Why Are the Media Jumping All Over Harry Reid When Bill Cinton’s Comments Are More Offensive?


What, exactly, is so controversial about U.S. Senate majority leader Harry Reid’s comments about Obama?

In an explosive new book, Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime—a behind-the-scenes exposé of the 2008 presidential race, by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin—the Nevada politician was quoted

as predicting that Mr. Obama could become the country’s first black president because he was “light-skinned” and had “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” On Saturday, the senator issued a public statement apologizing for the remark.

I’m gonna go on a limb and argue that 1) lots of, if not most, Black people agree with what Reid said, and 2) most white people do also, but wouldn’t admit it in mixed company. That is, not that these Obama qualities were why he won, but that they were key to him being taken seriously as a presidential candidate.

image-9-for-ted-kennedy-funeral-gallery-133674359Somehow, the statements made by the former, Southern U.S. president, Bill Clinton, right with Obama, are getting less coverage, even though they are far more vile. As noted on the UK Mirror‘s web site, but not in enough other places,

Bill Clinton has sparked fury after allegedly saying of Barack Obama: “A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.”

The ex-president made the outrageous comment during Obama’s Democratic primary race with Clinton’s wife Hillary, a new book claims.

It allegedly came in a phone call with the late Teddy Kennedy, who was said to be “deeply offended”.

Clinton was unavailable for comment yesterday over the claim in a book about the presidential election called Game Change.

Writers John Heliemann and Mark Halperin say Clinton made the call “belittling Obama” the day after he won a key primary in Iowa.

Kennedy was said to be “fuming” as he later related Clinton’s words to a friend.

On FOXNews.com, Al Sharpton separated himself from the pack by criticizing Clinton’s words.

“I think that’s far more disturbing because this is someone seeking to stop Mr. Obama’s campaign and making a direct reference — I don’t know the context in which he said it — but that is far more disturbing to me than even the comments that were made by Mr. Reid,” Sharpton said.

As well, CBS News’ chief political consultant Marc Ambinder spoke with Bob Schieffer and CBS News’ chief legal analyst Jan Crawford on Monday’s edition of CBSNews.com’s “Washington Unplugged,” below, arguing that

screen1 Mr.Clinton’s remark is “more objectionable than anything Harry Reid might have said.”

“This is coming from a former president of the United States and what we know about this comment is it apparently got Ted Kennedy, who spent a lifetime fighting for civil rights, so exercised that not only did he endorse President Obama but he went out of his way to link Obama to the legacy of his brothers,” Ambinder told moderator Bob Schieffer.

Hopefully, the rest of Ambinder’s peers will soon wake up. But don’t hold your breath.



#1 chaircrusher on 01.12.10 at 12:03 am

I thought Harry Reid’s statement sounded like my Mormon relations, who can’t talk about race without sounding clumsy and racist to save their lives, even if they’re trying not to be.

Clinton is just tragic — a guy with true greatness within his grasp, and time and again these stunning lapses in judgement. Makes you wonder what would have happened if he’d had to deal with a real crisis during his presidency.

#2 matt on 01.12.10 at 1:15 am

because it’s not clear at all that clinton actually said that.


#3 unitool on 01.12.10 at 10:25 am

The idea that the Republicans are outraged over this issue is beyond laughable. This is just another chance to exploit a controversy for political gain, and since it is much easier to act outraged than it is to engage in a discussion about peoples lingering biases, they’re ignoring Reid’s point and focusing on his words.

Business as usual.

#4 Shayna on 01.12.10 at 11:14 am

i totally agree with matt. I checked out the UK Mirror website; didn’t strike me as the place I would trust for accuracy–but did appeal to my love of spectacle and drama. Oh yeah, and we can’t check with Ted Kennedy. Hmmm….

#5 Jon on 01.12.10 at 1:11 pm

“I’m gonna go on a limb and argue that 1) lots of, if not most, Black people agree with what Reid said, and 2) most white people do also, but wouldn’t admit it in mixed company. That is, not that these Obama qualities were why he won, but that they were key to him being taken seriously as a presidential candidate.”

I don’t think most Americans, black or white, find it appropriate or necessary to discuss whether or not a black politician has a “Negro dialect” or even to begin characterizing the color tone of his skin. Reid’s statement sounds like something you’d hear from Jesse Helms. Yet because it came from a Democrat, all is well — this is only a minor story that can go away with a mere apology. If a Republican had said this, the race-obsession squad would be out in force calling for resignations. Everyone knows this.

#6 J Robinson on 01.12.10 at 1:58 pm

How often does the term “light-skinned” fly around? In my circle, it’s a sign of ignorant thinking, regardless of who uses it. We know how old Reid is, & how they thought during that time. The only surprise should be how many think the same way today, not that he does. He prefers light skinned black folk, do you (think that way)?

#7 Amos on 01.13.10 at 10:33 am

I definitely agree with Harry on Reid. The statement is clumsy but the man is describing a political reality. In some ways it makes me have more respect for Harry Reid because it shows he understands the racist dynamics of American politics. He wasn’t endorsing those dynamics. He wasn’t praising Obama for having a complexion on the lighter side of the African-American skin tone spectrum, or for speaking without a noticeable African American dialect. He didn’t even use the ever-offensive “well spoken.” He was saying that these qualities make Obama a more electable candidate in our racist country.

It almost seems that the backlash is because it breaks the status-quo. An order in which de-facto racism permeates our landscape, but is not acknowledged on the screens. On the screens, our public officials and advertisers portray a society of racial equality. Are we mad at Harry Reid for his poor word choice, or because he slightly ruptured the placid racial relations of our mass media?

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