GOP Chair Neerman Doesn't Buy Harry Reid's Excuse for Backing Out of Irving Trip, Says it's a Disappointment, Not a Victory for Protestors

Earlier today, Irving Mayor Herb Gears e-mailed The Dallas Morning News to let them know that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "just called to inform me that pressing government business in our nation's Capitol requiring his presence necessitates his having to postpone tomorrow's planned events in the DFW area including those in Irving."

We weren't sure if this was good or bad news for the local Republican Party, which had planned to protest Reid's appearance at a Gears fund-raiser. Was this a victory or a botched opportunity to throw tomatoes at one of the nation's most hated Dems?

We called Dallas County Republican Party chair Jonathan Neerman to find out.

Does this make Reid a pussy or what?

[Laughs.] No. Seriously, it's disappointing. It's disappointing that Texans don't get a chance to face Harry Reid and tell him exactly what they think of him and the health-care bill they're trying to push up in Washington. Some people see this as a victory that he backed out. I'm actually disappointed because most Texans don't get a chance to go to Washington and see Senator Reid or Speaker Pelosi. So when they come here, it's our chance to voice our opposition to what they're doing in Washington. I want to invite him back.

Perhaps when things aren't so pressing in Washington.

Well, we would know how pressing it was if they were televising the negotiations like President Obama said he would during the campaign. But since he's not televising those, we really don't know how pressing the business is.


So do you buy into Reid's explanation at all?

Um, no. In a word, no. I don't. ... It wasn't until Texans started to raise their voices and plan to protest him on Friday that he decided that there was pressing government business.

Do you think your campaign to get people out and protest or the exposure in The Morning News contributed most to his decision?

It was everything. It was grassroots activism. There were protests being planned from all corners of the county, and all we did is try to raise awareness among our activists that he was going to be here. I will say this: We had people contacting us and signing our petition from all over the state saying they were driving up to protest. Our server went down temporarily because we had so many people trying to sign the petition at the same time. There was somebody who called from McAllen. Somebody called from Houston. One person called from San Antonio wanting more information so they could come up. That's the level of anger that's out there about the health-care bill.

Isn't it more than just the health-care bill?

It is. Well, it's just overall anger about all the policies that come out of Washington, but I think a lot of the focus right now is on the health-care bill. You also have cap and trade, TARP, our taxes going up...

And his comments about Obama.

That can't help either. And it's the double standard of those comments that Trent Lott ... It's like what I told you before: Don't go wobbly on Hitler. You should avoid any racial comments whatsoever. They're not funny. They're not humorous. Just stay away from them.

Especially when you get into the specifics of skin tones.

Yeah. Everybody should stay away from that, whether you're a politician or not. Stay away from that. And I think there were a lot of people that were angry about that. This is a man that's leading the Senate right now.

Have you gotten any initial reaction from people as far as being upset that they won't be able to protest?

My phone has rung five times since we've been on this call. I'm not sure. I'm sure there will be some people who will be upset. Then there will be people who will be happy who don't have to take off work to do this.

I know you can't directly link any of it, but kind of contributions have you been able to drum up as a result?

It's unclear at this point because we're still counting. There's the financial component, but there's also the publicity of getting people's attention focused back here on the county.