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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Harry strikes again

(President Obama being congratulated by Senate majority leader Harry Reid on his Negro-dialect-free articulation)

Parts of a new book by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, "Game Change," were excerpted recently on The Atlantic's website. The section which has received the most attention quotes Harry Reid as saying early in the 2008 campaign that the country was ready for a "light-skinned" black man "with no discernable Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," as President.

Reid, despite the truth of his statement, has since phoned Obama to apologize, and Obama issued the following statement: "I accepted Harry's apology without question because I've known him for years. I've seen the passionate leadership he's shown on issues of social justice, and I know what's in his heart."

Whether you regard Obama's comments as graciousness personified or merely as damage control for a political ally depends on your point of view.

Reid's comments echo those of Joe Biden from three years ago, when Biden told the New York Observer that Obama was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

(Thank goodness Obama is clean, otherwise Biden would have to hold his nose during all those White House strategy sessions.)

Reid's comments also bring to mind an incident that took place when Obama vacated his U.S. Senate seat to become President. Reid sent then-Governor Rod Blagojevich a list of acceptable, and unacceptable candidates for him to appoint. The four unacceptable candidates were all black men; the three acceptable candidates were all white women. (Blagojevich ignored Reid's advice, and appointed Roland Burris, a black man, to the seat.)

That incident blew over with nary a peep from the media. Will this one?

And what would happen had a Republican politician uttered those words, including the now long-since politically incorrect term "Negro"? Would Obama have accepted his apology so graciously? Would the media have let it disappear down the memory hole? Would he have had to resign his position as majority leader, as Trent Lott had to after his comment at Strom Thurmond's retirement party?

Polls indicate that Reid will probably be voted out by the residents of Nevada at the next election cycle. But what will happen to him in the meantime?

Stay tuned.

Or rather, don't bother, since it's almost certain that nothing will happen to him.

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