Oh, come on
Let me preface this by saying that I think Harry Reid is a dim-bulb political hack and a sad excuse for a leader of anything, let alone the U.S. Senate. But Republican calls for him to step down over remarks he made about the 2008 presidential race and the election of Barack Obama are just plain stupid. For those who didn't hear the story in recent days, there's a new book out called "Game Change" in which Reid is quoted as saying that Obama benefited by being light-skinned and having "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." Based on the trumped-up outrage of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl, you would have thought that Reid had said Obama should be picking cotton in the Mississippi Delta. Oh, wait, that was Trent Lott, the former senator to whom those Republicans are trying to compare Reid. I kid you not. Steele, who is an early betting favorite to win the "Political D-bag of the Year" award for 2010, said Reid should resign his leadership position, and he tried to link Reid's comments to those of Lott, who quit his Senate leadership post in 2002 after suggesting that the United States would have been a better place if blacks were still separate and unequal. Any rational, intelligent person can see that there's no comparison between what Reid and Lott said, but rational, intelligent people aren't the folks whom Steele, Cornyn and Kyl are pandering to. Fact is, Reid was talking about the reality of Obama's appeal to voters, particularly white voters, and while Reid has apologized for his wording, his comments are essentially true. When 25 percent of Democratic primary voters in West Virginia in 2008 said their decision was at least somewhat motivated by race, it's pretty easy to see that a candidate like Barack Obama would do better with some voters than a guy who looks and talks like Sonny Liston. And while it might not be politically correct to say so, there is a "black dialect" in our country. It's a pattern of speech that most of us hear every day if we watch television, and traces of it are detectable even among highly trained speakers such as TV newscasters. It's really no big deal. As a nation that includes people of many different cultural backgrounds, we shouldn't expect each and every person to sound like Rex Harrison in "My Fair Lady." Lott's remarks eight years ago were decidedly different. The senator, now a lobbyist, said at a birthday party for Sen. Strom Thurmond, who was once one of America's leading racists, that his home state of Mississippi was proud that it had supported Thurmond's bid for the presidency in 1948. Added Lott, "And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over these years, either." Nice. As for Reid, black leaders far and wide are rallying behind him, so this issue really is a tempest in a teapot. The Republicans should just move on.