Sex and the senator

    Harry Reid has taken a firm stand against hookers. This may not be the weightiest news item of the week – given all the uprisings from Wisconsin to Libya – but it does rate a mention, if only because we’d probably search in vain for another instance of a politician telling his listeners the precise opposite of what they wanted to hear.Seriously, folks, wouldn’t this be a swell world if politicians stopped pandering all the time? Wouldn’t it be great if they stopped prostituting themselves? Wouldn’t it be refreshing if somebody showed up at the Bohemian Grove, the rich people’s playground in California, and told the assembled that they should pull their weight in a crisis and pay their fair share of taxes? Wouldn’t it be awesome if somebody told a roomful of birthers that they should all get a life?Reid, in his biennial address to the Nevada legislature on Tuesday, said: “The time has come for us to outlaw prostitution.” His stunned audience fell silent. You simply don’t say such things in sex-for-hire Nevada, a state that currently boasts 24 legal brothels in 10 rural counties, with 1000 licensed ladies who earn bucks on their backs. Nobody in Nevada has suggested a prostitution ban since one misguided state lawmaker floated a bill back in 1985. Reid’s proposal was so anti-pander that his own staff reportedly tried to dissuade him from bringing it up.Yeah, I know, the jokes and double entendres almost write themselves. For instance, “Harry Reid goes to the mattresses,” which I believe is a Godfather pun. The rest are too blue for this blog, except for this one: Ronald Reagan famously remarked, “It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first” – which apparently means that  Reid doesn’t welcome the competition.Actually, Reid thinks that the coitus commerce is bad for business and bad for morality (he said Tuesday, “I’ve talked to families who feel the same way – parents who don’t want their children to look out of a school bus and see a brothel, or to live in a state with the wrong kind of red lights”). This is like a politician telling an NRA convention that it’s wrong to shoot ducks.And oh, the ingratitude! In Reid’s ’08 memoir, right there on page 25, he writes: “As a boy, I learned to swim at a whorehouse. Nobody in town had ever seen such a fancy in-ground tiled pool in their lives as the pool at the El Rey…Every Thursday afternoon, the whoremonger in town, a kindly bear of a man by the name of Willie Martello, would ask the girls who worked at the El Rey to clear out, and he’d invite the children in town…And we would live the life of Riley for a couple of hours, splashing in the azure blue of that whorehouse pool.”Willie Martello’s forebears are not happy with Harry. The quote of the week comes from Dennis Hof, who runs the Moonlite Bunny Ranch: “Harry Reid will have to pry the cathouse keys from my cold, dead hands.” The runner-up quote is also from Hof: “This is a civil rights issue.”So why did Reid utter such a blasphemy, a dead-in-water idea that (in the words one Nevada lawmaker) had everybody “kind of laughing up their sleeve”? Maybe it was just what it appeared to be, a courageous counter-pander (or a safe one, since the guy won’t have to face the Nevada electorate again until 2016). Or maybe Reid was simply anxious to talk about something, anything, that didn’t involve money and budgets and deficits and shutdowns; as health educator Elizabeth Scott always says, the realm of sex is an effective way to “take your mind off of your worries.” Whatever the reason, let’s hope that someone else in politics will take a page from give-’em-hell Harry and tell an audience what it doesn’t want to hear.

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