Harry Reid's Future (And Michael "Fried Chicken" Steele's Double Standard)

Harry Reid’s not going anywhere – at least not before the midterms.

The Senate Majority Leader is in a bit of trouble for racially insensitive remarks he made during the 2008 campaign that have just now been made public. Reid said that Obama would win despite his race because he is “light-skinned” and speaks “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” The GOP reaction is exactly what you would expect:

In an interview with POLITICO, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) said it would be "entirely appropriate" for the Nevada Democrat to relinquish his leadership post over comments about Barack Obama's skin color and lack of a "Negro dialect."

And like Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl — both of whom also called for Reid's resignation Sunday — Cornyn suggested that any Republican who said what Reid said would be under attack from Democrats, leading African-Americans and the media.

“There’s a big double standard here,” Steele said during an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “What’s interesting here, is when Democrats get caught saying racist things, an apology is enough. If that had been [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying that about an African-American candidate for president of the president of the United States, trust me, this chairman and the [Democratic National Committee] would be screaming for his head, very much as they were with Trent Lott.”

Steele added that "There has to be a consequence here if the standard is the one set in 2002 with Trent Lott.” That's a big if, my friend.

There are three obvious reasons why Reid won’t resign as Majority Leader despite Lott's precedent. First, Lott had a history of racial insensitivity; Reid has no such thing. Gaffes are usually only an issue when they reinforce an existing image, and while the southern senator had an already-spotty history on racial issues, the boxer from Searchlight doesn’t have that problem.

Second, Lott was speaking about policy whereas Reid was analyzing the country’s electoral abilities (and may well have been right). That doesn’t excuse his language - the word “negro” is quite historical anachronism, and he was right to apologize – but as much as rhetoric does matter, we’re not exactly talking deep substance here.

Finally, Lott lacked the support of the President, a President from his own party, but Barack Obama has made it clear that he continues to back Reid (as do both Al Sharpton and Rep. James Clyburn, the highest ranking African American in Congress. And seriously, if even Al Sharpton doesn't find something overly offensive, isn't the discussion kind of over?).

Forget Trent Lott. The real double standard here is that Michael “I got the fried chicken” Steele, he of the “honest Injun” remarks, gets to get away with criticizing Reid over the whole affair.

Of course, this isn’t the only important Harry Reid story out this weekend. He’s not going anywhere before the midterms, but a new poll shows that the Majority Leader’s November woes continue to deepen. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Reid’s favorable-unfavorable is now 33-52, down from December’s 49-38. His three potential Repub opponents lead him by margins of 10, 8, and 5, with all three gaining well over 50% of Independent votes. Worst of all, this poll was taken before the "negro" quote was made public. It is for this reason – electoral math, not racial insensitivity – that even Markos is now calling for Reid to resign his leadership position and retire from the Senate. Not going to happen, but certainly troubling for the Majority Leader.

Losing America, Left versus Right

It's hard to take an article posted on the World Net Daily seriously but the fact that its author is Pat Buchanan lends it a measure of importance. After all, Pat Buchanan is a two-time Presidential candidate and now the self-appointed spokesman for the increasingly besieged white American. I won't dispute the fact that many white Americans feel their lifestyle under siege. They do feel that way and it is, but not for the reasons the right would have us believe nor is it limited to white Americans as Pat would have us believe.

Here's the crux of Pat's complaint:

In their lifetimes, they have seen their Christian faith purged from schools their taxes paid for, and mocked in movies and on TV. They have seen their factories shuttered in the thousands and their jobs outsourced in the millions to Mexico and China. They have seen trillions of tax dollars go for Great Society programs, but have seen no Great Society, only rising crime, illegitimacy, drug use and dropout rates.

They watch on cable TV as illegal aliens walk into their country, are rewarded with free educations and health care and take jobs at lower pay than American families can live on - then carry Mexican flags in American cities and demand U.S. citizenship.

They see Wall Street banks bailed out as they sweat their next paycheck, then read that bank profits are soaring, and the big bonuses for the brilliant bankers are back. Neither they nor their kids ever benefited from affirmative action, unlike Barack and Michelle Obama.

They see a government in Washington that cannot balance its books, win our wars or protect our borders. The government shovels out trillions to Fortune 500 corporations and banks to rescue the country from a crisis created by the government and Fortune 500 corporations and banks.

America was once their country. They sense they are losing it. And they are right.

The Christian faith purged charge is disingenuous because Pat knows that there is separation of Church and State in this country. What he is objecting to is the teaching of evolution, or the fact that we won't allow creationism disguised as science to be taught in public schools, and that apparently threatens their world. But most of Pat's complaints are economic in nature, though he does so effortlessly descend into a noxious xenophobia. He complains about "factories shuttered,""jobs outsourced,""bank bailouts,""unbalanced books" and "trillions to Fortune 500 companies."

Pity that Pat Buchanan doesn't realize that he voted for that agenda when he voted for Ronald Reagan. Because his litany of complaints, at least on the economic front, are all traceable to policies enacted by Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party.

But Pat's rant is actually quite a race card throwback to the 1970s. It was sinister then and it is sinister now. Historian Matthew Frye Jacobson back in 2006 published a seminal work entitled Roots Too: White Ethnic Revival in Post-Civil Rights America. In it, Dr. Jacobson described how the then nascent conservative movement played on white fears through attacks on the social aspects of Great Society programs such as affirmative action. Pat plays that card and follows with the free healthcare and education for illegal aliens, the favorite term of the right for undocumented workers.

And funny how illegitimacy, drug use and dropout rates are all generally higher in red state America than they are in blue state America. The states with the highest born out-of-wedlock are the District of Columbia (technically not a state), New Mexico, Mississippi, Louisiana and South Carolina. Drug use is a mix bag and harder to measure but Rhode Island (closely followed by Alaska and Arizona) has the highest percentage of regular illicit drug users and Iowa the lowest. The highest high school drop out rates are in Louisiana, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada and Arizona, the lowest drop rates are in New Jersey, Connecticut, North Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. The problems Pat complains about while national are deeper in the red states.

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Obama's Quiet Revolution

There are books that stay with you a lifetime and one of these for me was a work by Chalmers Johnson entitled Revolutionary Change which I read as a lowly freshman in college. The book was so impactful that when it came time to pursue graduate work, I sought to study under Professor Johnson. Written in 1966, the book is a study of social and revolutionary movements and its core thesis is that true revolutionary change implies an underlying change in the values of society.

While I still have my moments of skepticism about the extent of transformative nature of the President's political agenda, I am buoyed by the fact the President is changing hearts and minds on a wide array of social issues. There is change in the air, some of it subtle and some of it more pervasive. A new survey from the New York Times and CBS News suggests that Barack Obama, the man and the President, is having an effect on American values. It's a quiet revolution but revolutionary nonetheless.

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Pat Buchanan Speaks for 'White America'

Last week, I noted that CNBC analyst and CBOT trader Rick Santelli's televised rant presaged a revival of white ethnic politics by the right and the GOP. To prove my point that Mr. Santelli is not likely to be an isolated outburst as if on cue here's Pat Buchanan adding to our national 'conversation' with a short column for that widely read and must read publication Catholic Citizens:

Barack says we need to have a conversation about race in America . Fair enough. But this time, it has to be a two-way conversation. White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to. This time, the Silent Majority needs to have its convictions, grievances and demands heard. And among them are these:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known. Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American.

Second, no people anywhere have done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ' 60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream. Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks -- with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas -- to advance black applicants over white applicants. Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated their time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude???

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Why is Oscar Grant not more famous?

Warning this video is graphic.

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