To borrow a phrase from my esteemed partner in blogging: Second look at Michael Steele?
Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele Sunday called on Majority Leader Harry Reid to step down as majority leader, becoming the first high-profile Republican to make such a call after the Nevada senator apologized for his assessment of Barack Obama as a “light-skinned” African-American who lacked a “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”
“The reality of it is this, there is this standard where Democrats feel they can say these things and apologize as long as it comes from one of their own,” Steele said on “Fox News Sunday,” equating Reid’s comments with the racially charged ones that led to the outster of Former Republican Leader Trent Lott. “And if it comes from somebody else, it’s racism.”
“Remember this is a leader who only a few weeks ago was using the context of slavery to talk about health care,” said Steele, the first African American head of the RNC. “It’s an old mindset when you are using language in 2008 that harkens back to the 1950s.”
Whether or not Harry Reid resigns as majority leader is almost immaterial at this point, except inside the Beltway. The rush to forgive Reid by Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, and Eleanor Holmes Norton (the DC Representative) was designed to carry Reid past this controversy in the first few days. Reid has much bigger problems in Nevada, where even the forgiveness of Steven Horsford, the African-American state Senate Majority Leader, came with a big caveat of “disappointment,” as Politico reports:
Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford (D), a key African-American figure in Reid’s home state, also said he would accept the apology, although he was “disappointed” with the comments.
“While I am disappointed in Senator Reid’s comment and choice of words, I accept his apology,” Horsford said. “I have known Senator Reid for many years and he has consistently been supportive of advancing the interests of the African American community as he has for all Nevadans and all Americans.”
That’s the sound of Reid losing the rest of the Democrats in Nevada. He’s toast, and he may wind up getting pushed out the way Chris Dodd did, regardless of his desire to fight to the closing bell in November.
All of this “forgiveness” makes it very clear that Democrats have applied a double standard to Reid, compared to their outrageous outrage over Trent Lott’s stupid remarks in 2002. They claim that Reid’s comments aren’t as bad as endorsing a segregationist candidate fifty-four years after the fact, but that misses a couple of key points. First, Lott — while certainly foolish for not considering the implications of his birthday-party toast to Strom Thurmond — didn’t endorse segregation in his remarks. Reid talked about the tone of Obama’s skin color, and assumed that Obama would be a great candidate because he’d be able to fake what Reid considers a “Negro dialect.” Reid’s statement was much more explicit than Lott’s, and its antecedent falls more along the lines of Al Campanis — who got hounded out of baseball for one really stupid (and obviously racist) remark about the buoyancy of African-Americans despite his track record of helping minorities succeed in his sport.
That brings us back to Michael Steele. The Republicans have a high-profile spokesman who can point out that hypocrisy in the national media and has the undeniable authenticity and access to do so. Regardless of whether he wrote his book with or without permission from the RNC — which is a minor issue in the long run — the GOP is fortunate to have Steele in position to make the Democratic dishonesty on race apparent.