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Hush Falls Upon Remorseful Reed Camp

U.S. Rep. Tom Reed never shied away from contentious town hall meetings, including this one in North Harmony in 2017. P-J file photo

Everything was seemingly falling into place. As scandals were brewing in Albany around intentionally deflated nursing home deaths tied to COVID-19 in the spring and a governor facing allegations of sexual misconduct, area Republicans and current U.S. Rep. Tom Reed looked to be on the cusp of something big.

Three-term incumbent Andrew Cuomo had a look of vulnerability. His clout and popularity were dwindling by the hour. Every time he defended himself from one accusation, another woman would come forward.

An opportunity was brewing — and Reed had the voice and confidence that had been building over the last 45 days to clash with one of the most powerful national figures over the last 12 months.

How quickly it all came to an end.

One week ago today, Reed’s undoing was exposed. Nicolette Davis, who was 25 at the time and a former lobbyist, told The Washington Post about her encounter with the congressman during an ice-fishing event in Minneapolis in 2017.

She stated that Reed, who was said to be intoxicated, reportedly put his hand on her back before unhooking her bra clasp over her shirt and moving his hand to her thigh while she was seated in an Irish pub. The congressman was then reportedly escorted out of the bar.

After first calling the accusations “not accurate,” the congressman — to his credit — offered an apology and took full responsibility in regard to the incident. Nonetheless, the shock waves from Sunday night’s admission remain.

Reed, who has been canceling a number of public appearances this week, was to be in attendance virtually today for his annual question-and-answer session with the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce. On Monday afternoon, members of his office told officials there about the postponement.

Almost as concerning as the cancellations is how quiet Reed’s office and his staff have become in the last six days. Before March 19, there always seemed to be a sense of energy and engagement with constituents — even those who did not agree with his policies. Those daily emails and announcements from his office have come to an abrupt halt.

As straight-forward and humble as he was in his apology, Reed did not indicate he would resign. He said he would retire after fulfilling the remainder of his two-year term that ends on Jan. 1, 2023.

That may still happen. But his fall from grace and lack of public appearances indicate he has lost lots of the gusto that made him so effective.

He is a people person. In fact, no one may have done it better when being accountable and standing tall while facing plenty of criticism.

Until this week, Reed always showed up for a town hall gathering with constituents. Even in the most volatile of situations, he never came across as being rattled or dismissing the voices of opposition while handling the insults.

No matter what you think of his politics, showing up — and knowing there will be plenty of animosity in the room — is leadership. President Donald Trump had a knack for avoiding these types of gatherings — and so did our previous U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins.

Reed, however, believes in accessibility.

How this plays out in the coming weeks remains to be seen. There’s plenty of pain that is associated with these developments — specifically for the accuser, his family and those who have worked closely with him over the last six terms.

His current downfall is similar to so many who gain power — and the respect of millions. It is a sense of invincibility and entitlement that can crush ambitions, careers and personal relationships.

Oftentimes — no matter where you live — those far-away politicians whether it be in Albany or Washington are the ones responsible for failing the state and nation. Those elected here, for the most part, are doing everything right.

It is only human to overlook the faults and short-comings of local representatives — those closest to you. They’re the good ones because they were elected by us. We look the other way and forgive their mistakes.

Are we ready to do the same for Reed? More significantly, can he and those close to him come to terms with the past so he is able to serve and deliver for the remainder of his time?

John D’Agostino is the editor of the OBSERVER, The Post-Journal and the Times Observer in Warren, Pa. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 253

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