Harry Reid Apologizes To Obama

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The White House has just put out this statement:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2010

STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT

“Harry Reid called me today and apologized for an unfortunate comment reported today. I accepted Harry’s apology without question because I’ve known him for years, I’ve seen the passionate leadership he’s shown on issues of social justice and I know what’s in his heart. As far as I am concerned, the book is closed.”

For those of you who are saying, like I did, “Huh?”–here’s the backstory:

Late last night, the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder reported a revelation from “Game Change,” an uncoming book by our colleague Mark Halperin and co-author John Heilemann of New York Magazine:

Among the more fascinating items:

On page 37, a remark, said “privately” by Sen. Harry Reid, about Barack Obama’s racial appeal. Though Reid would later say that he was neutral in the presidential race, the truth, the authors write, was that his

encouragement of Obama was unequivocal. He 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,” as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

That prompted an apology to Obama from Reid, as first reported by Jon Ralston:

I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African Americans for my improper comments. I was a proud and enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama during the campaign and have worked as hard as I can to advance President Obama’s legislative agenda. Moreover, throughout my career, from efforts to integrate the Las Vegas strip and the gaming industry to opposing radical judges and promoting diversity in the Senate, I have worked hard to advance issues important to the African American community.

Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has this to say about the Majority Leader, who is facing a difficult re-election battle this year:

“For those who hope to one day live in a color-blind nation it appears Harry Reid is more than a few steps behind them. Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a long history of embarrassing and controversial remarks by the senior Senator from Nevada. He always shares exactly what’s on his mind with little regard to perception or consequences, and it’s one of the reasons he is the most vulnerable incumbent Senator in either party facing re-election.

“Nevada deserves better from its leaders and this November, voters in the Silver State will have an opportunity to elect a new Senator who will put their views and values first and foremost. In the meantime, we hope Reid’s fellow Democrats in the Senate and on the campaign trail will stand up and rightly condemn these racially insensitive remarks by their elected leader.” – Brian Walsh, NRSC Communications Director

None of this is likely to help Reid’s poll numbers, which are looking pretty dismal:

More than half of Nevadans are unhappy with Sen. Harry Reid, according to a new poll commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s the worst “unfavorable” rating he’s received in the newspaper’s surveys for this year’s election, and it comes amid quiet speculation — or perhaps wishful thinking by his opponents — that it’s time for the Nevada Democrat to retire rather than lose re-election.

In response, Reid told the Review-Journal Friday he wouldn’t consider stepping aside as did Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, whose announcement this week prompted rumors that the Senate majority leader might think about ending his political career now that he’s the most vulnerable incumbent.

“I am absolutely running for re-election,” said Reid, 70, in a statement. “These are difficult times for Nevada and as the majority leader of the Senate I have been able to take action to address those challenges. But I know there is more work to do to turn our state’s economy around and create jobs and I am committed to seeing it through.”

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