HMR, Fanning the Flames

On Wednesday, Harry Reid held a fireside chat in his office in honor of the President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first fireside chat 75 years ago. Video by: Akira Hakuta/
By Dana Milbank
Thursday, March 13, 2008

"Let us unite in banishing fear."

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt, Fireside Chat, March 12, 1933

"We have an energy crisis, to say the least, and we're just doing more of the same."

-- Harry M. Reid, Fireside Podcast, March 12, 2008

Harry Reid was having a good time.

"Come on, Rodell, let 'em have another," the Senate majority leader pleaded with an aide who was trying to cut off questions and shoo reporters from Reid's office yesterday.

The Nevada Democrat's pleasure was understandable: It's not every day that you get to be an icon of American history.

It was the 75th anniversary of President Roosevelt's first Fireside Chat in 1933, delivered in the depths of the Great Depression. But with FDR long gone and a Republican in the White House, there was no obvious way to commemorate the occasion. So Reid and his aides hatched a plan: They lighted a split-wood fire in the green-marble fireplace in his office, pulled a leather armchair in front of it and invited reporters in for a "Fireside Podcast" delivered by Harry Delano Roosevelt. Or was it Franklin Delano Reid?

The majority leader had set a high bar for himself. The economy may be shaky, but it's not yet the Great Depression. And Reid may be one of the smartest legislators in the Capitol, but he's not yet FDR. The result was a Fireside Chat for 2008: Where Roosevelt tried to calm a nation in desperate times, Reid sought to stir up a nation in sluggish times. Where Roosevelt celebrated national unity, Reid complained about Republican intransigence.

"I want to tell our citizens in every part of the nation that the national Congress -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- showed . . . a devotion to public welfare and a realization of the emergency and the necessity for speed that it is difficult to match in our history," Roosevelt said in '33.

"Because of the Republicans led by President Bush wanting to maintain the status quo, we're not moving into areas in which we should be moving," Reid said yesterday. "They've filibustered our attempt to do something about the housing industry."

Roosevelt, reopening banks after a wave of failures shut them down for a week, declared: "The phantom of fear will soon be laid . . . I can assure you that it is safer to keep your money in a reopened bank than under the mattress."

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