It’s not what Senator Reid said that’s so troubling, as it is our reaction to it.

Monday, December 11, 2010

We live in an age in which everybody is way too sensitive.

For the record, I’m not a big fan of Harry Reid, Majority Leader in the Senate. I don’t think he’s that bright. I think he cares more about politics than about the American people. And I think he has a reckless disregard for the Constitution and our laws as recently demonstrated by his having bribed some of his colleagues to secure their votes for what has got to be one of the most ill begotten pieces of major legislation in the our country’s history. With any luck, the voters of Nevada will consider it their duty to throw him out of office in November.

During the 2008 Presidential campaign, as reported in a new book, “Game Change,” by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, Senator Reid made the observation that America was probably ready for a “light-skinned” African American, well-spoken, “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” (Breathtaking, isn’t it, the things a person of Senator Reid’s intellectual power thinks about in his spare time.) Senator Reid has now apologized to President Obama. To no one’s surprise, Republicans are busy complaining about there being a double standard based on what they imagine the Democrats would be screaming if Reid had not been one of their own.

To his credit, President Obama has accepted Senator Reid’s apology, for what it was worth. While Candidate Obama may have used race to help him get elected, the last thing President Obama needs right now is the distraction of another headline-stealing discussion of racism in America. Between healthcare legislation, Afghanistan, Yemen and other crises real and imagined, he has other things on his mind.

Hmmm. My problem is that I don’t think Senator Reid said anything to apologize about. We might not like what he said for its implications about lingering racism, but the fact that he said it doesn’t change anything for the better or worse. That he said it at all, apparently in what he thought was a private conversation, says more about his age and profession than it does about any personal biases he may hold. In fact, it says nothing at all about the latter.

For another, what if it hadn’t been Harry Reid who said it? What if it had been, oh, I don’t know, an academically objective black Professor of Political Science at a major, well respected university? The point is, as an academic observation, it has merit. It’s at least debatable, and certainly no cause for panic – or apology.

No. The problem here is not what Senator Reid said, it’s the fact that he felt the need to apologize for it, that President Obama considered it appropriate to accept his apology rather than decry the need for it, and that it’s now become a big deal.

What is going on? Is our country being run my nincompoops? Does anyone not involved in Washington politics really think this is worth talking about – other than the media, of course? And please… Please don’t tell me that rank and file black people are insulted. With the exception of most of our elected officials in Washington, no one is really that small-minded.

-wf


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