The Right’s PC Police – by Jacob Laksin


Like vultures circling a wounded quarry, Republicans have wasted little time flocking over Majority Leader Harry Reid’s recent stumble into America’s racial midfield. The trigger is a 2008 interview that Reid gave to journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin for their new book Game Change, in which he observed that Barack Obama was electable because he was “light skinned” and “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Reid’s apercu was artlessly delivered. In this it was par for the course for a gaffe-prone politician whose previous forays into questionable social commentary include calling President George W. Bush a “loser,” prematurely declaring the Iraq war “lost,” and musing about the olfactory offenses of summer visitors to Washington D.C. Still, it’s hard to see how Reid’s latest rhetorical infelicity merits anything like the outrage that has been leveled at the Senator from the right. Republicans’ opportunistic charges aside, nothing Reid said rises even remotely to the level of racism. And the GOP has little to gain – and much to lose – by pressing this case.

Few would seriously dispute that Obama’s oratorical gifts have served him well with white voters. It is also demonstrably true that those gifts include an ability to alter everything from his mannerisms to his intonation to appeal to different racial constituencies. Sounding like a Southern preacher in one speech, a constitutional law professor in another, Obama has mastered the skill of situational delivery. Black or white, he is who his audience wants him to be. That Reid made this point clumsily makes it no less defensible.

Reid’s insights about skin color are less compelling. It’s possible that some voters genuinely cared about Obama’s lighter complexion. It seems more plausible to say that being black was his greater asset. As others have noted, Obama’s rapid emergence in the national spotlight, from his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention when he was not yet an elected Senator, to his million-dollar book deals, had more than a little do with the fact that he was a rising black politician. Likewise, the not-so-subliminal premise of Obama’s “historic” 2008 campaign was that the country could elect its first black president and atone for the sins of a slave-owning past. That worked out well enough.

Being wrong does not make Reid a racist, however. Republicans, meanwhile, do themselves no favors by enlisting in America’s ever-growing ranks of politically correct police. GOP national chairman Michael Steele has led the way, accusing Reid of racism and bemoaning that any Republican who spoke as Reid did would be vilified and urged to resign the Senate leadership by Democrats and allied groups who are now rallying to Reid’s defense. Former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott was forced to do just that in 2002 when he made racially tone-deaf comments at the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday party.

Steele is of course right about this double standard. But the chairman does nothing to restore integrity to the political debate by validating the political left’s pernicious smear that any and all comments about race, however innocuous, must be treated as an act of racism, with their author forced to prostrate himself before various racial lobbies or risk banishment from polite society.

For Republicans to play the race card is also strategically short-sighted. It’s possible that the shrill cries of racism will depress Reid’s already tumbling poll numbers in Nevada and damage his reelection prospects. But Republicans won’t emerge unscathed. Exaggerated sensitivity on racial matters will win the GOP no credit from multicultural censors. It will merely perpetuate the depressing cycle that sees intelligent debate silenced for unintelligent reasons and ensure that the racism charge is deployed again in future – likely against Republicans. It’s hard to see how anyone but Democrats will benefit from that. As Peter Collier observes, “Nobody beats the Democrats at race-baiting!”

As evidence, consider that Democrats have already launched a counterattack that casts Republicans as the real racists in the Reid affair. The crux of the campaign is that Reid can’t be a racist because he is a Democrat, whereas Republicans are, well, Republicans. Lest one think this a crude oversimplification, listen to Congressional Black Caucus chair Barbara Lee defend Reid: “Senator Reid’s record provides a stark contrast to actions of Republicans to block legislation that would benefit poor and minority communities — most recently reflected in Republican opposition to the health bill now under consideration.” Just so Lee’s meaning is clear: To oppose ObamaCare is to be a racist. This is what political debate has been reduced to.

One expects these kinds of tactics from Democrats. Republicans, though, are supposed to be the adult party. In the current political climate, it may be too much to hope that they will forgo an opportunity to bloody one of their leading opponents, especially now that he is at his most vulnerable. But as the GOP leadership does its best impersonation of the sensitivity monitors it otherwise reviles, it should realize that, in taking the racial war to Reid, it is fighting on their terms.

  • jsok1948

    There is a critical difference between the Reid and Lott comments: Lott said that more people should have voted for Strom Thurmond for president in 1948. In that election, Thurmond ran on a platform that opposed civil rights and supported racial segregation. The issue was not Lott's “artless wording” but the implied support for racial segregation. Given Mississippi's record during the civil rights era (involving multiple Klan bombings, murders, beatings, and physcial and economic intimidation of black citizens), Lott's comments were deeply problematic.

  • cheapflights08
  • josephwiess

    The republicans are digging their own grave by bringing this up. After all, when Al Sharpton comes in on your side, you know you are doomed.

    Besides, it was said two YEARS ago, not yesterday. Who cares what was said two years ago? There are more important things to worry about.

  • USMCSniper

    Obama learned this racist ideology during his formative years from his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, a self-admitted communist and sexual deviant, and most certainly a racist—the kind that blacks say cannot exist.

    As Robin of Berkeley in an article in American Thinker suggested, “Davis blamed racism and capitalism for all of the problems in society and instructed young Barry, ‘Don’t fully trust white people,’ and ‘Black people have a reason to hate.’”

    Absent the tutelage of Davis, Obama’s next biggest “non-influence,” as it were, came in his twenty-plus year association with Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Obama sold his racism to whites during his presidential campaign, saying that he didn’t really listen the hate-speech wrongfully labeled “sermons” at his so-called church. This was a “church” that practiced Cone’s Black Liberation Theology—a “theology” that if the word “black” were replaced with “white,” the “church” would have undoubtedly been considered a haven for the Aryan Brotherhood.

    Post election Obama continued to flaunt his racism in the face of whites by loading his “team” with black racists. His first appointment was a noted Black Nationalist, Van Jones, as Green Czar. Appointing a Black Nationalist to this position by Obama would be like Bill Clinton appointing a Klansman to a similar position.

    As for Obama’s racism against blacks, you don’t have to be a genius to understand it. However it is easier to understand if you are not a product of government schools. Obama’s racism against blacks is much more subtle, though exponentially more insidious.

    Obama actually believes he helps blacks through his policies, when in fact the outcome devastates blacks. A good example is education.

    Blacks recognize almost universally that education is the key to escaping the “cycles” of poverty, and other ills plaguing the black community.

    Obama’s first racist act as president was to remove the voucher program that Bush had established in DC, and a program that Democrats vote against overwhelmingly. A program, which was producing proven positive results, was gone — and black children in DC were relegated to socialized schools in crime and drug-infested neighborhoods. Simply put, why give black children the choice to opt out of the indoctrination?

  • Jimmy_D_OnceaCommie

    Thank You! Thank You! Thank you!
    All of this noise is the Republican Party screaming Change me or Replace me!
    We were so mad about Trent and we all said that was all so wrong.
    Now we can play that game too! Freakin' 3 yr olds.
    Republicans! Conservatives!
    Let the fools be fools and do not compete in that contest!
    Let's try this, “We congratulate Harry Reid for his creative abilty to find yet another reallly stupid thing to say! And we celebrate his right to say it. Long Live American Freedom!”

  • maxj

    “I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.”

    Lott was referring to Thurmond's 1948 run for president on a secessionist platform. During the campaign, Thurmond said:
    “All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches.” read on

  • FBastiat

    You can't win with the Left's language police. From here:

    Consider … one of the Left's more asinine projects: Is the purpose of “politically correct” Newspeak to construct a language free from bias? An intriguing answer can be found in the example of feminist “thealogian” Mary Daly. Using a sometimes-specific term in a universal sense (e.g., “the pseudo-generic 'man'”) will earn an accusation of sexism, while using only universal terms (e.g., “human”) will draw an accusation of deliberately trying “to avoid confronting the specific problems of sexism.” No matter what language a person uses, the Left reserves the right to condemn it for bias — and to damn him as evil.

    (And to exempt itself from any standard. After all, if not to “gender angle” the tragedy of violence, why speak of only a “rape culture”? What about other acts of violence against women — robbery, assault, murder? Has it anything to do with the fact that these, too obviously, are also crimes against males?)

  • KevinStowell

    Well stated, Jar.

  • KevinStowell

    I've been alive long enough to see that the feminist movement, the civil rights moevement, the gay supremacist movement, etc. have all been complete scams. They have had, in their minds, no other purpose but to put as many people on their plantation as possible by finding as many ways, as their imaginations can, to divide us and pit us against one another. Cause chaos, like anarchists of the past, and then set yourself up as the savior of those being “victimized” by the chaos.

  • CowboyUp

    It's the GOP's own DA fault.

    They shouldn't have let the dp take out their 'leadership' on stupid crap like that (though I was glad to see goofy lukewarm lott out of top 'leadership'), especially when they do little or nothing about real dp corruption (not to mention their own). Sure, point out dp stupidity, hypocrisy, and pettiness, whenever they say or do something asinine, which is usually several times a day, but do so with humor or ridicule (which is what the dp usually rates), and spare us the fake outrage.

    Certainly the GOP should uphold minimum ethical and moral standards for their party, if they're doing things like cheating on their spouse, or breaking the laws they make, sayonara. If they can't keep their marriage vows we can't expect them to keep their oath of office. If they can't live under the laws they make, they shouldn't be making laws.

  • debarrio

    I think the real offesive comment came from DNC chairman Tim Kaine, when he defended Reid by stating: “I think if you look at the reports as I have, it was all in the context of saying positive things about Senator Obama.” So according to Kaine, being less black and sounding less like a “Negro,” is a “positive thing. Guess what. This is racist! Ultimately though, Laksin is right. Let the Democrats wallow in their own Race-Pimpin swamp.

  • rt90k

    John Ensign in the news with similar advice to Laksin's, and they sound right in applying the wisdom to this situation where Sen. Reid is already destroying himself well enough on his own.
    Laksin is particularly correct since he recognizes the unnecessary risks to Republicans playing the PC police. The greater problem might be that the Republican leadership and major conservatives are beginning to embrace PC without recognizing what a menace to freedom it is.

  • seek

    I fully agree with the author.

    If we conservatives play the hard Left's racial purity game, we lose even with a short-run “win.” The only beneficiaries will be the radical thought police — and conservatives ironically will find themselves having less freedom than ever, with or without Harry Reid in the Senate. And his replacement may well be a zealot. At least Reid is rather soft-spoken.

    As an aside, a new Town Hall poll shows “conseravtive” readers overwhelmingly think Reid should go. They apparently value the thrill of seeing an opponent suffer over developing political wisdom. They are the sorts of shallow and stupid people who practically worship Sarah Palin.

  • jack

    Whenever something like this happens the asses come out of the woodwork…'yes, this does expose the double standard, but we shouldn't stoop to playing that game blah blah blah'

    Understand, fools, that by excoriating those on you own side who seek to hold Democrats to the same standard they hold us to is NOT helping. In fact, it enables and empowers that double standard.

    Jumping on Republicans and conservatives who want to make Reid pay like so many Republicans have paid enforces the idea that it's ok when Democrats make racial indiscretions–as long as their insincere apologies are backed by the media.

    And since we ACTUALLY kick out the racists who arise in our midst occasionally, or reprimand insensitive remarks it appears that the only party that suffers from real racism is the Republicans.

    But look closely at Reid's remark–it was aimed at Democrats, it was about Democrat voters–who will feel more comfortable with a light skinned, articulate negro than with a dark skinned, more colloquial African-American. Understand, Reid's comment SPOKE TO ATTITUDES WITHIN THE DEMOCRAT PARTY.

    Think about that.

    in your midst

  • kaleokualoha

    Where do you find any such “pernicious smear that any and all comments about race, however innocuous, must be treated as an act of racism”? That seems like a gross exaggeration of any established position, and is a creative redefinition of “racism.”

    “Race-baiting” is the unfounded attribution of racist motivation, whereas “racism” involves treating people differently because of race (racial discrimination), or assessing value based on race (racial prejudice). Falsely accusing anyone of racism is itself race-baiting.

  • RHG

    Bullcrap, you fight fire with fire. Rolling over and letting the Democrats always have the upper hand when it comes to race-baiting is a loser. You stick it to them as hard as they like to stick it to Republicans

  • johncarens

    I frankly don't find anything wrong with arguing that the modern Democrat party IS the party of the racists, the bigots, the small-minded, the sexists, and the homophobes. These statist radicals view all political equations in terms of groups, and, as the shallow, emotional thinkers they are, look primarily at externals.

    Also, I think if anyone has a brief against Sugar Ray Reid it's Michael Steele, who was the victim of a racially-tinged whispering campaign in his Maryland senate race, and who also clearly falls outside the yardstick of Reid's color-hue chart.

    Having said this, though , I agree that we should not jump down into the slime-pit with the Democrats, if for no other reason than we want Reid's to be the face of Democrat arrogance and hubris right up until the November election. We don't want him going ANYWHERE until the voters of Nevada ash-can him this autumn– he is so vulnerable he makes The Little Mermaid look like George Foreman.

    Republicans always loose this battle BECAUSE they engage it. OF COURSE there's a double standard; OF COURSE the press treats Republicans unfairly. OF COURSE the sky is blue. What else is new? What they ought to be doing is responding with a little Reagan and saying, “Well, there you go again. Reid's little tid-bit in this silly book isn't news. This is the way all Democrats see the world, and Reid just let it slip. So what? REPUBLICANS DON'T VIEW THE WORLD LIKE SENATOR REID DOES. We see sovereign individuals created in the image of God. Democrats like Reid see various skin tones, and hear various dialects.”

    But, saying these sorts of things requires a bit of political confidence. Let's see if the Republicans can dig some up this year.

  • Suebee

    For Heaven'sake stop. Do Republicans shoot their wounded???__Reid deserves anything he gets. He is grinding this Country into the ground and you want to defend him??!!
    I would feel sorry for him, but I see the way he "kisses" up to Obama, that's two-faced.
    How do you believe someone like him, that speaks out of both sides of his mouth and is doing the evil things to our Country that he is doing. He needs to be held accountable just like others have been.

  • Kaleokualoha

    USMCSniper wrote "Obama learned this racist ideology during his formative years from his mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, a self-admitted communist and sexual deviant, and most certainly a racist—the kind that blacks say cannot exist."

    Davis was not a racist. He believed in racial integration. He had five children with his white wife. He did not believe in treating people differently due to race (racial discrimination) or assessing value based on race (racial prejudice). What proof do you have that he was a racist? (Please include the definition of "racist" that meets your example).

    • USMCSniper

      Here is your definition. Racism is the dispensing and/or withholding of privileges e.g., (affirmitive action, set asides, diversity hiring mandates, etc.,..) and/or punishments (e.g., moratoriums on scheduled black death penalties, leniency on black juveniles) based on a person's race.

  • SeattleBruce

    "One expects these kinds of tactics from Democrats. Republicans, though, are supposed to be the adult party. "

    I'm not yet sure what I think about this whole imbroglio, but one thing is sure, the Democrat party are complete hypocrites about the matter. That in and of itself is reason to have said something, although the Republican leadership should drop this now and move on.

    Now, when the Democrats bring some specious racist charge in the future, we should totally point out Reid's hypocrisy, as well as many others on the Democrat side, in order to establish humanity and intelligence again into the debate – which I think is Laskin's point.

  • Bobbi

    Now that the subject is front and center, Republicans are likely, once again, to squander the opportunity. Barbara Lee and other Democrats have made the point that Harry Reid can't possibly be racist because he supports healthcare "reform" and other policies that "benefit" minorities. NOW is the time to point out how these very policies actually harm minorities and institutionalize the insidious racism inherent in the words of Reid and others of his ilk.

  • Kaleokualoha

    Although not posted here, I received email notification that USMCSniper responded: "Here is your definition. Racism is the dispensing and/or withholding of privileges e.g., (affirmitive action, set asides, diversity hiring mandates, etc.,..) and/or punishments (e.g., moratoriums on scheduled black death penalties, leniency on black juveniles) based on a person's race. "

    Based on this (or's) definition, how are either Davis or Reid "racist"? Neither advocated dispensing/withholding privileges or punishments based on race.

  • Kaleokualoha

    Still waiting to know what sort of "racism" is revealed by Reid's remarks. Or do some people have the delusion that just discussing racial differences constitutes "racism"? Please advise! Thanks!