Monday January 11, 2010 11:55 a.m.
Photo Credit: Associated Press
Does anyone really believe that Senator Harry Reid is a racist? Seriously? This has everything to do with politics -- Reid's vulnerability on health care, his close Nevada Senate re-election race--and nothing to do with his alleged hatred of African-Americans.
What did he say? Well, in a book to be release on Tuesday, he is quoted as saying (back in 2008) that Obama was only elected because he was a "light-skinned" and didn't have a "Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
"Obviously," writes Joe Klein in Time, "the Republican campaign won't get Reid ousted--although it will hurt his tenuous re-election campaign in an increasingly non-white state." It weakens Reid, who is facing an uphill re-election battle. But unlike former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Reid did not make a roundabout praise of segregation. Nor does Reid have a sketchy past on issues of race.
Senator Reid has already apologized for the clumsy comments which appear in Game Change, a new book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. President Obama has accepted the apology. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office has confirmed that Reid himself was the source of the anecdote. Case closed. Can we all move on now?
Unfortunately, certain Republicans cannot move on. Liz Cheney, for example, sees the dreaded racism; George Will, however, finds none. On This Week with George Stephanoupoulos's roundtable:
WILL: I don't think there's a scintilla of racism in what Harry Reid said. At long last, Harry Reid has said something that no one can disagree with, and he gets in trouble for it.
CHENEY: George, give me a break. I mean, talking about the color of the president's skin...
WILL: Did he get it wrong?
CHENEY: ... and the candidate's...
WILL: Did he say anything false?
CHENEY: ... it's -- these are clearly racist comments, George.
WILL: Oh, my, no.
RNC Chair Michael Steele, who couldn't possibly possess political motivations, also called for Reid to step down for racially insensitive comments during appearances on the Sunday shows.
Does the use of the word "Negro" automatically confer racism upon the speaker? It is a word that carries with it a generational stigma for one, and secondly, technically, the correct word.
Where is Michael Steele with regard to Rush Limbaugh, who played "Barack the Magic Negro" on his show in 2007? As an African-American this is infinitely more offensive than Reid's awkward remarks. And Limbaugh, so far as I know, has never apologized, nor has he been taken to task for it by the right brigade.