to block civil rights bills.

What they really defend is the right of those who lost an election to prevent those who won from governing. Dirty Harry Reid is the right man for that kind of job.

Thomas Sowell is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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