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Pundits ponder Reid remarks on “This Week”

Here’s the transcript excerpt from a discussion this morning on ABC News’ "This Week," in which host George Stephanopoulos, columnist George Will, commentator Liz Cheney, Al Hunt of Bloomberg News, Robert Reich of The American Prospect and Judy Woodruff of PBS Newshour discuss Majority Leader Harry Reid’s comments in 2008 about Barack Obama.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Sorry. One of the most endangered Senate Democrats is the leader, Harry Reid, and he got into a little bit of hot water over the weekend. This new book, "Game Change," by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, quotes him in a private conversation, saying that — let’s show it right now. "Reid was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and 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 Reid said privately."

This has already drawn a lot of criticism. Republican Chairman Michael Steele this morning is saying that Reid ought to resign. The president has accepted Harry Reid’s apology.

But Steele himself in some hot water, as well. He’s got a book out this week, a lot of Republicans angry about that. And he’s saying he’s not going to take the criticism anymore.


STEELE: I’m telling him, I’m going to look him in the eye and say, I’ve had enough of it. If you don’t want me in the job, fire me. But until then, shut up. Get with the program, or get out of the way.


STEPHANOPOULOS: Judy, let’s talk about Reid first. He didn’t need this at all, already at 52 percent unfavorable in Nevada, being defeated, behind both his opponents right now.

WOODRUFF: Ouch. He didn’t need this, but, you know, he does have friends in the White House. Somebody very close to the president said to me yesterday, after all this blew up, said, you know, this is the Mormon from Searchlight with an ear of tin and a heart of gold. He’s done some very good things for the White House. They know he’s carried their water on — on health care, and they’re not — they’re not going to put any distance between themselves and Harry Reid.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There had been some talk which Reid — sorry — which Reid tried to squash that he might not even go through with the election in November. You say he’s in the race to stay?

HUNT: Oh, I think he’s in the race to say. This is what Harry Reid does. What else is he going to do? He’s not going to go back to Searchlight. And I think the only hope he has — because his numbers are terrible — is that the dysfunctional, corrupt Republican Party in Nevada. I mean, with the senator, with the governor, I mean, they have more people under indictment or under — and that’s the only thing — it is probably the worst state in the union to make the case against Harry Reid, as unpopular as he is, and that’s his only hope.

REICH: This is — this is the Democrat’s great benefit. I mean, every time they’re in real, real trouble, the Republican Party comes to their aid.

HUNT: Michael Steele…


REICH: And Michael Steele is a good example. This week was basically designed for the Republicans, with the Democratic resignations. I mean, it looked like Democrats in disarray. And Michael Steele comes in, and talk about disarray. He is going rogue.

CHENEY: But, you know, can I just point out that I think one of the things that makes the American people frustrated is when they see time and time again liberals excusing racism from other liberals. And I think that, you know, clearly, Senator Reid’s comments were outrageous. And the notion that they’re being excused…


STEPHANOPOULOS: But in a private conversation that he thought was off the record…

CHENEY: I don’t think racism is OK, George, whether you’re saying it in private or in public. And the excuse of it by liberals, you know, is — is really inexcusable.

But I do think, frankly, you know, he’s given the voters of Nevada yet one more reason to oust him this — this next time around, and I suspect that’s what they’ll do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: George, you’re shaking your head.

WILL: I don’t think there’s a scintilla of racism in what Harry Reid said. At long last, Harry Reid has said something that no one can disagree with, and he gets in trouble for it.

CHENEY: George, give me a break. I mean, talking about the color of the president’s skin…

WILL: Did he get it wrong?

CHENEY: … and the candidate’s…

WILL: Did he say anything false?

CHENEY: … it’s — these are clearly racist comments, George.

WILL: Oh, my, no.


HUNT: … quickly, Liz, I — I think it was certainly an indelicate comment, but, in fact, during the election, there were stories and there were people commenting on Tiger Woods, Adrian Fenty. I mean, I think it’s very unfortunate, but I think there is an element that says that — that — that some — some blacks do better than others because of appearance. I don’t think that’s right…


HUNT: … but I don’t think…


CHENEY: … this may be the way that liberal elites speak to each other in private. It is not the way that people that I know speak to each other in private or public…


HUNT: … no one’s ever accused Harry Reid of being a liberal elite.


CHENEY: … all of us hope that this nation will be one, where we’re judged by the content of our character, and that is not what that comment…


REICH: Before we banter around or use terms like "liberal elites" or "racism," let me just say that race is, unfortunately, still a factor in politics and in this country. We may not like it; we may not want it to be. And in the election, people did talk about race. That does not make them a racist.

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