Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told the Asian Chamber of Commerce last week: "The Asian population is so productive. I don't think you're smarter than anybody else, but you've convinced a lot of us you are." In remarks videotaped by the GOP group America Rising, Reid also joked that he has trouble keeping his "Wongs straight." Then followed this apology: "My comments were in extremely poor taste, and I apologize. Sometimes I say the wrong thing."
Sometimes? Reid is being far too humble.
After the perfunctory apology, then comes the phase when Beltway solons offer explanations for why the Senate's top Democrat can be the author of many a faux pas without being branded as a creepy kook. The Washington Post's Aaron Blake wrote that Reid is "like Joe Biden; he's almost built up a gaffe immunity by committing so many small-ish gaffes."
Republican Sarah Palin's many ill-considered words define her in Washington. But Democrat Reid gets gaffe immunity. He just keeps running off at the mouth and then apologizing, but he never really has to worry about paying a heavy political price. He's a ruthless politician, yet Washington treats him as if he were this regular guy -- but with a tact problem.
Reid's comments to the Asian Chamber of Commerce weren't hateful -- unless, that is, you belong to an ethnic group that the sage of Searchlight, Nevada, believes is not so productive. These remarks are reminiscent of what he said in 2008 about Barack Obama's being electable as a "light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." In 2010, Reid had to apologize for his "poor choice of words" after they found their way into "Game Change," the groundbreaking expose of the presidential race written by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann.
Reid also dismissed Justice Clarence Thomas as an "embarrassment to the Supreme Court."
It must be so, because Reid is so enlightened about people of color that he ventured to opine in 2010, "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican."
In 2012, Reid charged that Mitt Romney "didn't pay taxes for 10 years." PolitiFact rated that claim "pants on fire" false -- but it served to muddy Romney's reputation under cover of Reid's gaffe immunity.
He once complained that Washington's humidity was so high "you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol." Well, he thought it was funny. Reid famously told a reporter that the death of Ted Kennedy would help Democrats pass health care reform.
Once, CNN's Dana Bash asked Reid whether he would vote for a bill to continue National Institutes for Health funding: "If you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?"