If you play fast and loose with outrage and indignation, you can expect a heavy dose of both over the slightest stumble — or over nothing at all.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was reminded of this last week when he had to apologize for remarks that appeared to offend no one in his presence. During remarks made Thursday in Las Vegas to the Asian Chamber of Commerce, Sen. Reid joked, “I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are.” Then, after being introduced by Terry Wong, the chamber’s president, Sen. Reid quipped, “One problem that I’ve had today is keeping my Wongs straight.”
The audience of about 100 people laughed. “Not one person came up to me and complained,” Mr. Wong said. “They weren’t malicious jokes.”
But when the remarks were posted to the Internet by a conservative organization and the national media were alerted, Sen. Reid was pummeled for making racially insensitive comments. These were quite different from intentionally antagonistic statements Sen. Reid has made about race in the past, but that didn’t matter. On Friday, Sen. Reid apologized, saying his jokes were in “poor taste.”
Of course, Sen. Reid would have led the charge to shame any Republican who said as much. That’s why he was attacked. Sen. Reid aggressively uses racial divisions to raise money, fire up his base and rally voter support. He was whacked upside the head by his own playbook.
Enough fake outrage and empty apologies. We’d love it if politicians everywhere would dial back their insulting dependence on identity politics. We’d love it if every member of Congress would save their outrage and indignation for the very worst things within the political spectrum. ISIS. Corruption. The trampling of Americans’ rights. Failing schools.
And we’d love it if Sen. Reid would go first.