Sunday, January 10, 2010

U.S. Senator Harry Reid Apologizes For Alleged "Racist" Remarks, But Some Republicans Calling For His Resignation As Senate Majority Leader


Anti-racist witch-hunting in American politics, traditionally directed primarily against conservatives and Republicans, can be directed against Democrats as well, particularly if they're white, as U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) has found out to his chagrin.

A new book entitled "Game Change", which quotes Reid as saying privately in 2008 that Obama could be successful as a black candidate in part because of his "light-skinned" appearance and speaking patterns "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one", has triggered a mini-storm of criticism of the Senate Majority Leader, and even calls for his resignation.

On January 9th, 2010, Reid issued an apology, saying he regretted using such a poor choice of words. "I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans for my improper comments. I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama's legislative agenda," Reid said.

Barack Obama accepted the apology. "Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today," the president said. "I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years, I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice and I know what's in his heart."

But this is not enough contrition for GOP Chairman Michael Steele or Senator John Corwyn (R-TX). On the January 10th edition of Meet The Press, Steele called on Senate Majority Leader Reid to give up his post as Majority Leader, saying "Racism and racist conversations have no place today in America." Likewise, Senator Cornyn, who's also head of the GOP's Senate campaign arm, characterized Reid's remarks as "embarrassing and racially insensitive".

When asked if he believes the situation is similar to one involving former Sen. Trent Lott, who lost his post as Senate Majority Leader in 2002 after saying that the nation would have been better off if one-time segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond had been elected president, Steele replied in the affirmative, saying there is a big double standard.

Reid, along with numerous other Democratic leaders, has rejected calls for him to step down as Majority Leader, as Reid reminded people that he's worked hard to advance issues important to the African-American community. But Harry Reid is already in serious political trouble in his home state of Nevada. The latest survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, which interviewed 625 registered Nevada voters by telephone from January 5-7, shows that 52 percent of respondents had an unfavorable opinion of Reid, 33 percent had a favorable view and another 15 percent said they're neutral. Against three prominent Republican opponents for the 2010 general election:

• Sue Lowden, former Nevada Republican Party chairwoman, would get 50 percent of the vote to Reid's 40 percent with 10 percent undecided.

• Danny Tarkanian, a businessman and former UNLV basketball star, would gain 49 percent of the vote to Reid's 41 percent.

• Sharron Angle, a former Reno assemblywoman, would get 45 percent of the vote to Reid's 40 percent, a strong showing given her low name recognition statewide -- 42 percent don't know her.

I condemned the witch-hunting of Trent Lott in 2002 just like I condemned the NAACP's witch-hunting of Utah State Senator Chris Buttars (R-West Jordan) after his "black baby" remark in 2007. So, to be consistent, I must and will condemn this attempt to witch-hunt Harry Reid. His politics are irrelevant - witch-hunting people for making racially-controversial remarks is wrong. The best way to preserve my own free speech is to defend the free speech of those with whom I might sharply disagree, including Harry Reid. Reid's politics may suck, but his First Amendment rights are just as valid as my own.

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