...Apology for racial remarks called sufficient
Democrats on Sunday rallied to the defense of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from a political firestorm caused by his newly reported remarks during the 2008 presidential campaign describing Barack Obama as "light-skinned" who chose to speak "with no Negro dialect."
"I think if you look at the reports as I have, it was all in the context of saying positive things about Senator Obama," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine. "It definitely was in the context of recognizing in Senator Obama a great candidate and future president."
Mr. Reid apologized to Mr. Obama on Saturday, and the president issued a statement accepting the apology and saying he considered the matter closed.
The Nevada Democrat, a pivotal figure in Mr. Obama's hopes of passing a health care reform bill and other top agenda items, said later Sunday that he had no intention of resigning his leadership post or his Senate seat, as Republican lawmakers began demanding Sunday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said Mr. Reid should not resign and defended his remark as just a "mistake."
"Clearly, the leader misspoke. He has also apologized. He's not only apologized to the president, I think he's apologized to all of the black leadership that he could reach," she said. "So the president has accepted the apology, and it would seem to me that the matter should be closed."
In a private conversation reported in a new book, "Game Change" by journalists Mark Halperin of Time and John Heilemann of New York magazine, Mr. Reid described Mr. Obama as an ideal candidate for the 2008 presidential campaign because he was a "light-skinned" black man "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
While Democrats rallied to the Senate leader's side, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele mocked Mr. Kaine's defense and he called on Mr. Reid to resign.
"If [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell had said those very words, then this chairman and this president would be calling for his head, and they would be labeling every Republican in the country a racist for saying exactly what this chairman's just said," Mr. Steele said.
Mr. Steele also compared Mr. Reid's remark to comments by Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, in 2002. Mr. Lott, the Senate majority leader at the time, said at the 100th birthday celebration of 1948 presidential candidate Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina that "if the rest of the country had followed [Mississippi's] lead" in supporting Mr. Thurmond, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years."