Opinion: Democrats launch counterattack to save Harry Reid


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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has already apologized for saying, during the 2008 campaign, that Barack Obama could win because, while black, he was ‘light-skinned’ and lacked a ‘Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’

But Republicans, salivating over the sight of blood in the water, are still clamoring for Reid to step down from his leadership post, as then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott did after he suggested in jest that the nation would have been better off if then-segregationist Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948.


Now, Democrats are launching a counter-attack to save Reid from his comments about Obama, disclosed over the weekend in ‘Game Change,’ a campaign book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann that dishes dirt on everybody. (More on that in a later post).

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This morning, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said again that the president wants Reid -- who is crucial to Obama’s healthcare agenda -- to stay. ‘He knows Harry Reid. He trusts Harry Reid. And Harry Reid has absolutely the confidence of the president and the rest of the Democratic caucus to do the job that he needs to do as Senate majority leader and as senator of Nevada,’ Emanuel said on MSNBC’s spirited new ‘Daily Rundown’ show.

Later today, Politico reports, Reid’s allies plan to distribute the NAACP vote ratings of Republican senators who have pounded on him -- on issues such as minimum wage, community-oriented policing, education funding and HIV/AIDS programs.

Separately, the Congressional Black Caucus plans to issue a new statement today defending Reid and brushing back Republicans. “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,” said Democrat Barbara Lee of Oakland.

The odd thing about the controversy is that Reid has said disparaging things about Obama before. As the Ticket reported last May, Reid disclosed in his own book -- ‘The Good Fight: Hard Lessons From Searchlight to Washington’ -- that told the Washington Post that the first time he heard about Barack Obama, he was underwhelmed.

The Senate majority leader said he was working out in the House gym when former Illinois Democrat Abner Mikva started lobbying Reid to support the little-known Obama, then a mere state senator, in a crowded 2004 primary for U.S. Senate. ‘I wanted to laugh, but I didn’t want to be impolite,’ Reid said. ‘I just put him off.’


In another disclosure, Reid wrote that after Obama, then a first-year senator, gave a speech analyzing the flaws in President Bush‘s Iraq policy, Reid told him the speech was phenomenal. ‘And I will never forget his response. Without the barest hint of braggadocio or conceit, and with what I would describe as deep humility, he said quietly: ‘I have a gift, Harry.’

Reid told reporters that his wife told him not to include that in the book because it might seem like a slur.

Maybe instead of resigning Reid should start listening to his wife.

-- Johanna Neuman

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