Jonah Goldberg

There is so much to enjoy about the Democrats' Harry Reid problem, and yet I find the whole spectacle horribly depressing.

First, let's recap the bright side. The addlepated and vindictive Senate majority leader is under fire for saying -- according to the new book "Game Change" -- that Barack Obama would make a promising Democratic presidential contender because he's "light-skinned" and can speak "Negro dialect" only when he wants to.

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He deserves the grief. Just last month, Reid insinuated that fellow senators standing in the way of "Obamacare" were carrying on the tradition of the racists who stood in the way of civil rights in the 1960s. That he's been caught talking like one of those racists is a delicious irony.

But irony is one thing. Scalp-hunting is another.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said over the weekend that Reid should step down from his leadership position because of his comments. For this we needed the first African-American head of the Republican Party?

Steele is obviously right that there's a double standard when it comes to such racial gaffes. A Republican says something stupidly offensive or offensively stupid about race and he must be destroyed, even if he apologizes like Henry in the snows of Canossa. But when a Democrat blunders the same way, the liberal establishment goes into overdrive explaining why it's no big deal.

But by demanding Reid's resignation, Steele is making an idiotic, nasty and entirely cynical game bipartisan. Yes, there's a double standard, but the point is that the standard used against conservatives is unfair, not that that unfair standard should be used against Democrats as well.

Whatever Steele's other strengths and weaknesses may be, a major benefit of having a black leader for the GOP was, for me, that Republicans could have a more credible voice in attacking the unfairness of such race-driven scalp hunts. What will Steele's position be when some tired Republican hack politician accidentally says something Reid-like down the road? Shall the GOP, for consistency's sake, demand he or she step down?


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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