Thursday, January 14, 2010

Harry Reid's opposition to Jackson, Davis, Jones and Burris - was race a factor?

Harry Reid's now-famous statement [from 2007] that America was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate the likes of Barack Obama -- a "light-skinned" African American "with no Negro dialect", has touched off a firestorm of controversy as to whether Reid may or may not be harboring racial bias.

In January of 2009, a similar, but lesser-known controversy arose with regards to Harry Reid's candidate[s] of choice to fill Barack Obama's vacant senate seat:
Days before Gov. Rod Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn't want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones. [all 3 of whom happen to be African Americans].

Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
From CBS News - Jan. 4, 2009:
The defiant move by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to name a Senate successor to Barack Obama... presents Senate Democrats with a major distraction hanging over their return to Washington this week for the start of the new Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has made clear that he won’t swear in Roland Burris..., who was appointed to the Senate by Blagojevich last week..., and top advisers to Burris are suggesting that Reid doesn’t want an African-American to succeed Obama.

“It’s interesting that all those who are viable are white women and the ones who are unacceptable are black men,” said Prince Riley, a senior consultant to Burris.

Riley was alluding to a Chicago Sun-Times story Saturday indicating that Reid called Blagojevich on Dec. 3... [and] reportedly argued against appointing Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Rep. Danny Davis or state Senate President Emil Jones, all of whom are black, in favor of either state Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth, who is Thai-American, or Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who is white.

“If Mr. Reid and others are offended by his presence, I’m left with no answers,” Riley said. “Sen. Burris is a former attorney general, former comptroller, he has impeccable credentials. Why wouldn’t a man of that character be an asset to the Senate?”

Reid spokesman Jim Manley acknowledged that his boss talked to Blagojevich but deflected a question about Riley’s suggestion that race was a factor in Reid's preferences...
From the Chicago Sun Times - Jan. 2, 2009:
Sources say [Reid] pushed against Jackson and Davis -- both Democratic congressmen from Illinois -- and against Jones -- the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama -- because he did not believe the three men were ELECTABLE. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election...
From the Chicago Tribune - Jan 4, 2009:
A Democratic official familiar with the conversation told the Tribune that Reid expressed "some concern" about whether three potential candidates—U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), U.S. Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Illinois Senate President Emil Jones—could win a statewide election to keep the seat in 2010. All three are black. The official said Reid expressed greater confidence in the prospects of Illinois Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth, who is Asian-American, and state Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, who is white.
From the Las Vegas Sun:
"What is clear to me is that every candidate that was African-American was denied and every other candidate was acceptable", said [Burris] attorney, Timothy Wright.
From Fox News - Jan. 3, 2009:
Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, said Reid needs to explain his actions.

Reid "took the extraordinary step to lobby against two sitting U.S. congressmen and the state Senate majority leader in Illinois, and instead told Gov. Blagojevich that he supported an appointment for an individual who recently lost a U.S. House election," Cornyn said in a written statement, referring to Duckworth.

"The people of Illinois deserve a simple explanation from Sen. Reid," he continued. "Why does he believe these three Illinois officeholders are 'unelectable' to the U.S. Senate?"...

...William Walls of the Committee for a Better Chicago called Reid's opposition to the appointment of Jackson, Davis or Jones, all of whom are black, an act of racism.

"The U.S. Senate is an institution that is primarily white and has been forever and some people are more comfortable with people of their own kind," Walls told "Harry Reid seems to be one of those people."
From CNN's Political Ticker - Jan. 1, 2009:
Senate Democratic leaders think Roland Burris, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's pick to fill President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat, will likely show up on Capitol Hill Tuesday for the opening day of Congress, according to a Democratic aide familiar with Senate Democratic leaders' plans.

They have prepared a contingency plan in case he does, the aide added. Burris will not be allowed on the Senate floor, according to this aide and a Senate Democratic leadership aide.

The aide familiar with Senate Democratic leaders' plans said if Burris tries to enter the Senate chamber, the Senate doorkeeper will stop Burris. If Burris were to persist, either trying to force his way onto the Senate floor or refusing to leave and causing a scene, U.S. Capitol Police would stop him, said the aide.
From the Gill Report - Jan. 12, 2009:
When... Governor Rod Blagojevich defiantly chose to appoint former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate... he put the Democrats in the Senate between the proverbial racial rock and a hard place. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has made it clear that he will not allow Burris to be sworn in on Tuesday when the Senate assembles: but will he physically block Burris from the floor of the Senate?

On June 11, 1963, Alabama’s Governor George Wallace kept a campaign pledge to stand in the schoolhouse door to block integration of the state’s public schools. Governor Wallace physically stood in the doorway to block the attempt of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, to register at the University of Alabama. When President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard and ordered its units to the university campus, Wallace stepped aside and allowed the black students to enter. As a result of the incident, Wallace became a... pariah. Does Reid want to follow his lead by blocking the only black Senator from the Senate floor?...
"[Reid]... 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."

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