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July 31, 2014

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Reid’s book recounts letter exhange with Souter

WASHINGTON — The paperback edition to Sen. Harry Reid’s autobiography comes out Tuesday with a new, final chapter that includes a poignantly-timed recounting of a written exchange between the senator and Supreme Court Justice David Souter.

In December 2000, the day after the court decided the Bush v. Gore case, and with it, the presidency, Reid sat at his desk to draft a note to Souter, “to thank him for his principled opposition to the court’s heedless and mistaken interference in the Florida recount."

The court’s action “had shaken Justice Souter so profoundly that he had given serious thought to leaving the bench in protest,” Reid writes in epilogue to “The Good Fight: Hard Lessons from Searchlight to Washington.”

Souter’s answer, Reid writes, “reflected his understandably distressed state of mind.”

Reid quotes Souter as responding: “‘Working through the aftermath of the decision has been difficult…’”

Even though the Souter section opens the 15-page epilogue to “The Good Fight”

it has been often overlooked as Washington gobbles up the pages that follow.

Of course there’s the big news, that Reid had early on encouraged then-Sen. Barack Obama to run for president.

Moreover, with Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s decision last week to become a Democrat the book offers a closer look at Reid’s handiwork in encouraging the longtime Republican to switch.

The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza today reports that Reid told him during a recent interview that recruiting party switchers is a “hobby of mine.”

(Cillizza goes on to mention Republican Rep. Dean Heller as “the best candidate still thinking about running” against Reid in 2010, but adds that it remains unclear if the congressman will ultimately take Reid on.)

Today’s Politico zooms in on the lessons Reid said he learned in maintaining a big tent for politically diverse Democratic senators — particularly last fall as he was being pushed by the left flank to punish Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman for having supported Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s candidacy in 2008.

Reid explained in the book that he pulled from his 1994 experience, when the party failed to stop then-Democratic Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado from switching to Republican.

“To this day, I can’t believe we let that happen,” Reid writes.

Yet the Souter passage offers insight about a justice now in the spotlight.

Souter announced his retirement last week, and much is being written about the elusive justice’s thinking.

Historians may well appreciate that in this digi-age, the lost art of letter writing still has a few practitioners on the Hill.

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