January 10, 2010

RNC Chairman Michael Steele offered a non-apology apology Sunday for using the term "honest injun."

Wednesday, Steele was speaking to Sean Hannity about his new book, "Right Now: A 12-step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda." The RNC Chairman told Hannity, "Our platform is one of the best political documents that's been written in the last 25 years. Honest injun on that."

Members of his own party immediately spoke out against him. Rep. Tom Cole called Steele's remarks "unacceptable" and said, "It's an offensive phrase in the Native American community."

His mea culpa came less than a day after the revelation that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid used the term "negro" when discussing then-Senator Barack Obama with reporters.

The revelation comes as the new book has disclosed deeply damaging comments Reid made to the reporters, where he said the country was ready for a black president - particularly one that was "light-skinned" with no "Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." Reid immediately apologized for his remarks, and Obama and other Democrats have come to his defense.

Steele said the remarks shouldn't be held to the same standard and called for Reid to resign, a stance the rest of the GOP party is only too happy to echo.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (R-Texas) said it would be "entirely appropriate" for the Nevada Democrat to relinquish his leadership post over comments about Barack Obama's skin color and lack of a "Negro dialect."

And like Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl — both of whom also called for Reid's resignation Sunday — Cornyn suggested that any Republican who said what Reid said would be under attack from Democrats, leading African-Americans and the media.

Steele called for the Majority Leader to step down Sunday. "I think he should," he told Fox News' Chris Wallace. Steele complained that former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was forced to step down when he praised Strom Thurmond who ran as a segregationist for president in 1948. Lott said the country would not have had "all the problems" it had if more people had voted for Thurmond.

"The reality is there is this standard where the Democrats feel they can say these things and they can apologize when it comes from the mouths of their own," said Steele. "But if it comes from anyone else, it's racism. It's either racist or it's not."

But apparently that standard doesn't hold up when it comes to Steele's "honest injun" remark. "The reality of it is that's not the same," Steele told Wallace.

(Nicole:) While Steele may have a point in saying that his flippant use of an old colloquialism doesn't rise to the same level as Harry Reid's tin-eared comments, he's wrong that Reid's statements are the same as Trent Lott's wistful nostalgia for the days before the civil rights movement. There's no question that Reid's statements--in front of reporters, no less--are clunky and stupid. However, without excusing them, what Reid said is actually not dissimilar to discussions had in every campaign war room when discussing the pros and cons of candidates. There's a world of difference between that--however inartfully expressed--and praising a politician for his work to sustain the days of Jim Crow.

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