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George Knapp: The mad scientist’s new monster

There’s an image in my head I can’t quite shake. It’s a dark and stormy night. Inside a spooky castle perched high atop a haunted mountain, mad scientist Harry Reid cackles malevolently as he puts the finishing touches on his latest scheme to achieve world domination.

In the corner, an arc of blue electricity crackles out of a Tesla coil. A hunchback shuffles out of the dungeon carrying a beaker of gurgling liquid. Evil Harry rubs his hands together before pulling the lever that will test his combination death ray/incurable plague/doomsday bomb. The world is truly doomed.

For almost two weeks, Evil Harry Reid and his Machiavellian magic have dominated the national political dialogue. Reid’s seemingly specious assertion that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes for 10 years generated howls of outrage from the right, but also scorn and derision from the left and center. It seems as if everyone is angry at Nevada’s senior senator. My guess is that Reid couldn’t be happier.

You can bet Mitt Romney didn’t plan to spend these two weeks responding to Reid’s accusations. His campaign would rather talk about Romney’s triumphant European tour, or maybe launch a new attack on the Obama economy. They most assuredly did not want to talk about Romney’s tax returns, because it is a reminder to the voters that Romney refuses to release the bulk of his IRS filings. The diabolical Reid knew exactly what he was doing when he fired this shot across Romney’s bow.

Most people probably don’t believe that Romney paid no taxes for 10 years, as Reid claimed, but I’ll bet a majority of Americans (including many Republicans) think it is curious that Romney won’t make his taxes public. The guy wants to be president but doesn’t think the voters should know how much he makes, where he made it, how his tax rate might compare to the rest of ours, and also why he stashed money in offshore accounts and in Swiss vaults. Can you imagine the shit storm if Obama had a secret Swiss account? Also, some voters are still a bit miffed by the dripping condescension of Ann Romney when she declared that the Romneys had given “you people all you’re going to get” about the family fortune. You people?

Do you think Reid gives one whit that Republicans are mad at him? Is he losing sleep because George Will wrote a nasty column or that commentators have decried his use of McCarthy tactics or that he was hammered by Jon Stewart?

Republicans hate Reid’s guts already.

He’d probably be at the top of the conservative hate list, except the right hates Barrack Obama and Nancy Pelosi even more. No matter how many times Reid comes to the rescue of mining companies, for instance, he rarely gets any miners in Elko or Ely or Austin to vote for him, so for Reid, there is almost no political downside. And the upside is that he finagled the whole country into talking about Romney’s taxes and now has some Republicans agreeing that Romney should come clean.

It struck me as supremely ironic to hear Romney tell his Las Vegas audience that it’s time for Reid to “put up or shut up” about Romney’s taxes, since Romney is the one who could end the debate in an instant. They’re his taxes, right? I don’t see how Romney can win if he never opens up his finances to public scrutiny. Thanks to Reid, it’s an issue that isn’t going away.

It is also ironic for Republicans to demand that Reid reveal the source of his information when the party is not exactly a champion of disclosure and openness. Congressional Republicans, including our junior senator, Dean Heller, voted as a bloc to thwart efforts to force huge super-PACs to reveal the source of the millions they are using to pummel Democrats all over the country.

It almost seems laughable for politicians of all stripes to complain that Reid is spreading lies when, the fact is, every political ad shown during the presidential race has only the remotest wisp of a connection to the truth. The TV spots run by both Romney and Obama have totally distorted the statements and positions of the other guy. I don’t trust any of the ads run by the two sides because the facts they cite seem so diametrically opposed. Truth in politics? That’s a hoot. Modern campaigns have devolved into all-out wars where truth isn’t even a consideration.

If Reid is just making up the charges leveled at Romney, it is not something that should be encouraged or praised. But there is no question it is a smashing success from a purely political standpoint.

And somewhere in his Transylvanian lair, evil Harry Reid is laughing about the carnage he unleashed on the world as he plots his next devilish scheme.

GEORGE KNAPP is a Peabody Award-winning investigative reporter for KLAS Channel 8. Reach him at gknapp@klastv.com