The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


Ralph Reed's New Role

By Susan Schmidt
Eighteen months ago, the political career of Christian right golden boy Ralph Reed came crashing down, a casualty of his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. This week, Reed has found a new calling. He appeared on CNN during its New Hampshire primary coverage and again last night, labeled as a "GOP political analyst."

Reed sounded none too bullish about John McCain's prospects going forward despite his big New Hampshire win. That's perhaps not surprising, given the long history between the two.

McCain, as chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, launched an investigation of Abramoff's tribal lobbying that turned up a mountain of e-mails, including some between Reed and Abramoff.

The e-mails revealed Abramoff's corrupt dealings with politicians, as well as conservative religious and advocacy groups. Reed often participated in Abramoff's business schemes, telling him in a 1998 e-mail after stepping down as head of the Christian Coalition: "I need to start humping in corporate accounts!"

E-mails and testimony before McCain's panel showed that Reed, who once branded gambling a "cancer" on society, reaped millions of dollars in tribal casino proceeds that Abramoff secretly routed to him through various non-profit front groups. Abramoff, a lobbyist for the tribes, paid Reed to whip up "grassroots" Christian opposition to prevent rival tribes from opening casinos.

Abramoff sometimes routed his money to Reed through a group called Americans for Tax Reform, run by conservative anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. Norquist lately has been attacking McCain's record on taxes, placing robo calls to voters in New Hampshire.

Reed's much-publicized role in the Abramoff scandal cost him the 2006 Republican primary for Georgia lieutenant governor--the first rung on what was widely expected to be a climb into national politics.

Now Reed's on the sidelines, handicapping McCain's prospects.

"Can he go on from here?" CNN host Anderson Cooper asked Reed on Tuesday. "Does he have the organization in Michigan and South Carolina?"

"I think the jury is out on that," said Reed, explaining that McCain would encounter more conservative voters and fewer independents in the upcoming South Carolina primary. "This is the same challenge that he had with George W. Bush eight years ago," said Reed. "That's where it gets tough for him."

Reed would know. It was in South Carolina that he and other Christian conservatives succeeded in mounting a furious effort on behalf of George W. Bush eight years ago to defeat McCain, then, as now, coming off a big win in the New Hampshire primary.

"Last night was the first time we've seen or heard Ralph Reed since the campaign began," said South Carolina McCain strategist Trey Walker.

Eight years ago, McCain's campaign was undone by an anonymous and scurrilous campaign in South Carolina, conducted through leaflets, e-mail, and telephone push polls, that spread a false rumors about McCain and his family. Among the most damaging to the candidate was the claim that one of his children, adopted from Bangladesh, was an illegitimate child he fathered with a black woman. That e-mail claim was subsequently traced back to a professor at Bob Jones University.

Who exactly was behind the 2000 smear? "That's the $64,000 question. We spent a lot of time trying to figure that out," said Walker. This week, the McCain campaign in South Carolina announced it has created a truth squad there "to counter any negative or misleading attacks" targeted at McCain.

A CNN spokeswoman said Reed was asked to appear on the network's primary coverage because he is a "well-known expert on the evangelical vote," and that he was not paid for the appearance.

Reed did not return a call seeking comment on his status as a political commentator. In 2006, Rudy Giuliani appeared as a headliner at an Atlanta fundraiser for Reed, but Reed's office said yesterday that he is not affiliated with any of the presidential campaigns.

Reed wasn't the only Abramoff scandal casualty seeking to cast doubts on McCain's prospects after the New Hampshire vote. Former House majority leader Tom DeLay, who left Congress and is still under investigation by the Justice Department in connection with the Abramoff probe, predicted to MSNBC's Chris Matthews that McCain won't fare well with conservatives in the South.

New Hampshire, he said, was "a blip, an aberration in the nominating process of the Republican Party."

Posted at 9:49 AM ET on Jan 10, 2008
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If anyone needed anymore proof of CNN's trying to outFox Fox, this has to clinch it. With Lou Dobbs and his racist rants, Wolf Blitzer and his steadfast warmongering now we add Ralph Reed, a demonstrably corrupt poster boy of the bought and paid for "Christian" movement. Methinks that the "Christian" movement is once again doing what it does best: selective reading, selective memory and limited intellegence.

Posted by: jhadstate | January 12, 2008 3:26 PM

Does this mean that Reed's buttboy, Jeff Gannon Guckert will become a prominent news item once again?
There's nothing like a born again sodomizer to spice up a news cycle.

Posted by: mikeflagg | January 12, 2008 2:17 PM

CNN = Corrupt News Network
When I saw the choirboy (Reed)along with the smirking Bill Bennett on NH Election night I couldn't believe the audacity (and corruption) of CNN.

Posted by: ggp | January 12, 2008 4:42 AM

Know what I wish? Everyone of these major news political talking heads would just STFU and only report the news, not their worthless propaganda.

Posted by: anagitator | January 11, 2008 10:51 PM

It's pointless to watch CNN. Comparing the NH Primary night coverage with MSNBC, even with the creepy Chris Mathews, was like a Walter Cronkite vs. Mickey Mouse. Goodness...Will the last CNN viewer be soon or what?

Posted by: alangoldsmith | January 11, 2008 10:30 AM

More proof that Anderson Cooper is a dolt and a fool who shouldn't be allowed within 1,000 yards of a TV camera.

Posted by: richcpl | January 11, 2008 5:27 AM

Not quite, mhitchc -- no one is "condoning" murder except for pro-choicers -- also, the Aramaic word for 'camel' may also applies to 'rope of camel hair' but it could still mean the actual, living animal. Nonetheless, that in-itself is not a valid argument to claim mistranslation; nor would mistranslation in this case change what is expressed in Scripture. Unless, of course, you are arguing that a camel-hair ROPE might be the width of a thread; yet even giving that remote possibility, such a retranslation would conflict with the astonishment expressed by the disciples in immediate response to His hyperbole.

Posted by: JakeD | January 10, 2008 7:50 PM

This story is a comment on two issues:

First, it confirms the buoyancy qualities of excrement.

Second it confirms that CNN cannot distinguish the former from Shinola.

Posted by: Marshalldoc | January 10, 2008 7:36 PM

LOL, JakeD -- Ralphie's hyperbole is about *stalking and killing someone*, and Jesus was making an allegory talking about personal greed.

Apples and oranges. How ironic you should choose that example.

It is personally offensive that you would compare him to anyone in the Bible, except maybe Judas or Cain; in this article Ralph Malph:

a) bears false witness (exaggeration/hyperbole),
b) condones murder,
c) promotes theft (monies from indian casinos),
d) and covets those monies (that do not belong to him)

Hell, that's almost half the Commandments right there. I'll bet he's worked on the Sabbath, too, and obvoiusly worships something far different than *my* Creator.

How much more of a snake do you have to be?

Plus, the "camel" in the scripture you refer to actually translates to "camel-hair rope" in the original. But most preachers don't get that much education - they just parrot each other, and the laity remains uneducated.

Posted by: mhitchc | January 10, 2008 7:26 PM

corcoran1 said:
"Ralph Reed is a sleeze bucket"

Now you've done it: insulting sleaze buckets is uncalled for.

Posted by: myers1 | January 10, 2008 7:17 PM

LOL, feckless -- no one is accusing Ralph Reed of actual murder -- I think "body bag" is hyperbole (even Jesus used hyperbole: "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle . . .").

Posted by: JakeD | January 10, 2008 3:55 PM

Great Article! Will Howard Kurtz use his position at WAPO AND CNN to comment on this charlatan?

You missed a great quote for Mr. Reed "evangelical expert":

"I want to be invisible. I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag." --Ralph Reed, Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 11/9/91

Who would Jesus put in a bodybag?

Posted by: feckless | January 10, 2008 12:48 PM

man, there's just no accountability anywhere among the washington media establishment, is there.

you can lie, distort, engage in corruption -- none of these get you banished from influential perches. h3ll no. you get promoted!

Posted by: mycomment | January 10, 2008 12:22 PM

how come Reed isn't in Leavenworth ?

Posted by: drwilson | January 10, 2008 11:56 AM


True. Maybe it's WP's readership, maybe McCain's history in Washington versus Huckabee's, or maybe the WP has been caught off guard by Huckabee's rise... I'm not sure. It will be interesting to see the fight for the nomination if it's ultimately between those two.

Posted by: m_mccaffree | January 10, 2008 11:49 AM

No shock here. FOX has the likes of a treasonous Ollie North and disgraced former detective Mark Ferman.

Posted by: MerrillFrank | January 10, 2008 11:43 AM

CNN should be ashamed for having such filth appear on its program. They should instead be investigating Reed, not giving him a bullhorn. Shameful. There are many experts on the evangelical vote. Reed has proven himself to be an "expert" on other things. I don't buy CNN's explanation.

Posted by: bevjims1 | January 10, 2008 11:42 AM

Ralph Reed is an unusually corrupt and sanctimous political figure. CNN should be embarrassed to give him a platform like this. The man ripped off Indian tribes, for pete's sake. And he was knee deep in telling outright lies about McCain in 2000, including the horrific 'black baby' lie. How much more loathsome can you get? CNN should have more class than this. As is, they are legitimizing the slimiest aspect of American politics by giving this guy a platform and the subsequent legitimacy that provides.

Shame on CNN.

Posted by: capitolhillstay | January 10, 2008 11:40 AM

Ralph Reed is a sleeze bucket and a lousy commentator. McCain is now UP 9 points in Michigan, UP 5 points in South Carolina, and is within striking distance in Florida. If he wins in Michigan (which he will) and South Carolina, then Florida will be his and this thing is over. Feb 5th will just be the capper.
The irony is that Democrats have convinced themselves the Repuplicans will be splintered into a brokered convention, when, in fact, McCain will win the nomination long before the Dem's.

Posted by: corcoran1 | January 10, 2008 11:38 AM

Mike Huckabee is to speak to the Detroit Economic Club on Friday from noon to 1:30 PM which will hopefully give better insight into his economic, trade and tax agenda.

Posted by: chrisbak52 | January 10, 2008 11:33 AM


I referring to more than just this latest McCain thread -- the Washington Post has paid double the attention / ink to McCain than Huckabee since their respective victories -- why is that?

Posted by: JakeD | January 10, 2008 11:30 AM

Poor F. Scott Fitzgerald. There are dozens of second acts in American lives.

Posted by: Josh3 | January 10, 2008 11:19 AM

The issue isn't McCain's viability, it's the anti-McCain electioneering that's being done by two dubious (former) poster boys of the Republican South. This isn't analysis on the part of Reed and DeLay, it's attack by innuendo. Huckabee has a good shot at South Carolina without their help.

Posted by: m_mccaffree | January 10, 2008 11:18 AM

Microsoft's Ralph Reed also worked for Microsoft and worked to ensure that the RNC had direct access to snoop into the computer of every American. Microsoft Windows has back doors which can be accessed by the NSA, the political wing of the RNC. A Karl Rove political operative in the DOJ called it "better than a Reichstag fire".

Posted by: boating | January 10, 2008 11:17 AM

If McCain is suddenly so viable, why not Huckabee too?

Posted by: JakeD | January 10, 2008 10:54 AM

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