The Senate has its own Dirty Harry. When it comes to ham-handedly exploiting the sensitive and divisive issue of race to score cheap political points, Majority Leader Harry Reid can get down in the mud and wrestle with the worst of them.
The Nevada Democrat has the habit of, every now and then, making a cynical but clumsy pitch for minority voters by painting Republicans as hostile to them. The message is: "You have to vote for us, because you can't very well vote for them."
Reid got muddy again recently when he accused Senate Republicans of being on the wrong side of the health care reform debate - and then drew an unfortunate comparison.
"Instead of joining us on the right side of history," Reid said, "all Republicans can come up with is this: `Slow down, stop everything, let's start over.' If you think you've heard these same excuses before, you're right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said: `Slow down, it's too early, let's wait, things aren't bad enough."
This is not a misprint. Reid is so eager make history that apparently he never got around to studying it. Republicans were the political party that ended slavery, over the stringent objections of Democrats. And for the better part of the 20th century, it was Republicans who stood beside African-Americans as they pursued their constitutional birthright to equal justice under the law.
During the modern civil rights movement, it was Democratic Gov. Orval Faubus of Arkansas who in 1957 refused to allow the court-ordered desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock. (Republican President Dwight Eisenhower sent in the soldiers of the 101st Airborne to integrate the school.) It was Democratic Gov. Ross Barnett of Mississippi who tried to keep James Meredith from becoming the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. It was Democratic Gov. George Wallace of Alabama who made his famous stand in the schoolhouse door to try to prevent a group of black students from enrolling at the University of Alabama.
So Reid is wrong about the history. But that's not the half of it. The really offensive part of Reid's racial ploy is that he thought he could get sufficient mileage from it. A few days later, instead of apologizing for his remarks, he repeated them.
Reid has shown himself to be a lazy politician who prefers shortcuts to rolling up his sleeves and doing actual outreach to minority voters. He'd rather portray Republicans as racist than take on teachers unions by giving vouchers to disadvantaged black students at failing schools or demanding more accountability from teachers. (CONTINUES HERE)