ABC News’ Jonathan Karl Reports: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he bears no responsibility for the sorry state of Nevada’s economy, which has the highest unemployment rate, foreclosure rate and bankruptcies in the entire country.
“You know that I had nothing to do with the massive foreclosures here. You know that I had nothing to do with these unemployment figures. In fact, I've worked hard to change them. My job is to create jobs. My opponent says that is not her job to create jobs. And I think that is really wrong. I think it is my job to create jobs and I've done my best. Is there more that needs to take place? Of course, there is.”
That’s what Reid told me in a wide ranging interview at his campaign headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada. You can watch an extended cut of the interview and read the transcript below.
ABC NEWS’ JONATHAN KARL: It's good to see you on uh your home turf. SENATOR HARRY REID: Glad to be here. KARL: Uh, so how's it looking? REID: I think it's looking pretty good. I feel comfortable where we are. Certainly there's no dispute about the contrast. She's uh somebody who's against the Department of Energy, Department of Education. Wants to phase out Social Security, Medicare, privatize Veteran's Administration, get rid of the Department of Energy, I mean Department of Education. Um she's got a long list of negative hits. KARL: So how extreme is Sharron Angle in your view? REID: I've been in government for a long time and you can ask others, you don't have to talk to me, people she's served with in the legislature…I honestly have not found anyone that thought she was an accomplished legislator. In fact, just the opposite. So you don't need to hear this from me. There's a real contrast between Sharron Angle and Harry Reid. KARL: Well you have been relentlessly hammering her with your ads. Outside groups have been painting her as an extremist. And yet in one of the most recent polls your negatives were actually still higher than hers. Why is that? REID: Jonathan, first of all, uh it seems to me that some of you guys should get a different poll to look at. You've been looking at the polls they do through the Journal for a year and a half. Look at something else. I mean, you should get that that I'm sorry that newspaper you people look at it so much. All you have to do is read it on a weekly basis. They write a couple of editorials a week against me. So uh there are a lot of polls going on if you look at the poll that I give very little credence to, the Rasmussen poll, has me at 6 or 7 points last week. But the only poll that matters is the one on Election Day. Nevada for 20 years led the nation as the best economy of all 50 states. We, if you wanted a good job, come to Nevada. If you wanted to invest in small business, come to Nevada. How about investing in real estate? Come to Nevada. For 20 years this was the place to come. When the situation occurred on Wall Street, the collapse took place, we were so high, we had so far to fall. And We're struggling to get back where we were. We have as you know the President has created with Congress three and a half million jobs. We have because of what took place in the Bush years lost eight million so we have a long ways to go. But I think it would take a real stretch to think that I caused the problems with the economy. That's what she is trying to do. So I understand, I really do understand how people in Nevada feel. We were doing so well for so long and suddenly we're not doing so well. So I understand that. KARL: But you are the Majority Leader, I mean you're in a position of real power. Do you not bear any of the responsibility for what's happened to the economy here? REID: Well I, as you know, I tried to do a lot of things to try and stop the Bush red spending from going on that put us from we went from a 7 trillion dollar surplus over 10 years to when he left office, a 10 trillion dollar debt. So I uh don't have any hand in what took place during the Bush administration. I tried to rein that in. Now I worked really hard during the last year and a half in this new Congress to try to get us back in better shape. We're in better shape, but we still have a long ways to go, a long ways to go. KARL: But if you end up winning. Will it be because of Harry Reid and what you've done or will it be because of who you're running against, Sharron Angle? REID: Well I would hope that people appreciate and I'm confident that they do. If you have a baseball team and you decide you want to substitute, you better make sure that substitute is better than the guy you're taking out. And so I would think people are going to look at that in Nevada. Sharron Angle has a history of voting "no" on everything and that's easy to do. And uh, she hasn't added one positive thing to this debate. I mean she keeps coming up with new things. And you think, "Could there be more?" I mean privatizing the Veteran's administration. Then she comes out, "I wouldn't have given money to Katrina." That the DOE money that helped those poor people in the Gulf was a slush fund. She wouldn't have supported that. So we're doing our best to get that message out. That she is uh quite extreme and I don't think that is very hard to do. KARL: She's also suggested that there are domestic enemies in Congress. Now you've been in Congress for a long time, what was your reaction to that? REID: Jonathan, I have asked um the press on many occasions since she came up with this absurd statement, there isn't a Democrat or a Republican that I know of, and I know them all very well, that is an enemy of our republic. And I'm sure if Mitch McConnell were here he'd say the same thing. We work hard to try to do the right thing for our caucuses. But we never, never -- other than statements on the floor when we're really in the trenches-- uh we knew this important when we do this -- we know this is important, we never suggest anyone is doing anything for other than patriotic reasons. They believe that and for her to say that and then to compound it by saying having Second Amendment remedies, as even makes it even worse. KARL: Let me ask you, the unemployment rate in Nevada is the highest in the entire country? The state leads the way in bankruptcies, foreclosures, home foreclosures. Given that, do you really deserve to be re-elected? REID: Jonathan, you are of course, giving me some credit for leading this charge in unemployment? KARL: Well you've been in a position of power. I mean you've you're not just a Senator. REID: Well it's nice of you to ask that. But realistically you know that that's not true. You know that I had nothing to do with the massive foreclosures here. You know that I had nothing to do with these unemployment figures. In fact, I've worked hard to change them. My job is to create jobs. My opponent says that is not her job to create jobs. And I think that is really wrong. I think it is my job to create jobs and I've done my best. Is there more that needs to take place? Of course, there is. KARL: You've been a part of some very close races -- on the winning side and the losing side, matters of a few hundred votes. How close is this one going to be? REID: Oh I'm not going to predict that. I'm not in the polling business. I'm, I'm… KARL: You've got to give me something. You know Nevada politics as well as anyone. REID: No no I'm not in the polling business. I feel I hope the election on Election Day is the same way as right now, but I'm not going to We feel comfortable where we are. We feel we're making a very good case for the state of Nevada. We depend son good journalists like you to make sure you report what the differences are between me and her. Without depending on that one poll, look at some other polls KARL: Are you confident that you are going to win? REID: I'm not a person who boasts or brags. I have had the best campaign in the state of Nevada. I have the best campaign in the country. It's going now. We've had a lot of work to do and we've done that. So I feel very comfortable where we are. KARL: Alright, Senator Reid. Thank you.