At least he didn’t say “articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada is in hot water, as everyone knows, for comments reported in a new book about the 2008 campaign in which he said that Barack Obama was electable because he was “light-skinned” and has “no Negro dialect—unless he wanted to have one.”
Even people who aren’t offended by this are wondering, “Who TALKS like this anymore?” But then that’s usually the reaction when Harry Reid opens his mouth, isn’t it?
Reid didn’t insult The President, or even specifically American black people. He insulted the American people. His political analysis is that Barack Obama is white enough to be acceptable to the American voter.
People I respect from Nancy Morgan to George Will have said that Reid merely spoke the truth. While there may be some merit to their point—though I think skin color has less to do with it than the fact that Obama presents a very attractive candidate persona overall—people have been underestimating what the American people will accept since CBS executives fought Lucille Ball on casting husband Desi Arnez as her TV husband because American audiences “weren’t ready” for an interracial couple in the 1950s.
Republicans are decrying the double standard, after what happened when Trent Lott got too complimentary at Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party. But Republicans’ typically inarticulate message is “We let Trent Lott be lynched on the tree of political correctness; and to be fair, Democrats should do it to Harry Reid!”
But Harry Reid has actually attacked a black American public figure– and in a way that implies a racial motive. Clarence Thomas does not talk in “Negro dialect,” but he is pretty dark skinned, is THAT Harry Reid’s problem with him? Did he figure that gave him cover to make stupid and baseless attacks?
Remember this from Meet the Press in December of 2004?
SEN. REID: If [Scalia] can overcome the ethics problems that have arisen since he was selected as a justice of the Supreme Court. And those ethics problems–you’ve talked about them; every people talk–every reporter’s talked about them in town–where he took trips that were probably not in keeping with the code of judicial ethics. So we have to get over this. I cannot dispute the fact, as I have said, that this is one smart guy. And I disagree with many of the results that he arrives at, but his reason for arriving at those results are very hard to dispute. So…
MR. RUSSERT: Why couldn’t you accept Clarence Thomas?
SEN. REID: I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I don’t–I just don’t think that he’s done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.
For a few days, this was a big story as conservatives challenged Harry Reid to come up with a poorly written opinion. Evenually, CNN’s, Ed Henry gave Harry a chance to climb out of the hole. He elected to keep digging.
HENRY: When you were asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” whether or not you could support Justice Thomas to be chief justice you said quote, “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written.” Could you name one of those opinions that you think is poorly written?
REID: “Oh sure, that’s easy to do. You take the Hillside Dairy case. In that case you had a dissent written by Scalia and a dissent written by Thomas. There–it’s like looking at an eighth-grade dissertation compared to somebody who just graduated from Harvard.
Scalia’s is well reasoned. He doesn’t want to turn stare decisis precedent on its head. That’s what Thomas wants to do. So yes, I think he has written a very poor opinion there and he’s written other opinions that are not very good.”
Wow, the infamous Hillside Dairy case! And that silly Sarah Palin couldn’t think of a Supreme Court decision she disagreed with. That Harry Reid must be a brilliant legal scholar, right?
While I’m sure that 8th graders in Nevada are so brilliant that they write legal “dissertations” on a regular basis, it is revealing that Harry Reid went immediately to the cliché of the inarticulate and illiterate black man. Think that’s harsh? Read on.
Here is Clarence Thomas’s very technical opinion in Hillside Dairy, in full.
I join Parts I and III of the Court’s opinion and respectfully dissent from Part II, which holds that §144 of the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, 7 U.S.C. §7254, “does not clearly express an intent to insulate California’s pricing and pooling laws from a Commerce Clause challenge.” Ante, at 6-7. Although I agree that the Court of Appeals erred in its statutory analysis, I nevertheless would affirm its judgment on this claim because “[t]he negative Commerce Clause has no basis in the text of the Constitution, makes little sense, and has proved virtually unworkable in application,” Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 610 (1997) (Thomas, J., dissenting), and, consequently, cannot serve as a basis for striking down a state statute.
Sounds just like my kids when they were in 8th grade…
Now, below, is the Scalia dissent that Reid loved so much and thought was articulate– and no doubt, clean.
That’s right. It doesn’t exist.
Scalia voted with the majority, and Thomas’s dissent was not on the whole case, but on one part of it.
So, the question remains, Why did Harry Reid make up a story about Clarence Thomas that plays into racist stereotypes? Is that his default setting when he thinks of black people? Or should I say “Negroes?”
This also prompts the obvious question—Who the HECK is Harry Reid to criticize how anyone talks? What do you call his mumbly incoherent style? “Senile White Guy Dialect?” How about “Alzheimers Ebonics?”
I suppose it’s too much to expect to think Republicans can resist cheap shots here. But they should consider one thing. Do they really want Harry Reid to step down as one of the major spokesmen for the Democratic Party?