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.

Gordon Smith Flip-Flops on Trent Lott's Comments

From Washington, DC to Oregon, folks are noticing that Gordon Smith will say anything.

Today, Talking Points Memo has exposed Smith for changing his story on fellow Republican U.S. Sen. Trent Lott's segregationist comments.

In 2002, Smith condemned Lott's words.

There's more...

OR-Sen: Gordon Smith Reverses Himself On Trent Lott's Ouster

Ahh, remember this oldie but goodie:

"I want to say this about my state: when Strom Thurmond ran for President, we voted for him," Lott boasted. "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, either."

That was, of course, then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott back in 2002 speaking at famous segregationist Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party and thanks to some real pushback from the left (notably from the nascent netroots,) Lott's statement resulted in his ouster from his majority leader position. Now that Lott is retiring, GOP senators are climbing all over themselves to praise Lott and offer some revisionist history about the event that brought him down.

Among Lott's cheerleaders today included Orrin Hatch (video HERE):

He certainly didn't mean what they tried to put in his mouth...He has won the respect of anyone who's ever known him or what he stands for.

Also, Arlen Specter (video HERE):

What Senator Lott said was in no means out of line.

He went on to liken Lott's return to leadership to

...a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Yeah, it's exactly like that.

But the most egregious of the revisionist historians had to be Senator Gordon Smith (video HERE) who acted personally shocked and offended in retrospect that the "wolfpack" of the press would bring down such a great man:

"I was half way around the world when an event befell Trent Lott that shook me deeply. I was celebrating my re-election and on vacation. I watched over international news as his words were misconstrued, words which we had heard him utter many times in his big warm-heartedness trying to make one of our colleagues, Strom Thurmond, feel good at 100 years old. We knew what he meant. But the wolfpack of the press circled around him, sensed blood in the water, and the exigencies of politics caused a great injustice to be done to him...it was a wrong."

But as Sam Stein at HuffPo reports, at the time Smith was singing a different tune.

"However they were intended, Senator Lott's words were offensive and I was deeply dismayed to hear of them. His statement goes against everything I and the people of Oregon believe in. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues to arrive at a decision that is best for the U.S. Senate and the country."

And as Greg Sargent reminds us, once Lott did step down, Smith praised the decision:

"Senator Lott's decision is best for the Senate and best for the country."

The fact that Smith stood by as his friend got railroaded and did nothing about it, in fact enabled it to happen, says all you need to know about Gordon Smith. He couldn't stand up for what he now insists he knew was right. I guess it's hard to have courage of convictions when your convictions are borne out of convenience and change with the weather.

There's more...

Two-Faced Susan: Susan Collins' Lies, Hypocrisy, and Allegiance to the GOP's Far Right Wing

(By the end of this post, you'll want to contribute heavily to Congressman Tom Allen's Senate campaign.  Keep the link handy.)

Susan Collins is approaching the conclusion of her second term as Maine's junior Senator, the seat she first won in 1996.  Her employment history prior to serving as a U.S. Senator includes twelve years on the staff of U.S. Senator William Cohen (R-ME), so she is no stranger to the machinations of representing the state of Maine in the U.S. Senate.

While Collins has presented herself as a moderate or centrist in order to maximize the breadth of her appeal to Maine voters, when one looks at the entirety of her record, what is evidenced is overwhelming double-talk and an undue allegiance to the far-right wing of the Republican Party and the current Bush administration.  It has become clear that Susan Collins is out of step with mainstream Maine voters and is far too comfortable being patently dishonest when it suits her political ends.

(Much, much, much more below the fold.)

There's more...

The Senate Ethics Committee Should Be Very Busy

A couple months back, Markos found it very curious that there wasn't more news coming out of a troublingly quiet Senate Ethics Committee, given the myriad cases that should be on their plate.  He noted, "the Senate fails to promote confidence in its integrity by attempting to bury any and all information into the ethics committee's activities."

The fact is, given a whirlwind of ethically questionable activity by Republican Senators, the Senate Ethics Committee should be one of the busiest committees in the Legislative branch.  Even if initial deliberations by the Senate Ethics Committee are confidential, surely the results of Senate Ethics inquiries should be public information.  And, by now, the Senate Ethics Committee should have achieved results on a number of fronts.  Unfortunately, we've heard virtually nothing of substance from them all year.

So let me take this opportunity to run through the year in investigation-worthy ethics imbroglios among Senate Republicans.  Perhaps a lowly staffer on the Senate Ethics Committee might see it and wonder why the Committee hasn't been more productive this year.

(Much more below the fold.)

There's more...


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