Reid, Race and Private Speech – by Dennis Prager


I think that Harry Reid is a left-wing ideologue who is doing serious harm to a great country.

I think that Harry Reid would charge any Republican colleague with racism and ask for that person’s resignation if he or she said what Reid is reported to have said about Barack Obama’s color and accent.

I think that every liberal Democrat deserves to be hoisted on his own petard and stung by the race card that liberals invented and have used for decades against Republican conservatives. Given what Democrats and their allies in the media did to Sens. Trent Lott and George Allen — taking innocuous comments and declaring them racist — Republicans have every right to demand that Mr. Reid resign as Senate majority leader.

But to the extent that truth still matters in America , what Reid is reputed to have said is not racist, let alone renders him a racist. It seems to be nothing more than a private opinion about what type of black American had the best chance to be elected president.

But all this is not the issue. Here are the issues that matter:

The belief that the public has a right to know what people say privately.

The belief that one knows the “true nature” of people if one knows what they said in private.

The utter inability of Americans to speak with any honesty about anything to do with race.

Let’s deal with each.

The unearthing of the private lives and thoughts of public figures has become so normal as to be expected. What the media have done, however, is to render private conversations of anyone in public life almost as guarded as those of citizens in Communist countries. The news media have become a nonviolent form of the East German Stasi or the Soviet KGB. Just as citizens in those former totalitarian states needed to guard their speech in private, lest secret police informers snitch on them and ruin their lives, so, too, American public figures — from politics to entertainment — now need to guard their most private moments, lest a member of the media snitch on them and ruin their lives.

As Rhett Butler finally said to Scarlett O’Hara, I say to the media about the private speech of public figures, “Frankly, I don’t give a damn.”

Which brings us to the second point — the belief among many Americans that one knows “the real person” (public or private) if one knows what the person says in private, and therefore, we should know as much as possible about the private conversations of public figures.

This is as dangerous as it is nonsensical.

There is no truth to this belief.

We all say all sorts of things in private that reveal nothing about our true selves. The very nature of private speech is that it enables us to be free to say anything. It is what we do that tells the world who we are. And as regards the speech of public figures, it is what public figures say of significance in public that matters.

It is, to my mind, another of the many examples of the lack of wisdom in the liberal world that liberals think that private speech reveals who people are, and that we therefore have a right, even a duty, to know as much about it as possible. Thus, liberals repeatedly speak of Richard Nixon’s private anti-Jewish remarks to make their case that the former president was an anti-Semite. Of course, this “anti-Semite” appointed the first Jewish secretary of state and saved Israel ‘s life during the Yom Kippur War. But to the foolish who believe that private speech is the real thing, little of that matters in assessing Nixon’s character insofar as it related to Jews.

To sharpen this point, contrast Nixon with another recent president, Jimmy Carter. I would be willing to wager that Mr. Carter has never said anything in private as derogatory about Jews as Nixon did. But to the vast majority of Jews and non-Jews who understand that the security of the Jewish state is the most pressing Jewish issue, Mr. Carter has been the Jews’ problem, not Mr. Nixon. Likewise, Harry Truman sometimes used the term “kike” in private conversation, but it was he who went against the advice of his entire State Department and recognized Israel ‘s existence as soon as Israel was declared a state.

Finally, we again come to the falsehood that Democrats and liberals regularly offer when they ask Americans to have honest dialogue on the race issue. Thanks to liberals, one can sooner swear in public or declare the world is flat than say the most innocuously valid things about racial matters. One cannot even oppose race-based affirmative action without liberals labeling the person “racist.”

Because I prize private speech and truth more than I prize humiliating Harry Reid — who, again, would not be nearly so decent to any Republican — I find the revelation of his private speech and especially the attention paid to it as if it signifies anything important about him to reflect only one more example of a downward moral spiral in my beloved country.

  • bushlikesdick2

    First of all Reid's comments in comparison to Lott's is no comparison and nobody is calling for Steel's resignations over his Injun remark which natives find as offensive as the “N”word.

    Reed's history of progressive policies that have directly benefitted the black community has given him the devine authority to make the disernment of what is politically correct for a black man to get elected President.

    He is right and everyone knows he is right even the entire GOP but the GOP are going to use it against him regardless because that is the kind of panty-waist gaylords that they are.

    Why am I not suprised?

  • jackhampton

    Likes dick
    When you die I would like to inherit your gall that is all. Democrats are the most vile of all racist and anti-Semites. Having said that I agree with Mr. Prager as I believe most Republicans will. Mr. Steele can speak for himself. Republicans want to see everyone do well regardless of color. you and your ilk want them kept on a plantation no better than those of the old south and keep them in need with hand outs to benifit a small group of race hustlers. By the way do you know where Tjuana Brawley is? Has Jesse Jackpot found Himey Town yet? If you are black which I somtime doubt you are a disgrace to humanity much less any race.

  • cedarhill

    Obama has declared it's OK for Reid since he wasn't “mean spirited”. I take that to mean that we can now call anyone anything we wish so long as you first say “Hey! No mean intended, but did you hear the joke about the …”. Might even get some folks to actually watch Leno again

  • poptoy1949

    Dear Mr. Prager, I “Thank You” again for a wonderful article. You have put in all in perspective. Great Job.

  • bushlikesdick2

    Someone should be doing all your thinking for you — it doesn't have to be Obama.

    Maybe Seseme Street or Barney the Purple Dinasour or Mister Rogers

    If you're going to make general sweeping generalizations at least apply them to our owner personal life

  • bushlikesdick2

    I'm riding on “your” gal as you read this pal!

    • Jack Hampton

      Likes Dick
      The only thing you ever rode was your finger. When your grandmother was raising you while you baby daddy was in de joint I hope it was me that put him there by the way did you ever realize you would be this stupid and easy.

  • debarrio

    By admitting that a lighter skin, less "Negro" sounding black man has a better chance of getting elected, Reid is acknowledging the inherent racism of the Democratic base. who is voting for said lighter skin less "Negro" sounding black man. (Which includes the guy that likesdick)

  • trickyblain

    As opposed to Republicans, who have elected a grand total of two blacks (one senator and one represensitive) — light, dark, medium or mocha — to federal office post civil rights act. This is contrasted with 94 black dems elected.

  • KevinStowell

    Bushlikesdick, are you completely unable to understand the kind of thinking that goes into saying something the likes of which Reid said? Or are you just that partisan (bigoted) yourself? Open your mind. By the way, I'm native-American. I was born here (nativity) but I'm of Irish and German descent. My being 57 years old makes me more “native” than many of those who use their race for political opportunism.

    Divine and discernment, I think, were the words you wanted. Charging the opposttion with being racist is just a political intimidation tool used by those who practice divide-and-conquer politics. Get a clue–you're being played, like all who so mindlessly defend all the damaging things the DemoCretins do.

  • KevinStowell

    General generalizations? Hooked on phonics are?

  • navigator

    Mr. Prager, as usual, takes the high road. If more people read articles like this, and fewer of the kind that usually passes for “journalism” in the NYT, WaPo, HuffPo, Newsweek, etc., this nation would be in much better shape.

  • coyote3

    Well, for that matter it may not be “okay”, but it is not illegal call anyone whatever you wish, or tell whatever type of joke you wish.

  • Dennis X

    To bushlikesdick, your totally correct. Reid's comments were really pointed to whites that still couldn't deal with a dark skinned Blackman. His use of the word negro was not cool, but as a Blackman I can tell you there are older people of color who still use the term. There is no comparison to what lott said.

    • Bobbi

      Dennis, Reid's comments are offensive to me as a "white" person (though actually I am more pinkish than white). Why? Because he presumes to know what I think of people who happen to have darker complexions or talk with a certain accent or dialect. When people like Harry Reid make statements like that, I can't help but think he is projecting his own thinking on to me. I find that offensive, and tend to believe it is he who found Obama's light skin and lack of "negro" dialect attractive in a candidate. As to comparing Reid's comments to Trent Lott's you are right, there is no comparison. Reid's obsession with race was right there – in his words. To interpret Lott's comment as racist, the listener would need to know and be focused on the "racial" issue of desegregation which was one aspect and only one aspect of Strom Thurmond's life-long political positions – an issue which many Democrats also opposed. To assume that Democrats are not racist when they make obvious race obsessed comments, and that Republicans are when they make comments that the listener could interpret as racist, is foolhardy and assumes that Democrat policies actually benefit poor and minorities. (by the way, assuming that minorities are poor is in itself racist. In my neighborhood, people "of color" are Doctor's, Lawyers, Engineers, Professors, Business Owners, etc. and drive BMW's, Mercedes, etc. ) I have seen with my own eyes the destruction Democrat policies wreak on families, schools and communities – whatever their income level or heritage.

  • USMCSniper

    Harry Reid was guilty of sedition and should have been removed from the Senate:

    The Espionage Act of 1917 was a United States federal law pon June 15, 1917, which made it a crime for a person:

    To convey information with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the armed forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies.

    To convey false reports or false statements with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the military or naval forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies and whoever when the United States is at war.

    Harry Reid, of course, with his “The War is Lost” to gave aid and comfort to those fighting our soldiers, ahead of the Bush-led surge in Iraq, so as to effect more U.S. troops coming home in body bags, so he could turn it to his and his party’s political advantage.

    Why this traitor hasn’t been removed from a high-ranking leadership position in the United States Senate, or better yet, placed in a stockade, is beyond reason

  • jsok1948

    I'm an outsider here but the level of hate expressed toward your fellow citizens whose views you disagree with is alarming (I'd say the same directed at the other side of the coin as well).

    Reid's clueless private musings about what kind of “Negro” candidate could get elected differ from Lott's public statement that more people should have voted for Strom Thurmond in 1948. Thurmond ran on a platform that opposed civil rights and supported racial segregation. Lott's comment implied that racial segregation was a worthy cause. Given Mississippi's violent history vis-a-vis its black citizens, that was a troubling comment. For that reason Republicans decided to change leaders.

  • Exon

    Of course private speech matters – this is when people are sincere (talking to the media as Reid did is not very private anyway). Being antisemite does not mean doing antisemitic things all the time. Nixon did no favors to Kissinger by appointing him, and court Jews (cf. Jud Suss, Rahm E.) have been known for centuries, serving their masters first and foremost, greatly benefiting them. What matters in Reid's case is his personal opinion which sort of “Negro” is electable. It's his own opinion on the issue, not the American people's whom he never polled about that.

  • jack

    Don't worry, lefties. The Right will beat itself into silence on this–even kick a few of it's own for daring to suggest that Reid's 'insensitive' comment would have gotten a Republican drummed out of the party. If they get excited enough, they might just drum a few Republicans out of the party simply to show the Left that they mean it.

    This 'high road' ends at the cemetary.

    And Harry Reid will laugh his butt off watching the Right rushes headlong to the grave.

    His comment wasn't racist….but neither was 'macaca'. Yet Allen went down in flames for that.

    Lott said we'd've done better had his friend Strom been elected(as a fiercely segregationist Democrat–also known as a 'dixicrat). He got the boot.

    Byrd's list of indiscretions is long–his membership in the KKK just a starting point–and the censor program won't even let me write some of them(FPM's censor being more racially sensitive than Byrd). Did he get the boot? No–he's the 'Conscience of the Senate'.

    Why do Republicans maintain this double standard? Why do they allow the Party of Slavery the right to be as racially inse..–no–as racist as they want while disallowing the slightest hint of racial insensitivity in their own party–the Party of Lincoln?

    What is wrong with them?

    in your midst

  • BS77

    Like corrupt failure Dodd, Reid is on his way out. Most will be amazed if he is re elected.

  • sydill

    I believe your wrong about Henry Kissinger `saving Israel' during the Yom Kippur War. As I understand it, the Israelis had completely surrounded the Egyptian 3rd Army and was prepared to destroy it, when Kissinger intervened and saved the Egyptians. I think, Dennis, that you've got your `savings'mixed.

  • bushlikesdick2

    An Ad homien spell checker you are. If I need to be so socially correct as to be more explicit of what an injun is in regards to a native — Then that would make you a left wing nut. The lame arguement is on your part. You have no imagination just as the people who have a problem with Reids statement.

    The problem with GOP's effort of polarizing Reid's correct statement is that the majority of blacks, including the one he was talking about, have no problem with the honest statement whatsoever.

    Regarding divide-and-conquer politics, CNN just did a story about how Nixon tried to divide the blacks against the Dems in the South.

    It's not going to work this time Kevin — in fact, it's going to cause some flashback against the GOP.

    A 57 year old that is of German/Irish descent that thinks he is a native because he is born here while speaking in the context of my injun statement.

    Have you ever opened a dictionary Kevin? If you go to the word, or most words for that matter, you will see that there are more than one definition for the word.

    geeeze, get a life.

    I find myself embarrassed for a 57 year old who wants to run my comments through his MS Word Spell check but doesn't know that there are more than one definition for a particular word.

    I'm glad they hire people like you to bag my groceries Kevin.

  • bushlikesdick2

    Oh really coyote? Why don't we take a trip down to South Central L.A. and assuming you are Mexican, (i'm white and I want to watch from a pair of bonoculars from a safe distance of the Green line subway platform), why don't you go to Nickerson Gardens just before it gets dark, and tell a bunch Bloods a typical worn out Southern joke that goes like this — “ I don't have a problem with n*ggers — I think everyone should own one”

    And then, after mavbe you come out of your coma, I want to see if I can understand what you are trying to tell me now with a feeding tube extruding from your orfice — na just type it. oh your fingers are crushed and you computer doens't reconize your voice anymore.

    I don't know what to say anymore about your illegal shit Coyote3 — you still don't get it.

  • bushlikesdick2

    it's time to take your meds

  • coyote3

    Then if they reacted violently to that statement they would be the ones reacting illegally. Not the person telling the Joke, bad taste is not the same as illegal.

  • bushlikesdick2

    are? are what? are retarded? ARRRRRR

    Hooked on phonics is (arrrr) pronunciation lessons — is not a general typo

    What does a 57 year old look like that wants to spend his time being a spell checker/paper grader on the internet?

    If you go to your local PTA and ask if someone on how you can volunteer to be a teacher's assistant, I'm sure there will be someone there that will point you in the right direction.

  • bushlikesdick2

    It is illegal to instigate a riot. We have juries for that reason. There are degrees of crimes and these degrees get dimissed on relevant facts to how the victim contributed to his own fate. In many cases, as for mine example, they don't even reach the attorney general desk.

    Case study —of a group of drunk guys who threw a shoe and a empty liquor bottle at a tiger in a San Francisco zoo then continued to antgonize the animal by hanging their limbs over the side.

    The Tiger, Through his furry, excaped his pen and killed one seriously maned the other.

    should the family receive compensation due to the zoo under estimating the Tigers will under extreme anger?

    Or did the boys contributed to their fate?

    Surely, if the zoo didn't feed the cat for days, left his pen gate unlatched and held a kids day on the day he snaps– that would make the zoo liable.

    You are very simple man who sees the law in a black and white prism.

  • bushlikesdick2

    Do any of you GOP's listen to the comedy station on the internet?

    What do you folks do besides work on your farm, go to church on Sunday, watch FOX, and appease to each other in your BS?

    No serioulsy, do you honestly think that the majority of Americans can't see past the political tactics involved in electing a black man to the office and would be as nieve as yourselves into thinking that this man, Senator Reid, is as stupid as some Republican Congressman to spill out senseless smut while the intercom is on?

  • Gylippus

    As ususal, Mr. Prager gets to the ethical core of the issue with surgical precision. Thanks for taking a stand against the Politcal Correctness (hypocrisy) that is paralyzing the body politic.

  • KevinStowell

    Jar, I just minimally checked on that and found that the 1918 Sedition Act was repealed a few years later. I'm with you, though, it's time to restore it and start prosecuting some traitors. The things these people do during wartime they do just to raise the body count, among other things, and dissuade us from continuing the war. These idiot were just cocksure that when the United Nations was formed that the U.N. would be the avenue by which we would have eternal peace. That worked out, didn't it? They don't actually hate war as much as they want to free up money spent on wars to pay for their socialist fantasies.

  • Bobbi

    Harry Reid's comments weren't private, they were made to reporters. Otherwise, great article.

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