Harry Reid's Future (And Michael "Fried Chicken" Steele's Double Standard)

Harry Reid’s not going anywhere – at least not before the midterms.

The Senate Majority Leader is in a bit of trouble for racially insensitive remarks he made during the 2008 campaign that have just now been made public. Reid said that Obama would win despite his race because he is “light-skinned” and speaks “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” The GOP reaction is exactly what you would expect:

In an interview with POLITICO, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) said it would be "entirely appropriate" for the Nevada Democrat to relinquish his leadership post over comments about Barack Obama's skin color and lack of a "Negro dialect."

And like Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl — both of whom also called for Reid's resignation Sunday — Cornyn suggested that any Republican who said what Reid said would be under attack from Democrats, leading African-Americans and the media.

“There’s a big double standard here,” Steele said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “What’s interesting here, is when Democrats get caught saying racist things, an apology is enough. If that had been [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying that about an African-American candidate for president of the president of the United States, trust me, this chairman and the [Democratic National Committee] would be screaming for his head, very much as they were with Trent Lott.”

Steele added that "There has to be a consequence here if the standard is the one set in 2002 with Trent Lott.” That's a big if, my friend.

There are three obvious reasons why Reid won’t resign as Majority Leader despite Lott's precedent. First, Lott had a history of racial insensitivity; Reid has no such thing. Gaffes are usually only an issue when they reinforce an existing image, and while the southern senator had an already-spotty history on racial issues, the boxer from Searchlight doesn’t have that problem.

Second, Lott was speaking about policy whereas Reid was analyzing the country’s electoral abilities (and may well have been right). That doesn’t excuse his language - the word “negro” is quite historical anachronism, and he was right to apologize – but as much as rhetoric does matter, we’re not exactly talking deep substance here.

Finally, Lott lacked the support of the President, a President from his own party, but Barack Obama has made it clear that he continues to back Reid (as do both Al Sharpton and Rep. James Clyburn, the highest ranking African American in Congress. And seriously, if even Al Sharpton doesn't find something overly offensive, isn't the discussion kind of over?).

Forget Trent Lott. The real double standard here is that Michael “I got the fried chicken” Steele, he of the “honest Injun” remarks, gets to get away with criticizing Reid over the whole affair.

Of course, this isn’t the only important Harry Reid story out this weekend. He’s not going anywhere before the midterms, but a new poll shows that the Majority Leader’s November woes continue to deepen. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Reid’s favorable-unfavorable is now 33-52, down from December’s 49-38. His three potential Repub opponents lead him by margins of 10, 8, and 5, with all three gaining well over 50% of Independent votes. Worst of all, this poll was taken before the "negro" quote was made public. It is for this reason – electoral math, not racial insensitivity – that even Markos is now calling for Reid to resign his leadership position and retire from the Senate. Not going to happen, but certainly troubling for the Majority Leader.

Tags: Harry Reid, Race Relations, Michael Steele, trent lott, Al Sharpton, John Cornyn, Jon Kyl (all tags)

Comments

37 Comments

even Markos is now calling for Reid to resign ?

I think he's been on that soapbox since 2005.

 

I posted a comment in a thread on an unrelated topic that I'll try to dig up about why I think Reid's chances are very very good for re-election, but the short version is a) you can't beat something with nothing b) Reid's campaign is definitely something, and oddly should be getting the support of folks like Markos b/c of its focus on voter targeting and ground-level organizing and c) the Republicans really have nothing, in terms of message, organization or candidate.

 

This latest flap doesn't help Reid b/c he's quite weak with blog-reading liberals who find him too cautious on health care and other issues (like me) but having Michael Steel attack him as a racist seems a taylor-made strategy by the Republicans to blunt the damage to Reid.

by desmoulins 2010-01-10 03:06PM | 1 recs
by desmoulins 2010-01-10 03:16PM | 0 recs
unfortunately

Various Nevada polls have indicated the GOP can indeed beat something with nothing in this race. Reid trails third-stringers--not a good sign.

by desmoinesdem 2010-01-10 04:11PM | 0 recs
RE: unfortunately

I'd think you would agree that horserace polls, especially 10 months out, aren't nearly as important a measure as fundamentals of a race like money, organization and partisan index of the electorate.

On top of which, most of the polls of this race have been done by Mason-Dixon paid for by the rabidly anti-Reid Las Vegas Review Journal; M-D has consistently (and I believe deliberately) overweighted self-identified "conservatives" and rural voters going back at least 3 cycles.

As for the "third-stringers," they are indeed back benchers and the electorate knows next to nothing about them at this point. That will change, to Reid's advantage, by election day. The primary is going to be a tea-bag festival, with everyone running as hard to the right as possible, and its going to produce a republican who will be broke and possibly irreparably divided republican organization.

 

by desmoulins 2010-01-10 06:33PM | 0 recs
when an incumbent trails challengers

especially third-stringers, it doesn't give me a lot of confidence. Not many incumbents have been re-elected with favorables like Reid's.

by desmoinesdem 2010-01-10 07:12PM | 1 recs
RE: even Markos is now calling for Reid to resign ?

yea, that gave me a laugh.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-10 06:42PM | 0 recs
RE: even Markos is now calling for Reid to resign ?

:P

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-10 10:04PM | 0 recs
RE: even Markos is now calling for Reid to resign ?

I've never read much consistent non-campaign-season Daily Kos, actually, not out of boycott but out of busyness  - it's only been since I got on Twitter that I've started to do a consistent job of following blogs beyond MyDD, Blue Hampshire, and Spokane/Idaho area blogs.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-10 10:06PM | 0 recs
They shoudl be careful what they wish for...

Does the GOP want a real majority leader like Schumer in there?  I think not!  Reid is the gift that keeps on giving for the GOP.

by LordMike 2010-01-10 03:54PM | 0 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...

Schumer is a loser.  As a constituent, I can tell you he is quick to get before the cameras to talk about what needs to be done, but never actually does anything.  If he's our idea of a real majority leader, we are in major trouble.

by orestes 2010-01-10 04:24PM | 0 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...
"Sharing a media market with Chuck Schumer is like sharing a banana with a monkey," Sen. Jon Corzine, a New Jersey Democrat, lamented last year in a joke-filled speech at the Washington Press Club Foundation. "Take a little bite of it, and he will throw his own feces at you."

(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/14/AR2005081401235.html)

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-10 05:00PM | 2 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...

Thanks for the quote.  I missed that

by orestes 2010-01-10 05:25PM | 0 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...

Sorry about that.  Don't know how it posted so many times- before I was even finished. 

by orestes 2010-01-10 05:26PM | 0 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...

Taken care of.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-10 05:31PM | 0 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...
Schumer is a loser. Yep. Typical blog Bircher. Never happy with anything his own side does. Okay Orestes, who's your Sen. Perfect? And how long are you going to have their back until you start trying to run a butcher knife through it? "My had will freeze when I reach for the Republcian lever, but I'm disappointed with (Ted) Kennedy."--unamed liberal in a Newsweek magazine article about John Anderson's 1980 Presidential candidacy, aptly summing up the liberal mentality about politics and political discourse--they're always disapointed about something. rec Orestes? You've got to be kidding.
by spirowasright 2010-01-10 06:30PM | 0 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...

Is the name calling necessary?  Do you really get something out of that?  Your projection that I am always unhappy with what my own side does is both false and unproductive.  I am not emotionally invested in any politician.  I judge them by what they say and do.  This is politics, not grade school dodge ball.  There are no teams; there are political principles and policies.  It is on these that I make my judgments.

My frustration with Schumer derives precisely from the disconnect between his words and his actions.  I was an ardent supporter of Schumer when he started out.  He talks a good talk.  But years of little real liberal leadership have tired me.  I did not say that I don't vote for him.  I simply expressed my opinion of him.  Do you live in NY? 

I would much prefer a Feingold, Boxer, sooon departed Dorgan, or even Durbin as majority leader.  And, for the record, I have never in my life voted for a republican and never will.  That is never in doubt.     

Finally, if you think that being disappointed about political outcomes is a disease of liberals, you need to get out more.  Or, perhaps, get a few more years of life under your belt.

by orestes 2010-01-10 06:48PM | 0 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...

I get my frustration with some of the things I read on these sites vented. I'm sorry about the name-calling, but some of the things I read on these sites stirkes me as a cross between liberal opinion and ultra-conservative conpiracy theory talk.

I never suggested that you would vote Republican, I was simply referring to a qupte I read in a 1980 magazine article (I'll be 55 in February) where an unamed liberal talked about voting for John Anderson (who was running a center-left campaign in a decidedly conservative field led by Ronald reagan), but it seems to me as if that sums up how liberals view politicaloutcomes. Just name the candidate or initiative (Obama, the Congressional leadership, Air America radio) and some .com leftie will post a medssage that begins "I'm disappointed with (fill in the blank)."

Heck, if you got your perfect leader, you'd be disappointed with them by the weekend after the election.

If you were to get Feingold, Boxer, soon departed Dorgan or Durbin as majority leader, do you think you would be satisfied with them for at least I don't know, a week? A month?

I'm sorry, but I get the notion that being disappointed about political outcomes is a liberal disease from nearly 13 years of reading the liberal blogosphere.

Finally, I come from a very conservative religous and political background and I hae come to the conclusion that the only difference between some of what I reasd here and what the people I've spent my life around say is the point of view.

by spirowasright 2010-01-10 07:34PM | 0 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...

Re majority leader, I think one would never be completely satisfied with anyone.  That, to me, is a simple fact of life.  However, if I faith in the integrity of the person and we disagree based upon beliefs based upon principle, I can readily accept that disagreement.  For example, I do not agree with Dorgan on all of his positions, but I believe in his basic integrity (ie, that he holds those views honestly and can defend them).  Schumer is not that kind of player to me, a conclusion based upon being a constituent.  (I assume you are not from NY, in which case you might be more familiar with his effective speeches than his failures to act.)  

To restate my point, I think people across the political spectrum are frequently disappointed by their representatives.  I don't find it is a concern limited to liberals.  Liberals may express disappointment more frequently, but that is because we have received fewer carrots (at the very least) than our conservative brethren. 

I don't know why you would be surprised that the primary difference between your conservative neighbors and liberal bloggers is viewpoint.  People who feel strongly about issues, etc. tend to react in similar ways.  The only difference is what they are reacting to.  For example, the anger expressed by the tea party types is not really any different from the anger on the left and among the silent majority.  The difference is that we channel our anger to different political ends.  Frankly, I think the commonality of feelings and behavior offers a bridge to greater understanding.  I have generally been very effective arguing with conservatives because I respect where they are coming from, but expect them to be able to support their claims.  Sometimes, we come to an understanding that we simply want different things.  That is fair, so long as we are respectful of each other's basis for the disagreement.

by orestes 2010-01-10 07:59PM | 0 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...

I don't know why some are calling for Schumer to be next. What a just as big a mistake that would be. An older balding white guy that sounds like he's been in politics forever and can sell you on anything. Not the best optics or message.

Who would I choose?  Bob Menendez. He's got everything we need as a Senate leader.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-01-10 06:45PM | 1 recs
RE: They shoudl be careful what they wish for...

I wanted Dorgan. Oooooops.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-10 10:07PM | 0 recs
Get out Old Man

I truly hope Reid loses. The healthcare bill should have been part of the budget and he caved to Nelson and Lieberman. Why is a ultra conservative the majority leader of Senate Democrats?? Heres hoping for Chuck Schumer in 2011

by bsavage 2010-01-10 04:31PM | 0 recs
RE: Get out Old Man

If we went the reconciliation route, the health care deal would have to be extended in another ten or so years (like the Bush tax cuts), and who knows who'd be in office then.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-10 04:58PM | 0 recs
RE: Get out Old Man

Right now I feel as though that HCR bill is a worse than the Bush tax cuts and which will help far fewer Americans and I never thought I would say that.

The main point of the bill for most Americans is preexisting condition clause, but since there is no complementary requirement forcing insurance companies to actually pay for the medical care, the bill forces consumers to be left holding the bag with thousands of dollars in health care expenses.

Not to mention that the bill is anti-choice (nelson compromise) and there will most likely be weak enrollment and that most Americans still get insurance from their employers and that there is no public expansion. 

This is NOT universal healthcare. I really think some Democrats are just fascinated with the idea of HCR similar to what Republicans have with tax cuts, tort reform and missile defense. 

by bsavage 2010-01-10 07:18PM | 0 recs
...and slowly step away from the FDL

Reading the Senate Bill might help you realize that there is a great deal of good in this bill. If you can't tell the difference between the Senate bill and the Bush Tax Cuts, you have much greater problems than I can address.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-10 07:39PM | 1 recs
The reconciliation canard lives on

You'd get an ever worse reform through reconiliation. The Senators know this, and you don't even have the 50 votes needed for it. It's a non-starter.

Adding things to HCR through reconiliation? Now that's a different story.

The blogosphere really needs to drop the reconciliation panacea false meme.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-10 05:28PM | 2 recs
We shouldn't be surprised by this:

A cynical veiw of the American electorate is an eternal feature of Reid's career.  It's not hard to draw a line between this statement and, for one example, his lack of confidence in Health Care Reform.

by Endymion 2010-01-10 05:23PM | 0 recs
I actually think this helps Reid w/ conservative-independents in NV

I think this helps Reid with conservative-independent voters in NV. His "Negro" comment underlines the fact that Reid wasn't necessarily "dazzled," per se, by Obama in the initial stages and that his view of Obama was very much influenced by his upbringing in Searchlight (anachronistic views of blacks in a "trailer park" town, e.g., the "Negro" term). It highlights that Reid hasn't really changed all that much since coming to Washington. The conservative-independents will appreciate that because their constant refrain of disgust with Washington politicans is that elected officials change once they get to Washington. There are plenty of conservatives who are not hardened against Reid to the point where they are looking for anything--such as this controversy--to discredit him. These conservatives just want good, honest leadership. And I think Reid's comment and his handling of the fallout have actually helped him here.

The liberal "machine" base in Las Vegas will support Reid no matter what because there is no alternative.

by Zeitgeist9000 2010-01-10 05:32PM | 0 recs
Yes but

When George Allen made the macaca statement....we killed him.....Reis is only sorry cuz it was made public.......its a double standard.....

by BuckeyeBlogger 2010-01-10 06:20PM | 0 recs
RE: Yes but

Of course this is COMPLETELY the same as directing a racial slur at someone.  Your analysis remains cogent as ever.

by Steve M 2010-01-10 07:28PM | 4 recs
RE: Yes but

Its was still racist in nature.....give me a break knucklhead. Go walk up to an african american and tell him, he isnt so offensive becuase he is light skinned and doesnt sound black. I am sure it will be appreciated. Your problem, is that you see no wrong doing in anything any democrat does, unless of course you simpyl dont like their policy positions.....your a buffoon....

by BuckeyeBlogger 2010-01-10 11:00PM | 0 recs
RE: Yes but

Well, of course if Reid had said anything like that you would have a point.

by Steve M 2010-01-10 11:15PM | 1 recs
RE: Yes but
Most blacks already know that. It's a fact of life in America and has been for decades. Maybe you should read the biography of Rosa Parks, the NAACP choose Parks to be their standard bearer in the Montgomery Bus Boycott partly because of her lighter skin and good social mores, compared to Claudette Colvin for instance, played better with sympathetic whites.
by vecky 2010-01-11 01:19AM | 0 recs
RE: Yes but

Reid didn't say Obama is inoffensive because of his color and sound, he said that there are some voters out there would find him inoffensive because of such. He didn't say that it's a good thing, just that it's a thing. So are you telling us that it's wrong to point out unpleasent facts?

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-11 02:31AM | 0 recs
RE: Yes but

(Not that there's an excuse for the language with which he used to make said point.)

by Nathan Empsall 2010-01-11 02:31AM | 0 recs
RE: Yes but
Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson sums it up pretty well: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036789/vp/34803419#34803419
by BuckeyeBlogger 2010-01-11 06:47PM | 0 recs
RE: Yes but

The UNCF might disagree.  Dunno.

by lojasmo 2010-01-12 10:38AM | 0 recs
One of these is not like the others

Reid: Old man's poor word choice.

George Allen: Racial epiteth directed at protester in anger

Trent Lott: Believing the country would have been better if a segregationist was elected president.

And yes, because the democrats fight for racial justice, while the other party fights against it, I cut them more slack. A double standard is okay here. Actions speak louder than words.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-01-10 07:36PM | 0 recs

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