"He had no alternative. Senator Lott dug himself a hole and he didn't dig it all in one setting. He dug it over the years. And he couldn't figure out a way to get out of it...You play how you practice. If you tell ethnic jokes in the backroom, it's that much easier to say ethnic things publicly. I've always practiced how I play." -Sen. Harry Reid, December 20, 2000, on Lott's resignation from the post of Senate Majority Leader
On page 37 of the upcoming book, "Game Change," it states that "(Senator Reid's) encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He 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."
That revelation has created a firestorm which the senator jumped in front of, owned up to, and personally apologized to the President about. The timing is precarious because of the current fight to push through health care reform legislation and the President believes Reid's leadership is important in this process, thus the quick acceptance of the apology.
I don't know if I am that forgiving. I had the privilege of running against Sen. Lott and people that supported me never forgot what Lott said to humor a 100-year-old Senator on his birthday. For those of us in Mississippi, it was not a surprise that Lott would do that, but it was a surprise that it made national news and led to his resignation before a new president took office.
On the flip side of that though, I was told as a candidate to remove my facial hair and modify my glasses to come across as less threatening to a certain section of voters. In 2006 and 2008, I was even called the "Obama of the South" by some supporters because of the similar clean-cut image and oratorical style. It was not uncommon to hear people say that myself and Obama were well-spoken African-Americans that were electable.
So I don't really know if my anger is toward Reid for saying the remarks or re-visiting living through that assessment. However, I do believe it is a double-standard to support Reid for saying something as calculating, regardless of the goodwill intended, and condemn Lott. Both remarks were wrong and poorly phrased.
To break it down, based on Reid's remarks, Harold Ford is more electable than Martin Luther King, Jr. That is not a real assessment. Electability is based on financial support, stances on issues, trust and the political temperature of the voters. Image plays a part only when those aforementioned factors are a virtual dead heat, i.e. John F. Kennedy vs. Richard M. Nixon. You have to look the part, but looks with no substance equal political disaster and crushed egos.
I guess if I was a white person I would be more offended by Reid's remarks because it implies that Obama was acceptable but a darker-skinned African-American that slipped in some Ebonics in his/her oratory with his same background would not be in my eyes. It also feeds the negative vibe some Blacks were expressing about Obama when he first decided to run for the Presidency, that he was not "Black enough."
The key was that President Obama was the better candidate. The narrow-minded folks aside, Obama swayed the American public with his knowledge of the issues and the message of change. He is a great speaker and he presented a presidential image, regardless of the level of melanin in his skin. Reid's remarks belittle that notion.
Maybe I am still altruistic, but I believe if Obama ran a campaign similar to Sen. Dodd or even Sen. Biden, then he would not have come close to winning the primary, let alone the General Election. Obama's election reassured my faith in the American electorate and helped me realize what I would need to work on to pursue a higher office again.
I have to admit that race does still play a factor in elections, but I know from experience that being Black does not guarantee the Black vote and does not automatically discount the white vote. You have to work hard for every vote, and even though I lost my election, I know that my vote total was not just based on ethnic solidarity. Reid's remarks diminishes that belief.
I understand the importance of Reid's role in the current health care reform debate. I understand and appreciate the Democrats circling the wagons for him, unlike what the GOP did to Lott , forcing him out of their leadership circle for six years. I don't agree with the dismissal of his remarks as an apples and oranges comparison with Lott. Offensive and demeaning is offensive and demeaning, regardless if our friends say it or our enemies.
I am glad the President has forgiven Reid. Now he needs to ask Reid to seriously consider stepping down or, at the very least, not run for re-election this cycle. Reid basically said in the earlier posted quote what is said in the backroom will be eventually said in public. Reid's lack of faith in the American people should be enough grounds for a public servant to step aside and allow a chance for a servant with that faith to step in his place.