By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, May 7, 2005
The Senate's top Democrat, Harry M. Reid of Nevada, called President Bush a "loser" yesterday just about the time Air Force One was touching down on foreign soil. Reid immediately called the White House to express regret.
The remark violated the restraint that the opposition party customarily exercises when a president is abroad and reflected the acrid environment on Capitol Hill as Republicans prepare to change a rule that lets Democrats use delaying tactics to block the confirmation of judges.
Reid made the remark while discussing the filibuster issue with about 60 Del Sol High School juniors, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal's Web site.
"The man's father is a wonderful human being," Reid said in response to a question about Bush's policies. "I think this guy is a loser."
Reid spoke about the time Bush landed in Latvia at the start of a five-day European trip.
Aides said Reid realized right away that he had overstepped. He at first tried to call Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. but when he could not reach him because the presidential party had headed to bed, the senator talked to deputy chief of staff Karl Rove. Reid later called the Review-Journal to say he had "apologized for what I said."
Reid told Rove that he wanted to express his regret, and asked Rove to pass that on to the president, the aides said.
The Republican National Committee issued a statement calling the comment "a sad development but not surprising from the leader of a party devoid of optimism, ideas or solutions." Reid's aides said his Nevada offices were flooded with complaints, as a result of the GOP aggressiveness.
Two weeks ago, Reid essentially called Bush a liar when Vice President Cheney said he agreed with Senate Republicans about changing the filibuster rule. Reid said that violated a commitment Bush had made to stay out of the fight. Reid said that it "appears he was not being honest."
The White House referred reporters to the RNC statement.