In CNBC interview, Majority Leader calls opponent “too extreme,” defends personal lifestyle, spending.
Latest in a series of national interviews the Leader has granted.
CNBC TRANSCRIPT: CNBC’S CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT JOHN HARWOOD SPEAKS WITH SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID TODAY ON CNBC
JOHN HARWOOD reporting: All right, Senator, so when Sharron Angle was nominated earlier this year, everybody said, `Reid’s safe because they’ve nominated somebody who’s way out of the mainstream,’ and yet you’re in the fight of your life. How come?
Senator HARRY REID: Well, I never felt that way. I’ve been in Nevada for 20 years with the top economic boom…. If you want a good job, come to Nevada. If you want to invest in real estate, there’s no place better. And, of course, if you want to start a small business, this is the place to come. When Wall Street collapsed, we got hit really bad. No state was hit like we have been hit. So people are–excuse me–people are really desperate, and I understand. They–it’s little solace to them for me to say, `Look, if we hadn’t worked so hard there would be a worldwide depression.’ That’s no comfort for anyone, even though that’s true. And even though we worked together bringing half a million jobs of the eight million we lost during the last administration, still a lot of people down and out. But I feel comfortable where I am and what I’ve done. You know, I’m–we do our own polling, and they’re scientific polls, not like the ones that float around in newspapers.
Sen. REID: And one reason I’m not just making this up…
Sen. REID: …these polls that are done in the random dialing, they can’t dial anyone with a cell.
Sen. REID: Now, in this audience right here, I bet you can’t–I bet 50 percent of the people here don’t have a home phone.
Sen. REID: So, anyway, our polls are fine. I feel comfortable where we are. We’re not saying I’ve won yet, but we look feel where we are. She’s a person that is embarrassing to the state, too extreme.
HARWOOD: Do you think she’s crazy?
Sen. REID: Oh, I’m not going to get into that. Other people have said so, but I’m not going to say that.
HARWOOD: The–when you think about–you’ve been the leader of the entire Senate since 2007. Do you think the economic circumstances you’re in now are simply the result of the economic cycle, or do you look back at specific things that you, this administration, fellow Democrats have done wrong that you could’ve done better?
Sen. REID: I think the biggest thing that we didn’t do right was tout what we had done. We were so busy, this hole was deep, every morning I got up, we got up…(unintelligible)…out of the hole. We really didn’t have time to talk about the things we accomplished. We really did a lot of very big things.
HARWOOD: So it’s a communications problem, not a policy problem.
Sen. REID: I really believe that. I think that we didn’t do a good job of selling the many good things we did. But as far as doing the good things, we did a lot. We had–never in the history of the country, probably even going back to 1928, we never had such a tremendously deep, deep hole. The month that Obama and Bush shared the presidency, 800,000 jobs were lost in one month. That’s significant. The last six months of the Bush administration, I think about three million jobs. So things crashed during that last year of the Bush administration, and we were–of course, that’s one reason Obama won so big, we could see this big thing coming.
HARWOOD: Sharron Angle’s got a tough ad up now, a couple of ads, suggesting that you got rich while in office, that you live in a fancy condo and a hotel and talked about a sweetheart real estate deal. What’s your response to that?
Sen. REID: Anyone’s that looked at my financial disclosure, I was a very fortunate young man practicing law, made some great–I was part of the investment program that I talked about earlier on this–coming to Nevada, real estate was a good deal. All anyone has to do is look at my financial statement when I went to Washington and what I have now. I have spent most of my money on my kids then…but I haven’t made any money. And as far as my–they keep talking about this palatial estate I have, a penthouse. Have you ever heard of a penthouse being on the second floor? My wife and I stay in Washington. We have a home in… This penthouse that I have is less than 2,000 square feet and has one bedroom.
HARWOOD: Now, this ad that she has talking about this real estate deal, there was a controversy a few years ago about whether or not all of the aspects of that deal were reported on Senate forms. Is there anything you wish you’d done differently on that?
Sen. REID: John, the answer is I did everything right. I had a piece of land, I sold it. Bought it from somebody I didn’t know, sold it to somebody I didn’t know. You know, it’s part of the free enterprise system, and there was–I didn’t list it right in what is legal jargon, but it was a limited partnership. I owned 85 percent, somebody else owned 15 percent, that ownership never changed. It’s just–it was a story. And this woman–I was told by Bill Raggio’s wife, a……in the legislature, `Harry, be careful. The last few weeks of this campaign, she’ll bring up a lot of personal stuff to try to embarrass you.’ That’s what she’s done. That I got rich in Washington is a bunch of malarkey. Anybody who knows me knows that’s not true. That I happen to live in a palatial mansion, I invite you to come and look at my palatial mansion, my fancy house, my what do they call it? What do they call it? My–anyway, it’s on the second floor. That is the one thing that makes my wife mad. You know, we at one time in Washington–in Las Vegas had a pretty big home before we went back there. I have a one-bedroom apartment, you know?
HARWOOD: Let me ask you about business.
Sen. REID: Penthouse! That’s what it was.
Sen. REID: Penthouse.
Sen. REID: It’s a unique situation where I live, a penthouse on the second floor.
HARWOOD: The Republicans are making the case that Pelosi, Reid, Obama, bankrupting the country with big spending, want to raise taxes, bad for business, unemployment’s gone up. Give me your vision of Sharron Angle and what her philosophy would mean for business and the economy.
Sen. REID: As we speak, I have worked hard on renewable energy jobs. Everyone knows that I stuck that provision in there–in the economic recovery package, something I have the ability to do. In Nevada alone, as we speak, there’s $1.8 billion worth of construction going on with renewable energy options. When you fly into the airport–I put something else in that bill, to allow $3 billion worth of bonds to be sold to do a job out there that 2,000 people are working on right now. That’s a hospital out there. And so many other things.
HARWOOD: And the tea party argument would be, `Hey, that’s pork, that’s special projects that people are putting in.’ What’s your response to that?
Sen. REID: My response to that is whoever suggests that knows nothing about bills. Nothing, zero. Government–I wonder where all these people were when George Bush was raiding every fund we had, spending all the money that we didn’t have. As Joe Biden said in Reno yesterday, the Republican Party is talking about, `The tea party is not your father’s Republican Party.’ That’s why in Nevada, literally, every Republican is supporting me. When I say Republican, I mean people who hold office.
Sen. REID: Dean Rose, Dean Rose, a very conservative Republican, longtime Senator from Elko County supports me. Bill Raggio never endorsed a Democrat in his life, he’s 84 years old, he endorsed me. Dema Guinn, the widow of Kenny Guinn, who died falling off his roof…
Sen. REID: …supports me. Frank Fahrenkopf, former chairman of the Republican National Committee supporting me. Not because they’re not good Republicans, because this woman is a detriment to the Republican Party.
HARWOOD: And yet the race is so close. A lot of voters are with her.
Sen. REID: Well, sure. I understand that the race is close, and I acknowledge that. I’m sorry the economy is as bad as it is, but I say to you, I didn’t cause this economy to be bad. I have worked hard to create jobs in Nevada. I’ve worked hard to save the education system in Nevada, bring $400 million to higher education, about $400 million in K through 12. Where would the state be without this? It would be in real bad shape.
HARWOOD: People say she came across pretty well in the debate, that she seemed reasonable.
Sen. REID: Yeah. John, the debate was set up for her. I couldn’t get her to do it there. She wouldn’t do a debate. The only thing she would do in the debate where you have one minute. Well, in one minute the answers are shallow, and for somebody that understands government, knows how things work, it’s hard to talk about things in one minute. And also, I was very careful. I didn’t want to come on like I was a big bully. So should I do things differently? Probably so. But that’s the only debate she would do with me. I invited her to debate. She said I won’t do it because I don’t want to go after the early vote. Well, those in Washington try to help the country prior to early vote.
HARWOOD: Well, let me just ask you finally before we go to address this advertisement that appears not to be airing actually on TV, but they announced an advertisement that said–urged Latinos not to vote to protest the failure of Reid-Obama-Pelosi to deliver on immigration reform and other promises. Respond to that.
Sen. REID: This is what she’s all about. This is what she’s all about. The negative. Asking people not to vote. Now, I really appreciate Univision refusing to run that ad. She wouldn’t denounce the ad. Somebody told me early this morning she did after four or five days of this riling around in the Internet, on all the news media. The other thing, they haven’t stopped yet. They’re passing out stuff in malls, they’re passing out where there’s a lot of Hispanic voters, trying to cause people not to vote. This is–this is un-American, it’s unpatriotic. To think anyone would have any part of suggesting to anyone in our country you shouldn’t vote. That’s–that is what sets apart our country apart from different countries.
HARWOOD: When you combine the message of that ad, the fact that those things are being put out, her comments to the students, some of the immigration ads, does that ad up to anything? Does it tell you anything about Sharron Angle? Because she says we’re a melting pot, `We’re all coming together, I stand for that.’
Sen. REID: You don’t–this is not me. All the commentary in America that she’s running against me are absolutely false, untrue. She’s done everything she can to marginalize minorities. She’s done everything she can to marginalize me, passing out these untruths. She won’t focus on the issues. She won’t debate me. She runs from her long-standing positions of getting rid of Social Security, Medicare, privatizing the Department of Education.
HARWOOD: Do you think she’s a bigot?
Sen. REID: I’m not going to get into name calling. People can look at all this stuff and figure that out on their own.
HARWOOD: All right. What do you have to do to win this race?
Sen. REID: Stay right where we are. We’re–our message is out. There’s a lot of enthusiasm. People are afraid of her. She would be an embarrassment to the state of Nevada.
HARWOOD: Thanks, Senator, appreciate it.
Sen. REID: Thanks for having breakfast. You still not…
HARWOOD: No, I’m going to have it.