Old fashioned Harry apologizes for praising Obama’s light skin, non-Negro dialect (plus: bonus GOP hypocrisy)

The country’s 130-year old Senate majority leader Harry Reid fired off a note via quill pen and had it hand delivered to CNN by horse and buggy, in which he apologized for opining on Barack Obama’s prospects to become America’s first Negro president. … Actually, according to the new, much-anticipated Heileman-Halperin book on the 2008 campaign, called Game Change, Reid, who’s got a whole lot of other problems in Nevada not related to racial stuff, speculated in private — or, what he thought was private — that Obama had a solid shot at winning the White House because

“He (Reid) was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama – a ‘light-skinned’ African American ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,’ as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination,” they write.

Oh golly … well at least he didn’t call him “that one.”

As soon as the revelation hit the press, Reid’s staff flew into damage control mode (including securing a clean bill of health from none other than Rev. Al Sharpton) and Reid apologized. The president quickly accepted:

In a statement released by the White House, the president accepted Reid’s apology: “Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. 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. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.”)

In his Saturday statement, Reid said he apologized “for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments.

“I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama’s legislative agenda.”

Reid also pointed to his efforts to integrate the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry, among other legislation favored by African-American voters: “I have worked hard to advance issues important to the African American community.”

And now for some serious irony. Guess who’s out condemning Reid’s original remarks? You guessed it: Republicans

“For those who hope to one day live in a color-blind nation it appears Harry Reid is more than a few steps behind them,” National Republican Senatorial Committee communication director Brian Walsh said in a statement.

Um … who is it that hopes to live in that color-blind nation? The party that marches in lock-step with racist radio chat hosts Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh? The party of the vintage 1864 southern wing of Congress? The party currently being overrun by the birthers, racist teabaggers and gun-toting, scary, rage-filled protesters who call black reporters “boy” and scream out murderous fantasies during Palin rallies and who refer to our president as “the Kenyan,” which is among the tamer insults? The party that includes this bunch, but that has sent not a single African-American to Congress in a decade (and a decade ago, only had one???)… That party has something to say? Look, I’m not a big fan of Harry Reid. I think he’s a terrible majority leader whose weakness and inability to impose party discipline on turncoats like Joe Lieberman makes him a liability on my side of the ideological divide. But while he clearly said a stupid, anachronistic thing during the campaign that he should have probably confined to his inner monologue, Reid isn’t the one whose political party seems in almost every way to be outright hostile to African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims and other “others” in this country. When you fellas in the GOP have the guts to fire Michael Steele, we’ll talk.

Besides, Senator Reid may be an inartful geezer, but I doubt he’s the first white guy (or Black guy) to chalk up Obama’s successful political rise to his palatability to white people. And despite the media hystrionics over Reid’s politically incorrect commentary, there are still a lot of people, particularly those who are of a certain age, who get gobsmacked when an African-American, meaning a Black person whose family has been in this country for like, ever… can speak proper English. I personally can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called “articulate,” by a genuinely delighted and sincere white person, and how tempted I am each time, to respond by saying “your English is great, too! And what country are YOU from?)…  And then there is the fact that nearly every non-sports, non-hip-hop Black celebrity and television personality, with a very few exceptions, has relatively “light skin and a non-Negro dialect,” many of them based on castings by P. Diddy… You can go as far back into American history as you like, and you’ll find that this is the formula for gaining mass acceptance, and not just by white people. It plays both ways, of course — Barack Obama’s complexion and speech were a serious topic of conversation among African-Americans in the early months of the campaign, and not in a good way for Obama. My former PD, Coz Carson, once nearly cleared the studio by demonstrating why he didn’t like Obama, by showing off a cup of coffee with heavy cream. Of course, all of that is for a whole ‘nother blog post

Meanwhile, “Game Change” is looking like the must-read of the early political season (yes, I plan to read it), but given that one of the authors is Mark Halperin, I can’t help but wonder if the book is chock full of political insight, or teeming with unsubstantiated gossip designed to embarrass Democrats. The book apparently also goes after Bill Clinton, claiming that he pissed off Sen. Ted Kennedy during a post-Iowa phonecall in which Clinton lobbied for the Senator’s endorsement of Hillary, in part by deriding Obama as a kind of Washington butler:

[A]s Hillary bungled Caroline, Bill’s handling of Ted was even worse. The day after Iowa, he phoned Kennedy and pressed for an endorsement, making the case for his wife. But Bill then went on, belittling Obama in a manner that deeply offended Kennedy. Recounting the conversation later to a friend, Teddy fumed that Clinton had said, A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

As sensitive as Bill Clinton is on the subject of his racial views, expect him to hit the roof over this report. We’ll see if he comes out and denies it. The fact that Kennedy is no longer here to substantiate makes it a bit sketchy for my taste, but then again, Bill Clinton did his credibility no favors in terms of skirting the racial line during the campaign…

And at least from the early reports (which to be fair, are mostly in GOP-friendly Politico,) there is evidence that indeed, “Game Change” is hardest on the Dems. The early releases on Sarah Palin, for instance, focus on Steve Schmidt and other McCain campaign staffers’ concerns that she was was an ill-prepared know-nothing whom the campaign team feared would crash and burn during her debate with Joe “O’Biden.” Hell, we already knew that. Halperin and Heileman seem to have had a lot more fun rooting out Harry Reid’s racial views, spats between Obama and Biden (no, not clashes between two men who both wanted to be president! … Say it isn’t so!!!) the machinations of the Macbeths .. I mean, the Clintons … and the scum-bagginess of John Edwards and his wife, who in the book apparently comes off suspiciously like Kate from “John and Kate Plus 8.”

I’ll pick up a copy of the book this weekend. Until then, welcome to the 21st century, Senator Reid! :)

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