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Newsweek's Fineman: GOP Has 'Terrible Record' on Race; 'Pretty Much Everybody' Favors Dems

Newsweek's Howard Fineman appeared on Tuesday's Countdown show on MSNBC to discuss Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's controversial remark that Barack Obama does not have a "negro dialect," and, when asked by host Keith Olbermann why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to comment on the subject, Fineman argued that Republicans are afraid to engage Democrats in a battle over the issue of race relations, charging that they are "going to really look bad." He went so far as to suggest that Americans are nearly unanimous in viewing the Democratic party more favorably on racial issues, and, after citing the low number of minorities at the Republican convention, went on to charge that "fair-minded people" would say Republicans would lose to Democrats in a debate over racial issues.

Fineman claimed that, in addition to African-Americans, "everybody else in the society pretty much" would view Democrats more favorably on the issue:

Republicans don't want to engage in a long, drawn-out discussion of who's more committed to equality in this society, and who has done more politically for the African-American community in the last, oh, say, 40 years or so, because that's an argument and a discussion Republicans are going to really look bad in, and they don't want to continue it. Yes, Harry Reid made a very unfortunate remark, and, yes, it's troublesome, but if you attempt to put the Republican party next to the Democratic party, it's not only African-Americans who are going to look with the Democratic party with favor on questions of race relations but everybody else in the society pretty much, too.

He soon described "fair-minded people" as being those who would side with Democrats on race:

If you really want to get into a discussion of race relations and racial sensitivity, then the Republicans are going to lose. They don't want to fight the battles politically here in Washington over the next few weeks or whenever on that basis, because they're going to lose. They have a terrible record. Barack Obama got 96 percent of the African-American vote 2008. I was at the Republican convention in St. Paul. There were precious few African-Americans there, certainly not very visible. It's not a big part of the Republican agenda. And fair-minded people are going to look at it and say, "Well, if you really want to have this discussion, well, then, the Republicans are going to lose whatever Harry Reid might have said to the guys who wrote that book."


Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the discussion from the Tuesday, January 12, Countdown show on MSNBC:

HOWARD FINEMAN: I think the Republicans' calculations are twofold: Number one, Harry Reid is in trouble politically. From their point of view, they see him as a weakened majority leader - they'd just a soon keep him there. But I think the - that's what they're saying publicly - but I think the real reason is that the Republicans don't want to engage in a long, drawn-out discussion of who's more committed to equality in this society, and who has done more politically for the African-American community in the last, oh, say, 40 years or so, because that's an argument and a discussion Republicans are going to really look bad in, and they don't want to continue it. Yes, Harry Reid made a very unfortunate remark, and, yes, it's troublesome, but if you attempt to put the Republican party next to the Democratic party, it's not only African-Americans who are going to look with the Democratic party with favor on questions of race relations but everybody else in the society pretty much, too.

KEITH OLBERMANN: Something of a glass house thing applying here, too, because I imagine that the chances of this sticking were not helped when Michael Steele of the RNC ended a complaint about something else just last week just before this all broke and concluded his remarks by adding the phrase "honest injun." It really is, It's dicey territory, isn't it?

FINEMAN: Well, yeah, there are loose lips all over the place, but the bigger point is, if you really want to get into a discussion of race relations and racial sensitivity, then the Republicans are going to lose. They don't want to fight the battles politically here in Washington over the next few weeks or whenever on that basis, because they're going to lose. They have a terrible record. Barack Obama got 96 percent of the African-American vote 2008. I was at the Republican convention in St. Paul. There were precious few African-Americans there, certainly not very visible. It's not a big part of the Republican agenda. And fair-minded people are going to look at it and say, "Well, if you really want to have this discussion, well, then, the Republicans are going to lose whatever Harry Reid might have said to the guys who wrote that book."

-Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.