By now most of you have seen Harry Reid's reported remarks, from a book on the 2008 election, enthusing that Barack Obama could be a successful presidential candidate because he was "light-skinned" and "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." The real story here is the Left's hypocrisy: Reid has committed a sin that would be unpardonable by anyone but a Democratic politician.
Much of the "Negro-gate" flap over Reid's comments has focused on whether, parsing them closely, they can or can't be compared to the 2002 comments by Trent Lott that got Lott ousted as Senate Majority Leader. As a matter of pure politics, that seems unlikely to happen to Reid - where Lott came under early and intense fire from bloggers and pundits on the Right, eventually making him radioactive to fellow GOP politicians, the Left (with only a few exceptions) has circled the wagons around Reid. On the other hand, Reid faces his own doom, as this adds to an already uphill battle Reid faces for re-election. But in any event, the better analogy is to George Allen, Jimmy the Greek, Al Campanis, James Watt, and others who lost their jobs due to comments that were not so much racist per se, but rather racially insensitive. That's what Reid's comments were - he was basically giving Obama a stamp of approval for not being one of those black people, with their "Negro dialect" and black skin - and even if he meant it more as an insult aimed at the tolerance of white voters, it's still not something you or I would be crass enough to say in a forum where it could ever be repeated to African-American friends. (Perhaps more damning to Obama is Reid's implication that Obama would put on a "Negro dialect" when it suited his purposes).
Reid's not the only one even this week - the same book quotes Bill Clinton saying that a few years ago, Obama would have been getting him coffee, while Rod Blagojevich, the twice-Obama-endorsed gift that keeps on giving, tells Esquire Magazine:
I'm blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived.
He's black because he shined shoes?
Nor is this Reid's first offense. Among Reid's long laundry list of petty personal insults aimed at distinguished public servants - notably excluding former KKK member Robert Byrd, whom Reid called an "unusually brilliant man" - Reid said of Clarence Thomas:
I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.
Reid contrasted Justice Thomas to Justice Scalia: "I cannot dispute the fact, as I have said, that this is one smart guy." But what made Reid assume that Thomas was a lesser intellect or a bad writer? He was never able to identify any Thomas opinions he'd read that gave him that idea. It was just a stereotype.
Racial insensitivity, intended or not, has become a frequent firing offense for government officials and other public figures at the insistence of the Left, aided and actively encouraged time and again by the leading lights of the Democratic Party. It is not Republicans or conservatives who frequently bathe themselves in sanctimony on this issue or treat it as an unforgivable offense. When a Republican is caught in a sex scandal, pretty much regardless of his actual record, the air is filled with calls for him to be held to a higher standard than Democrats because of conservatives' belief (not universally shared) that marital infidelity and other sexual misconduct is a bad thing. Yet, when a Democrat is caught making racially insensitive remarks, the very same pundits on the Left argue that rather than hold their side to the higher standard they demand of others, there should be a lower standard for Democrats precisely because of their public positions. Heads we win, tails you lose!
My own oft-stated view on Republicans and sex scandals, see here, here, here and here, is that the problem with hypocrtical Republicans is not their public defenses of virtue but their private sins, which may reflect badly enough on them in some cases (e.g., Mark Sanford) to doom them politically, but don't necessarily detract from their advocacy of what is right and good. But by giving Reid a pass, as with giving Clinton a pass for sexual harrassment, Democrats are showing that they believe the opposite: that they are willing to forgive violations of their own supposed principles in order to hold on to political power because those principles were never really that important to them in the first place - just a handy club to beat opponents.
Who's the real hypocrite in that picture?