Michael Scherer has a profile of Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition and water-carrier for Jack Abramoff. He’s now running for lieutenant governor in Georgia.
Reed, the former “cherub-in-chief” of American politics, traded his halo to work as a gun for hire in Abramoff’s operation, secretly rallying conservative Christians to do the bidding of Abramoff’s casino clients. This was, in many ways, an understandable role for Reed, a political prodigy, who started in politics as a disciple of Abramoff, the former chairman of the College Republicans. “I used to tell people he was going to be either president of the United States or Al Capone,” Reed’s mother, Marcy, once told USA Today. By the end of the 1990s, when Abramoff came calling, Reed seemed destined for the White House, at least as a top political aide. He was known as the organizational mastermind of the religious right, joining with televangelist Pat Robertson to bring the GOP to Jesus.
Those exploits, as well as his recent public career as an advisor to President Bush, have given him an aura of celebrity in Georgia political circles. He led the state Republican Party in 2002, during the phenomenal upset that unseated Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, a wounded Vietnam veteran. Two years later, Reed led George W. Bush’s 2004 Southern campaign, delivering every state of the former Confederacy. “Until you have seen it firsthand you won’t appreciate it,” Glynn County’s GOP leader Kevin Gough had warned me. “He is like a rock star.”
On the stump, Reed regularly claims that he knew nothing about the scandalous operation that his close friend Abramoff was running. “I was approached by one of the most respected law firms in America and a friend of 20 years,” Reed said during the same St. Simons forum, explaining his cooperation with Abramoff. “I said sure I would be glad to do so as long as I could be assured that I wouldn’t be paid with revenues from another casino. I was assured that wouldn’t be the case. And we know now for the most part that I was not.”
This is a careful non-denial denial. “For the most part” is the key phrase, a lawyerly dodge that Reed uses to obscure the mountains of e-mail evidence against him.
Following the Republican playbook, Reed has attempted to overcome bothersome facts by taking aim at the messengers — the liberal media. “What I am confident that the voters of this state are going to reject,” Reed announces on the stump, “is an attempt by the liberal media or by others in this campaign to engage in guilt by association.”
What you have here is another hypocritical, sanctimonious, and money-grubbing right-wing scammer. I have no doubt that there are many more like him — regardless of political stripe — but since he’s cloaked himself in the mantle of christianist holiness, it’s especially delightful to see that not only is his political future in jeopardy, he’s even bringing down the Republican ticket in Georgia. It’s also sweet to see that one of the people responsible for the disgusting smear campaign against Max Cleland is finally getting a taste of his own medicine. The difference, of course, is that while it was all a pack of lies about Cleland, what the special counsel is saying about Reed is the truth.
If there’s any justice, he’s going to end up (no pun intended) married to the guy with the most cigarettes in Cellblock D.