You can bet that one of the first calls Harry Reid made after his “Negro dialect” comments surfaced was to Al Sharpton. Who knows what sort of deal the two worked out, but Sharpton quickly came to Reid’s aid, dismissing the majority leader’s gaffe as a minor blemish on an otherwise pristine record of support for civil rights.In the days since, Sharpton has used his considerable PR skills to Reid’s benefit on various talk shows. Sharpton’s quotes wound up in countless news stories.To some extent, the strategy has worked: If Al Sharpton says you’re not a racist, then what’s the problem?For one thing, Sharpton himself. Now, I take a back seat to no man in my affection for Al Sharpton as a person and a character study evidence here: The league of extraordinary gentlemen. Sharpton is a smart guy. In some ways he’s a good guy. But a moral arbiter? Let’s not get carried away.You could write a book about Sharpton’s brushes with the dark side, and indeed some have. The headlines are faded but still resonant to those who lived them: Tawana Brawley, Crowne Heights, Freddie’s Fashion Mart.If you’re too young to remember the names, spend an hour on Google and treat yourself. But for serious scholars of Sharptonalia, two episodes in particular sum up Sharpton’s public career, and at the same time in one of my least favorite television news cliches Raise Powerful Questions about whether he ought to be wagging a finger at anyone else.