Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid got a surprise call from President Barack Obama during his interview on Nevada public radio shortly after he announced his decision to retire.
President Barack Obama with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., at a fundraising event in May 2009. (AP/Charles Dharapak)
"Harry, this is Barack," Obama said on the phone on KNPR.
"Well I'll be damned. I'll be damned," Reid said.
"Are you allowed to say that on live radio?" Obama asked.
"Well I'll be damned," Reid repeated. "What a guy."
Obama lauded Reid's tenure in the Senate, saying that "when the story is written and when all is told, you're going to have somebody who has done more for Nevada and for this country as anyone who's ever been in the Senate."
Obama added, "He's been one of my best partners and best friends."
Asked if he is concerned about the Democrats "holding together" without Reid, Obama said the minority leader is certainly "unique."
"Harry is unique and, you know, he's got that curmudgeonly charm that's hard to replace. I'm going to miss him, but the good thing is I'm going to get to leave this place at the same time," Obama said. "The system works better over time when some new blood comes in. We've had a great run — Harry's run's been a little longer than mine — but what we want to do is make sure we squeeze as much out of these couple years as we can."
Obama said there are "a lot of folks who are slicker, give smoother TV interviews" than Reid "but in terms of somebody who's got heart and cares about ordinary people trying to chase the American dream, I don't think there's been anybody ever."
Reid then got in on the good feelings about the team of "Obama and Reid."
"Records will be written about the eight years of Obama and Reid. Never in the history of the country, never in the history of the country, have we produced more for a presdient and somebody that's led his party as we've done together," Reid said. "We've done it as friends, we've done it as people who love our country … I have so much affection and admiration for Barack Obama, that we've proven that to each other, our mutual affection, and we have 22 more months to continue doing the best we can for our country."
The KNPR host put a slight damper on the lovefest when he asked Reid about past comments about Obama being treated differently than past presidents because of his skin color.
"Who said that?" Reid asked. "I don't remember that."
That's when Obama stepped in, saying that "one of the great things about Harry is he's always looking forward, he's not looking backward."
(That portion of the interview didn't make the above cut posted by Reid's office — hear it at KNPR at the 30:15 mark.)