By now you know I’m a political junkie. Started during my high school years. I’ve never outgrown it. Some kids followed football or baseball scores and standings; some knew every song on the radio. At the age of 14 or so, I could tell you the names of precinct chairmen in both parties in all of Bend! Yes, they called them “chairmen” then.

Anyone worth the salt in the political junkie business usually has a well-developed sense of people. And issues. If you don’t learn how to read both early on you can support a lot of losers. Or losing causes. To have a life-long love of the game, separating issues from non-issues, should be second nature.

Which is why I’m wondering why all the fuss about what Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) reportedly said privately eight years ago about Barak Obama. Reid is alleged to have said Obama had “light skin” and “didn’t sound like a Negro” unless he chose to. Reid has admitted the words were wrong and apologized. Repeatedly. Obama has called Reid’s remarks a “poor choice of words” and graciously accepted the apology. That should be the end of it.

But the national media and many Republican lime-lighters won’t let it go. It’s being played and replayed ad nauseam along with requests … or demands … that Reid resign from the Senate. Which he shouldn’t. The absurd comparison is made to something former Sen. Trent Lott said at a testimonial dinner for the late Strom Thurmond.

Road apples! There is no comparison. Thurmond was an avowed racist for decades and ran for president as the candidate of an all-white separatist political party. His public statements … to say nothing of his private ones … were openly and completely racist. Lott got in trouble at a dinner for Thurmond when he said America would have been better off if Thurmond, a racist, had won the presidency.

What Reid said was in a conversation in his office. Still, Obama was right to characterize the words as “poor choice,” accept the apology and move on.

Maybe the reason I’m willing to cut Reid some slack on this is because I’ve said worse. And many more times than once. Truth be told, I’ll bet you have, too. Like me, probably more out of ignorance than hate.

Bend, OR, in the 1940s and 50s had one black family with no kids in school. I didn’t know anyone “of color” but, like a lot of teens, I had a stupid mouth at times. I said what everybody else said because “everybody else was saying it.”

In the military in my late teens, I suddenly met lots of “people of color.” My graduate course in race relations came quickly. I was better for it. My first drill instructor was Staff Sgt. Richard Wong from San Francisco. My first roommate was Arturo Lugo from El Paso. My best friend was Robert Strickland, a black Panamanian I supported in getting his American citizenship. My first boss was Master Sgt. Irley Meeks, a 6-foot-5 hard-drinking Cherokee from Oklahoma. I was suddenly living in the United Nations!

During my years as a street reporter in Washington DC, I had lots of racial interaction. Nearly all positive. In the 60s and 70s, hundreds of thousands of people came and went in the city as civil rights marches and anti-war demonstrations filled the broad streets. As I covered all the activities in my 30s, it was like being thrown into a racial and societal blender. You couldn’t spend years in the midst of that without becoming more diverse in your thinking.

Few of us in later life think as we did in our early years. Longevity is a great teacher. Not that there aren’t some who flunk the course, but most of us gradually move from the views we held in our teens. That’s usually given as one reason why most people who have truly conservative outlooks (small “ c”) are older.

I’m not going to carry water for Harry Reid. At his age and with the privileged, well-traveled life he’s led, he’s on his own. He said a dumb thing. Now he’s apologized. The subject of the offensive remarks has accepted and suggested the incident be put in the past. Where it belongs.

Those making so much noise about Reid are not concerned with race relations or propriety. They’re opportunistic, self-serving hacks and voices of discord who are trying to blow this situation into something that will give them or their party some sort of imagined advantage. I hope it doesn’t.

Reid was wrong saying what he said. And whatever we said years ago, so were we.

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