Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Trouble With Harry?

Look, I have my issues with Harry Reid. He's allowed the sorry likes of Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson to lead him around by the nose in public. He's done a poor-to-nonexistent job of influencing the MSM coverage of the debate over health care reform insofar as the Senate debate goes. He gave up on a public option without a fight. But to compare what Reid said in private to what Trent Lott said in public, as conservatives urge? Give me a break.

According to Mark Halperin and John Heileman, authors of the forthcoming book Game Change, Reid described in private conversation then-candidate Barack Obama as a "light skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." An early supporter of Obama's, Reid's characterization, though clumsy at best, was a hard nosed description of the advantages Obama had in a national campaign.

Why did the 69-year Reid use the word "Negro"? (That's what this is all about, after all.) Beats me. He's certainly old enough to remember when "Negro" was an advance on "colored," but he's also old enough to have seen "black" supplant "Negro" and "African-American" supplant "black." He should have used a more considered word, but who can deny the actual point Reid made? An important part of Barack Obama's appeal to whites is that he is not threatening to them, and Reid set forth the precise reasons why.

Here's what Trent Lott said in public about Strom Thurmond, the vile racist who ran for president in 1948 on a segregationist, anti-civil rights platform:
I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years.
There's a clear implication here: The United States would have been better off with a president who supported Jim Crow laws and opposed even the most miniscule advances in civil rights. Trent Lott pointedly endorsed to policies of a racist politician who did not believe that all are created equal. Publicly longing for the bad old days of Jim Crow strikes me as a far cry from a pragmatic political analysis made in a private strategy meeting.

Meanwhile, the inimitable Michael Steele soldiers on:
Clearly, he [Reid] is out of touch not only with where America and his district [sic] are but where — how African Americans generally feel about these issues.
How the ultraconservative Steele can claim to be in touch with how the majority of African-Americans feel about anything escapes me. Equally clueless were the remarks of right-wing Texas Republican senator John Coryn, who called Reid's comments "embarrassing and racially insensitive." Forgive me, John, but I doubt that you spend much time figuring out how to be racially sensitive. What I can believe is that you are well-versed in that code words and phrases that appeal to bigots while allowing a veneer of plausible deniability.

The conservative breast-beating over this is downright bizarre. When it comes to civil rights and at least attempting to guarantee racial minorities access to the full blessings of American life, conservatives can't point to a single accomplishment. In fact they resisted with might and main every step forward attempted by the movement activists, the radicals, and the liberals. Yes, some Republicans voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, but these days they'd be called RINO's.

Reid's words were bizarre and poorly chosen. He has apologized to President Obama and the president, having much bigger fish to fry, has accepted the apology. That's good enough for all but the most rabid and hypocritical conservatives. And that, as usual, is who does all the ranting...

I'd rather be in some dark hollow...

Class Act Dept. Rushbo, with his usual grace, charm, and urbanity:
I know the real reason that Teddy Kennedy was mad and offended when Bill Clinton said, "Hey, come on man. You know, this guy would have been fetching us coffee a couple years ago". What made Teddy Kennedy mad was it's women get him coffee, it was Negros that brought Ted Kennedy his booze. And that's why he was all offended.

Treme teaser:

The first season of Treme is scheduled to begin on HBO on April 11.


Roy said...

Well, see, Lott and Steele and the others have no substantive issues to throw around, so they have to make a mountain out of a molehill just to give theirs jaws a "plausible" reason to flap. Coz that's what they do best, flap their jaws. Uselessly and meaninglessly. Only they seem to think they're actually saying something.

John Hayes said...

"The conservative breast-beating over this is downright bizarre"--but the right is completely invested in de-stabilization, & are willing to snatch up anything that favors this, whether it makes sense in terms of their ideology or not--because frankly, the right's ideology at this point is simply about power, not ideas.

Foxessa said...

Go after Reid (and Obama) for the significant treacheries, if you ask me.


Love, C.

Clifton said...

I actually didn't think Trent Lott should have stepped down when he said what he did. For consistency I would prefer that Senator Reid had to step down to in the interest of fairness.

I wasn't personally offended by neither one. Lack of good policy and a slow New Orleans recovery is much more offensive to me.

RobinB said...

Paul--I posted an excerpt from your Katrina entry and stole three pix which I love. Hope you don't mind and thanks for directing me to it.xxxRobin