How Harry Reid will fight back

Democrats don't plan to sit around and let Republicans paint the Senate majority leader as a racist

Topics: Harry Reid, War Room, 2010 Census, Game Change, Race, Republican Party,

The plan for Harry Reid’s political defense right now involves playing some offense.

Democrats don’t want to let the Senate majority leader’s inanely phrased musings about why President Obama would appeal to white voters (his light skin and his lack of “Negro dialect,” as you’ve surely heard by now) become any more of a vulnerability for Reid than they already have been. A new poll in Nevada before the quotes came out showed Reid trailing any of his Republican challengers and rated favorably by only 33 percent of voters. Moving quickly past the comments, in “Game Change,” a new book on the 2008 election, could be a matter of political survival for him.

So as the GOP works itself up into ever-higher dudgeon about Reid’s remarks, Democrats are pushing back, aggressively, against his critics. “One thing he’s not going to do is allow Republicans like John Cornyn and Jon Kyl to beat him up over this,” said one source close to Reid’s camp. “You take John Cornyn and Jon Kyl’s NAACP ratings, add them together, spot ‘em 20 points and it still wouldn’t come close to Reid’s.”

Which is true. In 2007-08, the group gave Reid a 90 percent rating, while Cornyn got a 28 and Kyl only a 3. Never, until Reid’s quotes landed in their laps, did the GOP leadership appear to be particularly concerned with scolding politicians who might have offended black voters. Look for Democrats to challenge any Republican who starts calling Reid a racist.

Take Michael Steele, for instance. The Republican National Committee chairman demanded Reid’s resignation this weekend, but as Democrats pointed out, he favored lenience in 2002, when Sen. Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, off-handedly said the country should have elected a segregationist president in 1948. “I know Senator Lott personally and understand him to be compassionate and a tolerant statesman,” Steele said at the time.



The situations aren’t exactly analogous, of course. Reid used painfully antiquated language to talk about why Obama could become the first black president; Lott used no offensive terms, but managed to express a far more inflammatory sentiment. The GOP, though, is trying to equate them as much as possible. And the Democratic pushback isn’t fazing Republicans. “So their argument is that it’s ok to make racially-tinged comments behind closed doors as long as you vote the right way?” said Brian Walsh, a spokesman for the GOP Senate campaign committee. “It just reeks of hypocrisy, particularly in light of the outrage exhibited by Reid and other Democrats in 2002.” Republicans have called just about every Democrat who accepted Reid’s apology this weekend a hypocrite — including Obama, whose reaction to the Lott remarks were blasted around by e-mail by GOP aides on Saturday night.

Still, Democrats don’t seem that nervous about having a debate about which party is more oblivious to the concerns of minority voters. “Race isn’t exactly a great issue for these guys,” the source close to Reid said.

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>