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Harry Reid dismissive of Barack Obama -- at first

President Obama greets Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is out selling the paperback version of his book, "The Good Fight: Hard Lessons From Searchlight to Washington."

So perhaps he can be forgiven for wanting to titillate readers. But what's with the Obama put-downs?

In the new epilogue to his book, called "The Obama Era," he says that he was impressed when Barack Obama, then a first-year senator from Illinois, delivered a speech about President George W. Bush's war policy.

Democrat Reid writes: " 'That speech was phenomenal, Barack,' I told him. And I will never forget his response. Without the barest hint of braggadocio or conceit, and with what I would describe as deep humility, he said quietly: 'I have a gift, Harry.' "

Reid told reporters that his wife told him not to include that in the book. Like it might seem a slur.

Then, on the media tour selling his book, he told the Washington Post that the first time he heard about Barack Obama he was underwhelmed.

The Senate majority leader said he was working out in the House gym when former Illinois Rep. Abner Mikva started lobbying Reid to support the little-known Obama, then a mere state senator, in a crowded 2004 primary for U.S. Senate.

"I wanted to laugh, but I didn't want to be impolite," Reid said.  "I just put him off."

This of course follows his remark back in January, as Washington prepared for Obama's inauguration, that despite the new president's popularity, Reid would not be pushed around.

 "I like Barack Obama very much," Reid told politico.com at the time. "He won a classic election, never have we had a better one," Reid said. "But I don't work for him, I work with him."

But this morning on NBC's "Today" show, Reid was all compliments, praising Obama's yet-to-be-announced Supreme Court pick, saying it is sure to be "as good as his Cabinet" selections.


-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Brendan Smialowski / Bloomberg

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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