Monday, January 11, 2010

Should Harry Reid Step Down?

This weekend, a quote surfaced from Harry Reid describing Barack Obama. The quote was from 2008 and, as Fox News reports,Harry Reid is quoted as "...describing Barack Obama as 'light-skinned' with 'no Negro dialect' unless he wants one." In the last few days Republicans have called on Reid to step down as Senate Majority Leader. Senator Reid spent the weekend calling black leaders to get support for staying in his leadership position. The White House says the President is not offended by Reid's comments.

I personally think Reid's comments crossed a line. I don't think I would feel comfortable using the word "Negro" to describe a person, or a person's actions, in today's world. I think as an elected official, Reid needs to be a little more careful with his words than a private citizen. I also wonder if Reid's comments, as Senate Majority Leader, are suppose to represent the Democratic National Committee, and Senate Democrats. We know there is at least one previous member of the Klan who is a Senate Democrat (Byrd, D-WV).

Many have drawn a comparison to Trent Lott's comments in 2002. Lott was Senate Majority Leader as well, but Lott was also Republican from the south. Lott stepped down from the Senate Majority Leaders position when Democrats took offense at his comments at Sen. Strom Thurmond's birthday party. Reid was particularly clear when he said that Lott had no alternative but to step down from the leadership position.

A few months back Joe Wilson was accused of being racists because he accused the President of lying. President Obama said Don Imus should be fired for his comments about a particular girl's basketball team. Democrats demand repercussions for these comments, but there should be no repercussions for the Senate Majority Leader just because he is a Democrat?

A reader named Patrick made a comment on this site that I have heard used a number of times now. The argument goes: because Republicans used political tricks and closed door negotiations, we shouldn't be outraged when Democrats do it on health care. Those using this argument want to know why we didn't hold Republicans to this standard. I believe it was wrong of the Republicans and I would question supporters of Harry Reid today, "Why was it wrong for Lott to say something offensive, but not Reid? Why did the President think Imus should be fired, but Reid should retain his comfy position in the Senate?"

If Reid were to step down, he would still be a sitting Senator. The Democrats would have the same number of votes. Reid could still run for reelection this year. However, if Reid steps down, it might jeopardize the President's agenda because a new Majority Leader might not be as liberal, even though he would still be a Democrat. Does that mean that the President's feelings on race, and the Democratic Parties, have a price? Eric Holder has said we are cowards on race. Who was he referring too?


Patrick said...

You know, I've read the articles of those supporting Reid and how his actions (meaning bills and causes that have benefitted minorities) have spoken louder than his words. It is also true that most of us say things at home that we wouldn't want out in public.

I was appalled by Reid's comment. Though Trent Lott's comment was more damaging, I still think Reid's comment deserves more than 15 minutes in the spotlight from the Dems.

I don't think you can say that Reid's comment was as bad as Lott's, but both were still offensive. I find Reid's comment somewhat proof of his self-deluded elitism. He just gave me ONE MORE reason to not like him.

My thought is, it was calculated for this quote would come out at this time. Obama needs Reid's support to pass the healthcare bill. Reid knew this quote was surfacing soon. What better time to release it than now? The President can't afford to lose Democratic support for the bill, and the Repubs are already up in arms about everything the Dems are doing. It just makes the Repubs look like they're arguing over spilled milk b/c Fox News has a different one complaining from day to day. Thoughts?

Andy D said...

I think whether Reid or Lott were worse is a very debatable point. I do think they were in the same ballpark, and deserve the same repercussions.

I hadn't considered the timing issue. You may be onto something... I do believe President Obama is giving Reid a pass on this because he needs his support. President Obama has a history of throwing people under the buss if it helps him politically. I think if Reid had been opposing health care reform, the White House would have had a very different reaction.

Seattle Dave said...

I think you are both reaching, as far as the timing is concerned.

And frankly, It's not debatable at this point Andy. Sen. Lott was a spoken and ardent backer of segregation as the means to "fix this countries problems," while Sen. Reid was talking about Pres. Obama's choice of Dialect.

"Lott celebrated apartheid Mississippi's support of Strom Thurmond, and then said that had Thurmond won, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years.'' Strom Thurmond ran for president, specifically because he opposed Harry Truman's efforts at integration. This is not mere conjecture--nearly half of Thurmond's platform was dedicated to preserving segregation. The Dixiecrat slogan was "Segregation Forever!" (Exclamation point, theirs.) Trent Lott's wasn't forced to resign because he said something "racially insensitive." He was forced to resign because he offered tacit endorsement of white supremacy--frequently"

Ta-Nehisi makes a valid argument here, and one that shouldn't be dismissed.

Mind you, I don't really care for Harry Reid at all, so It wouldn't bother me much to see him gone. However, don't we need to be intellectually honest with these types of debate, particularly about this issue?

And at the very least, amongst ourselves here?

Andy D said...

Like your disclaimer, I really don't care one way about Lott. I do remember when the comments came out. At the time I remember wondering if things were being overblown and Lott wasn't just being supportive of someone who once ran for President. I would equate it to someone saying the same thing to Al Gore in 50 years.

I really do believe the Lott and Reid comments are very similar. And mind you, I do not think Reid should give up his seat as a U.S. Senator because of this. I also wonder if Reid stepped down as Majority Leader, could the Democrats put forth a worse Majority Leader (think junior Senator from Minnesota). However, Reid was very clear with his opinion when Lott was forced to step down from the leadership position, and I think Reid should now play by the same rules he insisted Lott play by.

Seattle Dave said...

You didn't really address the issue of comparing the two.

Reid - Talking about dialect.
Lott - supporter of segregation and apartheid.

Again how are they similar?

pack04 said...

Alright lets read more into Mr. Reid's comment like we have of Mr. Lott's.

Mr. Reid said that Mr. Obama will win because he does not have a "negro dialect." That means if he did have a "negro dialect" Mr. Reid did not think he could be elected president. Does that mean that he would not win because he is black or did he not think a black man could be president?
If we are going to read into one persons statement, beyond what they actually said then I will do the same for another.

Plus, as I have seen people say, Mr. Reid's actions do not support his statement. Well did Mr. Lott's actions while a senator reflect his statement?

I think that Mr. Lott was just trying to kiss an old man's ass and sucking up to his supporters. Sort of playing the political game. Patrick has pointed out that Mr. Obama can lie and hide legislation because it is part of the political game. When is it okay to play a political game and not?

I think Mr. Reid spoke the truth. We get mad because our politicians lie all the time and here he is speaking the truth. Do you honestly think a person could be elected to the office of the President of the USA if he spoke with a hip-hop "-izle" on the end of every word? Hell no. Mr. Reid spoke the truth. Did he do it in with an out of date word? Yes. Did he make a generalization (that all black people speak with a negro dialect)? Yes. Was he wrong in his assessment? I don't really think so. Bottom line is he made a truthful remark in an insensitive way in a hypersensitive environment.

How about we focus on real issues. The GOP needs to stop whining like a bunch of damn babies and the Democrats need to stop falling all over themselves trying to say it is different and he did nothing wrong.

Andy D said...


Check this out. It's an article covering Doug Wilder's comments on Reid's statement. Doug Wilder is the first African American to be elected as a Governor of a U.S. State. He is also a Democrat. He says Reid's remarks are "reprehensible and indefensible". One of the biggest problems I see with what Reid said was the use of the word "Negro". I don't think it was appropriate, and especially not of a U.S. Senator. Doubly so since Reid was so adamant that Trent Lott step down after his statements.


I think you have some valid points. However, I am sick and tired of Democrats calling Republicans hypocrites at the first sign of any impropriety (actual or not). Reid is in the terrible position of having a similar remark surfacing while he is in the same title as Lott. If the Democrats had any sense of humor, Reid would step down to be replaced by a more liberal Senator.

Patrick said...


Patrick has pointed out that Mr. Obama can lie and hide legislation because it is part of the political game. When is it okay to play a political game and not?

Shall I lump you with the whining Republicans? That's worse than the "gotch media", b/c you actually took one sentence and ran with it.

Patrick said...


So do you think that speaking "Negro" means speaking with a "hip hop" accent? Enlighten me, please. Because this is precisely the reason I think Reid and everyone else who finds his comment "truthful", needs to do some self reflection. What on Earth gives someone the audacity to assume the every single Black person in America "talks Black"? Are Blacks really that one-dimensional? Anytime a high-ranking official, or someone with credibility uses this term, it only reinforces it for some other people of less intelligence.

See, that's what happens when I take one sentence from your statement and run with it.

Sorry Andy, just trying to prove my point.

pack04 said...

Way to read everything I wrote Patrick... "Did he make a generalization (that all black people speak with a negro dialect)? Yes."

Honestly, I had a hell of a time trying to come up with the proper term to use to get my point across. Hip hop was not the right term. I have been thinking on it and I still can't think of the correct way to describe it. Lets try this: a person that speaks with a hick, backwoods dialect will not get elected president. Mr. Reid was just pointing out that somebody who does not speak good and proper English that our English teachers would be proud of will not be elected president (mispronouncing words excluded). I do not disagree with that assumption. How can that statement not be truthful? The campaign for president goes beyond the issues, not sure the amount but I think most swing voters are swayed more by presentation than issues. Since the 1960 election the better looking candidate, and by better looking I mean in a completely superficial way, has won the election.

With that being said, I do not agree with, as I pointed out in my previous post, Mr. Reid's use of the outdated word negro, nor do I agree with his generalization that all black people speak with a negro dialect.

I am not sure how anything I said would make you want to lump me in with the whining Republicans? Unless you are assuming my pointing out of a double standard, such as Mr. Obama being okay to play a political game but Mr. Lott not being able to as me whining. If so, I don't care. I strongly dislike hypocritical actions.