Harry Reid, Race, and the GOP

The new book “Game Change” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann about the 2008 Presidential is already upsetting a lot of people.  I’m certain that Sarah Palin will not be happy with Steve Schmidt’s comments about her for one.  But right now that is being overshadowed by a remark that Harry Reid made to them during an interview.

Harry Reid stands in the Capitol.

Reid told them that Barack Obama could be elected president because he is “light skinned” and lacks “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”   According to Politico

Embarrassed by the remarks and already facing a tough climb to reelection in the fall, Reid has reached out to the African American community, apologizing for his comments and highlighting his legislative record of backing civil rights issues important to the black community. He immediately won a showing of support from prominent Democratic black leaders, including the president, who accepted his apology and said he’s seen the “passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I’m concerned, the book is closed.”

Harry Reid might be ignorant and inarticulate but the Republicans are hypocrites. 

I think Ruth Marcus writing in the Washington Post today has it about right.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid acted like an idiot.

Also, he was right.

It’s a measure of the suffocating culture of political correctness that it feels risky to say that. It’s a measure of the insulting how-dumb-do-they-think-we-are culture of incessant partisanship that Republicans leapt on Reid’s remarks as racist.

For anyone in public life to use the word “Negro” in 2008 is beyond stupid. What was once polite has become demeaning. (Although, interestingly enough, the U.S. Census chose to retain the word on the 2010 census form because so many respondents wrote it in 10 years ago.)

The lame explanation offered by an aide — that the remarks were not intended for use in the book — is about as convincing as Jesse Jackson’s assertion that he did not consider his “Hymietown” comments to the Washington Post’s Milton Coleman on the record. (“Let’s talk black talk,” Jackson had said to Coleman.)

But there’s a big difference between Reid 2008 and Jackson 1984 — or, more to the point, Lott 2002. When the then-soon-to-be-former Majority Leader Trent Lott said that the United States could have avoided “all these problems” if Strom Thurmond’s 1948 segregationist campaign for president had succeeded, there was an unmistakable — if unintended — whiff of racism. As much as Republican critics would like to use the incident for partisan purposes, Reid’s blundering comments were made in the context of supporting an African American candidate, not praising a segregationist one.

Walter Russell Mead posted this on Politico’s Arena

Majority Leader Reid’s cretinous private remarks are creepy and disturbing. The GOP outrage is as phony as a three dollar bill and the ‘double standard’ charges don’t hold up. The difference is that Lott was praising the political wisdom and importance of Thurmond’s Dixiecrat campaign and that Lott gave a strong appearance of wishing that the segregationists had somehow won. Reid’s remarks reveal a man who is embarassingly and pathetically awkward and out of touch, but there’s nothing there that would give aid and comfort to organized racism in American life. The remarks give credence to the view that the time has come when Senator Reid should think about spending more time with his family; the voters of Nevada look like they are planning to help him achieve this next fall. Until then, the rest of us might do well by thinking about Senator Reid as little as humanly possible.

And Michael Steele of the Republican National Committee who called on Reid to resign said this is if he didn’t it showed a double standard from what happened to Trent Lott.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called Sunday for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to resign because of racial remarks, but Steele took the opposite view when a Republican Senate leader was facing similar calls.

 The Washington Post reported on Dec. 14, 2002: “Lt. Gov.-elect Michael S. Steele said last night that he was personally upset by U.S. Sen. Trent Lott’s praise for Sen. Strom Thurmond and his segregationist past, but said Lott should not be forced to relinquish his leadership position in the Senate. ‘Trent Lott apologized, but he needs to keep apologizing because this is a very sensitive issue to the black community,’ Steele (R) said at an event celebrating his election as Maryland’s first black lieutenant governor. ‘I know Trent Lott personally, and I know that this is not his intent. But it’s still unfortunate. And I think he needs to apologize a little bit more.’”

Steele was joined in his call for Reid to resign and in saying there was a “double standard” because Lott lost his leadership post by Senators Kyl and McConnell.  But isn’t an apology enough, Mr. Steele?

On the Democratic side, Doug Wilder (former Governor of Virginia) thinks Reid ought to apologize to the country while Eleanor Holmes Norton, Jim Clyburn and Al Sharpton are defending Reid.  I have no idea if Nevada has another Democrat who could run for Reid’s Senate seat this fall and win, but I think maybe they should look for someone quickly.

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