Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Private Conversation

"That's a secret private world you're looking into out there. People do a lot of things in private they couldn't possibly explain in public."

Lt. Thomas J. Doyle
Rear Window (1954)

First of all, let me say I am not a fan of Harry Reid. But I don't live in Nevada. I have never lived in Nevada. I have never even been to Nevada. So I have never had to decide whether to vote for him or not. That decision has been left to others.

Nevertheless, it has been clear to observers, both inside and outside Nevada, for quite awhile now that Reid faces an uphill climb in his bid for re–election this year.

The Las Vegas Review–Journal recently reported that Reid trails three likely Republican challengers for his seat.

But Reid's problems with the electorate are independent of the latest flap he's found himself entangled in — which has left him groveling like a severely beaten dog.

I refer to remarks Reid apparently made privately during the 2008 presidential campaign, remarks that are being reported in a new book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.
"He [Reid] was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a 'light–skinned' African American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.' "

Mark Halperin and John Heilemann
Game Change

People are getting all bent out of shape over something that Reid said in private.

I could understand the uproar if Reid had made the comments to a reporter who was holding a microphone in his/her hand. But I don't know if he did or not. Or if he had made the comments in a speech. I know he did not do that.

I haven't read the book so I don't know the context in which Reid made his remarks. Was he answering a question from someone else? Was he volunteering his thoughts on the matter? Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times reports that Reid "made the remark to the authors in the context of praising Mr. Obama's political skills," but that doesn't really answer my questions. Did Halperin and/or Heilemann ask for his assessment? Did he volunteer it?

Zeleny adds, "An aide to Mr. Reid said the comments about how he believed the country would accept Mr. Obama ... were not intended for use in the book."

What I do know is that Reid has dutifully carried the water for the Obama administration for nearly a year. He has been an advocate of health care reform. He supported the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor. He supported the pork–laden stimulus package. Can anyone name a single thing that has originated in the Obama White House that Reid has not supported?

That's a secret private world ...

And, even if, as he now says, he "deeply regret[s]" his choice of words, he was making an assessment of a black politician's chances of winning a national election — something that had never happened before.

In order to make such an evaluation, it would be impossible not to use words that referred to Obama's race — just as, 50 years ago, it would have been impossible to evaluate John F. Kennedy's chances of being elected president without referring to his Catholicism. Like it or not, the issues Reid addressed were expected to be factors in a general election campaign that was months away.

Reid's assessment, by the way, was favorable, a point that seems to get lost in the knee–jerk reactions many on the left are having. "Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination," Halperin and Heilemann write.

Those who have insisted on making this an issue should be reminded that the economic meltdown — which most people believe was the point in the election chronology when Obama began to lock up his victory — didn't happen until after the conventions.

So Reid's concerns about the influence of race on the 2008 election were well founded — whether it is politically correct to acknowledge it today.

And that still doesn't change the fact that Reid's comments apparently were made in confidence, not in public.

That's a secret private world ...

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