Casualty of Capitalism

Exiled into Wilmington, Delaware by virtue of corporate layoffs. (Note: Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this blog are Copyright 2005, Michael Collins, and cannot be used without permission.)

Location: Wilmington, Delaware, United States

Graduate of University of Maryland School of Law; University of Maryland, College Park (Economics/Political Science).

Monday, December 13, 2004

The Charges Heat Up

How long before we start seeing the Sen. Harry Reid Minority Leadership post Death Pools? It didn't take too long for Trent Lott to step down in 2002 as Majority Leader after he made a bizarre comment at Strom Thurmond's last birthday bash that lead to his detractors to call for his "racist" head. How soon before Harry Reid takes his own tumble? (By the way, where is Al Gore's righteous indignation on this one? Or does anyone even care what Al Gore thinks anymore?)

These comments from black conservative Armstrong Williams are some of the more heated and direct comments I have seen yet:

[Justice Clarence Thomas'] willingness to embrace the complex social problems before him—rather than simply saying we’re owed reparations-- is a lot more thoughtful than anything Senator Reid has ever whistled out of his mouth.

Yet, there is Senator Reid on TV dismissing Thomas with these infuriatingly reductive comments. Sadly, many Americans agree with him. Not because Reid is right. But because such remarks give the latent racists in our society an excuse to say about black conservatives what they think about all black people.

Of course, Senator Reid would never say such reductive and latently racist things about Jesse Jackson or Al Shaprton. Why? These men certainly are not our best and brightest. But they’re the ones that are elevated. Meanwhile those black people who are smart enough to form their own unique views on complex social circumstances are savaged. Everyone laughs when newspapers run comics comparing Condoleezza Rice to Aunt Jemima. People bob their heads in agreement when Harry Belafonte calls Colin Powell an Uncle Tom. No one talks about how this is the first time in this country’s history that a black man is in charge of worldwide diplomacy or a black woman in charge of keeping us secure. That is profound, but all we get from people like Reid are derisive snorts. And everyone gives him a free pass because his remarks are directed at black conservatives. This never happens with white people. They only reserve this treatment for black people. Hispanic appointees aren’t marginalized like this. No one dared call Miguel Estrada a sell-out. But when the Black Commentator called Judge Janice Rogers Brown a “Jim Crow era judge in natural blackface," no one batted an eye.

Senator Reid’s remarks about Justice Thomas are no different than using the "N-word" to sum up an individual. This needs to end now.

By "this" I assume he also means Harry Reid's tenure as Senate Minority Leader.

Reid's resignation as Senate Minority Leader would make him the third major leader in Congress to step down in the face of scandal after a very brief tenure during the last six years. As mentioned above, Republican Trent Lott stepped down not too long after re-ascending to the leadership of the majority party in the Senate after making the vague statement with racist connotations mentioned above (he had been the Senate Minority Leader since Jim Jeffords deprived the Republicans of the majority party status shortly after Bush's first election, when Jeffords defected from the Republican party to Independent status and gave the Democrats a slight advantage at 50-49-1).

In 1998, Newt Gingrich stepped down from the House speakership amid swirling allegations of marital infidelity and the steady loss of confidence in his leadership after the government shut down debacle. In his place, Bob Livingston became speaker-elect. But even before he was sworn into the role, allegations that HE engaged in an extra-marital affair derailed his ambitions, and he stepped down (this amid the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, Livingston hoped to be an "example" that Clinton "will follow"). Livingston was replaced by current House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois.

(As an aside, the article linked in the previous paragraph, in retrospect, is hilarious. First, there is the Newt Gingrich marital situation (his wife at the time was dying of cancer, but Newt was dealing with it by getting busy with his girlfriend and now current wife) that isn't spelled out in the article, but is the reason for Livingston seeking the speakership. Then Livingston steps down for his own infidelity. But he's doing so as a lesson for Cheater-in-Chief Bill Clinton in regards to the Lewinsky situation. Also not mentioned in the article, reports later surfaced that Clinton's spiritual counselor through the Lewinsky mess, Rev. Jesse Jackson, was secretly supporting his own illegitimate kid. While all this was going on, Larry Flynt was offering millions for dirt on Republicans' extramarital affairs. And as the perfect, pathetic finale to this sordid (ahem) affair, Klansman David Duke declared his candidacy for Livingston's seat. Is there any doubt that George W. Bush's classy leadership has, by example, removed much of the Jerry Springer atmosphere of the 1990's DC?)

So what will happen to Reid? I think if the Republicans choose to force the issue, they could have Reid's resignation in short order. Personally, I am uncomfortable with this game. Pols played it in the 90's and it resulted in much of the divisiveness we see inside the Beltway. Bernard Kerik's resignation this week is another symptom. How many potential leaders with trivial skeletons in their closets are likely to step into the political ring with the threat of a mud-slinging battle breaking out? With the best and the brightest eschewing politics for other endeavors, we are left only with the feeble-minded and power-hungry.

I like what former House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt said in 1998 upon Livingston's resignation:

"We need to stop destroying imperfect people at the altar of an unattainable morality," Gephardt said.

Although Gephardt's statement is misplaced in its context (I don't think being faithful to one's wife is "unattainable"), the sentiment is right in general. High standards should be required of our leaders. But we should make sure to separate true scandal from the trivial misstep. Everyone makes mistakes, and not all of them should be career killers.

Do Sen. Reid's comments on Justice Thomas signal the end of his tenure as Senate Minority Leader? Time will tell.


Post a Comment

<< Home