Senator Harry Reid is a corrupt statist, embodying everything wrong with the 111th U.S. Congress. But he isn’t a bigot. Reid deserves, and will likely receive, a humiliating electoral defeat in November. But he doesn’t deserve a coerced resignation, which would most assuredly be spun as a moment of grand martyrdom. So to my fellow citizens, particularly conservatives, I say: lay off Mr. Reid and take his newly released 2008 remarks regarding President Obama’s race — “light-skinned,” no “Negro dialect” — for what they are: a little insulting and a little accurate (more on that later).
But first, the gist of it: It’s unbecoming — and plain wrong — to attack a man’s character based on a moment of flippancy and poor phraseology. That’s what the race hucksters on the left have done to conservatives for years. They’re wrong to do so. Why then would conservatives like Michael Steele feel justified in replicating such cheap behavior themselves? Two wrongs do not make a right.
Republicans lament the 2002 treatment of Senator Trent Lott, which is understandable. Lott’s a fine man, but was nationally smeared by Democrats as a racist and compelled to resign from the Senate for saying some kind words about the ex-segregationist Strom Thurmond on his 100th birthday. If Lott resigned for saying what he said, Reid should resign for saying what he said, Republicans bemoan.
But this is childlike tit-for-tat nonsense. Rather than devolve into racial hucksterism, Republicans should instead merely illuminate the double standards and leave it at that. The American people are smart and fair enough to decide who is and isn’t out of line. We have long recognized the double standard on all things racial. Namely: liberals can say what conservatives cannot and black people can say what white people would not.
It is pointless to go over the entire litany of examples, but contrast the tarnished reputation of a George Allen (of “macaca” fame) with the non-reactions to a Blagojevich (“blacker than Obama”) or a Biden (Obama’s “clean, articulate”). Does anyone not now concede that had it been Gingrich or Giuliani — and not the self-described first black president, Mr. Clinton — to utter Obama should “be getting us coffee,” there would today be cries of racism and not relative silence? Does anyone deny that had it been John McCain who attended a “white separatist” church for twenty years — praying alone in his basement with his “white liberationist” pastor who screeched from the pulpit that white people who killed other white people were killing the wrong enemy — McCain would have had to not only drop out of the presidential race, but resign from the Senate in shame as well? You get the point.
The problem is not Mr. Reid’s comments, but rather the inane hullabaloo we as a nation go through every time somebody, somewhere, says something that could potentially be perceived as racially insensitive to someone. We not only ruin careers, reputations, and livelihoods, but we make jackasses out of ourselves. Such political correctness replaces candor with cowardice. Wouldn’t it be better to have elected officials say what they mean and mean what they say?
If Reid had any guts whatsoever, he would be following his incessant apologies with an astute clarification. In other words, he would explain the history of the phrase “Negro,” how it has been used historically (and internationally), and the intentions behind his saying it. Was he implying that white voters wouldn’t vote for a darker-skinned candidate? And if so, who then is to be insulted and apologized to: the implicitly inferior dark-skinned blacks or the implicitly bigoted white-skinned masses?
When Reid said Obama has “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” was he referring to Cornel West-like eccentrics or Dr. King-like cadence? Was he suggesting Obama manipulatively concocted such a dialect from time to time, as he clearly did in a March 2007 speech in Selma, Alabama? Remember the context: it was the left who first worried that Obama might not be “authentic” or “black enough” because he is half white and did not descend from slave ancestors — a credulously insulting worry, to say the least. But there Barack was, a black presidential candidate in front of an all-black audience, getting his jive on, third-person references and all. “There’s some good craziness goin’ on,” he rhythmically intoned, alluding to his parents supposedly meeting at the famous civil rights march in Selma. The whole thing was phony, of course — and not just the dialect and faux showmanship, but the facts. (The march was in 1965; Obama was born in 1961.)
It’s this kind of racial pandering and hypocrisy that needs to be called out for what it is — and in public. Barack Obama demanded Trent Lott’s resignation and called for Don Imus to be fired due to their perceived verbal improprieties — but then he not only forgives Harry Reid, but fist-bumps gaudy rappers who’ve said far worse about black people, women, and homosexuals (and various other “groups” of different orientations) solely because the sad forty-something law professor yearns for the adoration and votes of the twenty-something pop culture ignoramuses.
If we tolerate an outrage in some quarters but not in others, then it isn’t an outrage. Picking and choosing whom to ostracize, slander, and smear based on race is racist in and of itself, and doing so based on political convenience is as oily as it gets.
Remember the Jena Six incident, the Duke lacrosse rape case, the surreal beer summit, and all of the other invented racial fantasies? There is a race industry in this country that uses the promise of alleviated white guilt, PC etiquette, and, at times, the unauthorized power of one or all branches of the federal government to “right” perceived racial “wrongs.” This invariably stifles free expression, as well as serious intellectual discussion regarding racial differences. In castigating Harry Reid, I would hope Republicans do not embrace this charlatan-laced industry and their demagogueries and tactics.