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The Republican Party, having so little to defend, has taken another opportunity to go on the attack.

Harry Reid, the Nevada senator who commented that Barack Obama was "light-skinned"and didn't have "a Negro dialect except when he wants to" stands accused of racism. Moreover, this comment is being compared to Trent Lott's praise of Strom Thurmond which resulted in Lott's warmly encouraged retirement from the Senate leadership in 2002. Lott, if you recall, lauded Thurmond's stand on segregation as well as his opposition to making Martin Luther King's birthday a public holiday.

This is among the most outstanding crocks of unadulterated horse puckey in the stacks of the stuff the GOP has been hoarding since "I am not a crook" Nixon.

When running for president, Obama needed all the friends he could get and Reid was one of them. Defending Obama from the opposition of many Democrats, to say nothing of the ravening hoards of Republicans, Reid noted that Obama was light-skinned. Was this racist? Hardly. Those who claim Reid was glossing over Obama's race reminds me of the censor who can find all the naughty words in a book. When you're looking for racism, it's not hard to find. Should he have said "Cafe au lait?" Might he have been subtle - "Sort of like Condoleeza?"

As to the "Negro dialect," what are the Republicans ranting about? Are they saying that there is no such thing? And, if there is, is this something to be ashamed of? British actors, according to a feature article in the New Yorker, often have a hard time learning an American dialect. We think nothing of a New England or a southern dialect (often incorrectly called "accent") or the Texas dialects of the Bush boys. As far as using a dialect "when he wants to," what politician doesn't adapt his or her manner of speaking to match the audience? Jesse Jackson is a prime example. So is Fred Thompson.

So what's left? Reid made a statement that was true. He presented Obama in a way that might make him more electable to a party, and a country, that was not noted for its tendency to elect those who fall outside of a particular set of images. Horrors?

The Republican leadership, casting about desperately for something - anything - to stand for, chose to stand for asininity. Instead of coming up with a recipe for bank reform, for example, they came up with an attack on Harry Reid. This is good Republican logic, since citing the obscene profits bankers are making from our tax dollars would hurt the Repubs as well as the Dems while attacking Reid would let the GOP off the hook completely. Also,  getting rid of Reid would bolster the odds for whatever Republican wanted to replace him should the polls in Nevada turn out to be correct. Bonus: playing the race card while not attacking Obama directly would paint the GOP in moderate shades of tolerance. What makes the thing asinine is what they're attacking. Reid is no more a racist than most Americans - winning is more important than anything else, including what color you are.

Comparing Harry Reid's comments to Trent Lott's defense of Strom Thurmond's stand on segregation is absurd.

Originally posted to boguseconomist on Mon Jan 11, 2010 at 01:21 PM PST.

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