Debra J. Saunders: How Harry got his groove back
January 12, 2010
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spent the weekend trying to finesse the news that he told and#8220;Game Changeand#8221; authors Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in 2008 that he believed Barack Obama could win the White House, as he was a and#8220;light-skinnedand#8221; African-American and#8220;with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.and#8221;
Reid opined that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him win the Democratic nomination.
Some liberals have come to the defense of the pasty-faced white guy who speaks with his foot in his mouth, even when he doesn’t want to.
They say that Reid simply was saying what many people think, with no racist intent. Others argue that the matter is settled, as President Obama accepted Reid’s apology.
OK, but if Reid said nothing wrong, why did he call Obama to apologize for his and#8220;poor choice of wordsand#8221; and for and#8220;offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americansand#8221;? And why did Obama release a statement announcing that he and#8220;accepted Harry’s apology without questionand#8221; and#8212; instead of stating there was no need for an apology?
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has called on Reid to resign his Senate leadership post, just as Trent Lott resigned his GOP leadership post in 2002 after he praised the 1948 segregationist presidential campaign of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond at Thurmond’s 100th birthday party. An RNC missive denounced the Democrats’ and#8220;double standard.and#8221;
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They forget that Republicans were the main force in pushing for Lott’s resignation. Or, as a headline in the Dec. 16, 2002 online version of the conservative Weekly Standard exclaimed, and#8220;Someone please stop him.and#8221;
It was different in 2007 when then-Sen. Joe Biden said of Obama in 2007, and#8220;I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.and#8221; Biden later said he regretted offending people, and went on to become Obama’s running mate.
And let us not forget the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was caught on a Fox News hot microphone dissing Obama for and#8220;talking down to black people.and#8221; Jackson also said he wanted to snip Obama’s privates.
Two worse examples: California Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante used the wrong n-word at a Black History Month event in 2001. Nonetheless, the Democrat was re-elected. Ditto Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., a former Ku Klux Klan member, who used the n-word to refer to whites without becoming the focus of a civil rights campaign to defeat him.
I won’t whine that it’s not fair that Democrats can get away with racially insensitive remarks. It’s just a fact of life that the Al Sharptons of the world will give Democrats the benefit of the doubt when they inadvertently say what they think, while they will use gaffes as a club against Republicans. When Republicans try to use gaffes against the Dems, they fail.
The biggest losers are those African-Americans who, when applying for a job or shopping, have to deal with insidious prejudice far worse than the word play that has become the chew toy of partisan dogs.
Reid told a press conference Monday that he does not want to and#8220;dwelland#8221; on this brouhaha, but will and#8220;continue doing my work for the African-American community.and#8221; Actually, Senator, I think you’ve done enough.
E-mail the Tribune’s Wednesday columnist Debra J. Saunders at firstname.lastname@example.org.