Harry Reid: Racist or Political Realist?

Mark Sappenfield, Christian Science Monitor, January 10, 2010

Critics of President Obama–Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele foremost among them–see no small amount of hypocrisy in Mr. Obama’s forgiveness of Senate majority leader Harry Reid.

Senator Reid is quoted in a new book by two journalists about the 2008 campaign, “Game Change,” as saying privately that the US would be “ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama–a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’ ”

When the quotes came to light Saturday, Reid apologized to Obama, and Obama accepted. Mr. Steele and other say that is political relativism, with Democrats evading punishment for comments that would have sunk Republicans.

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The Lott precedent

But what about 2002, asked Mr. Steele on Sunday morning talk shows?

Then, a Republican Senate majority leader (Trent Lott) was ousted because he, too, made insensitive racial remarks: The nation would have been much better off if Strom Thurmond had won his presidential bid in 1948, Senator Lott told Mr. Thurmond at Thurmond’s 100th birthday celebration. Thurmond’s 1948 platform backed racial segregation.

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Democratic Committee Chairman Timothy Kaine sought to explain the discrepancy on the Sunday morning talk shows. Reid’s comments were in a positive context–supporting Obama’s candidacy–whereas Lott’s appeared to suggest that segregation of black Americans was a good thing, Mr. Kaine said.

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