By Frank James
Sen. Harry Reid's likening of Republican opponents to Democratic health-care overhaul legislation to foot draggers on slavery has been drawing plenty of conservative fire, including from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.
"It was not a sober moment for Harry Reid at all. In fact, it was an ignorant moment," Steele said on CBS News' Early Show.
"In fact, you know, I'm kind of sick and tired of the left and Democrats in this country when they get into trouble and don't get their way and their backs are up against the wall on legislation or whatever it is they're trying to do, they go to that card, they play that race card, that slavery card, that civil rights card.
"This has nothing to do with health care. If you have a philosophical or political or business disagreement with this administration or Harry Reid on health care, it has nothing to do with the historic roots of slavery. So it was an ignorant comment. Harry needs to go to the well of the Senate, take it back and apologize for offending the sensibilities of the American people on something so important," he told anchor Harry Smith.Anchor Harry Smith asks Steele for a reaction at 2:33 point in the video below.
Conservative web site TownHall.com has the Reid video available on its site.
Watching the entire video, it's obvious that Reid was placing health care in a moral context, saying that it was immoral for people to have lose their homes, be forced into bankruptcy and even die because of the profit-driven motives of health insurers who deny them health care.
Thus he sought to link what he sees as a moral crusade, overhauling health care to reduce these human tragedies, to other moral movements, slavery, women's suffrage and civil rights. By the same logic, anyone who tries to slow or derail the Democrats' health-care overhaul he likens to those who tried to derail those historic moral causes.
What Reid's position seems to ignore, however, is that those opposed to ending slavery or giving women the vote or black civil rights at bottom often did so because of a belief in the racial or gender inferiority of others.
While it's fair to question the motives of some of the opponents of the Democrats' health-care overhaul legislation, many critics actually have legitimate policy differences with the Democrats. Indeed, even some Democrats have differences with their co-partisans.
Will the legislation really cut costs? Will it grow the government too much? Will it create more bureaucracy? How much will it drive up premiums? Or taxes?
These are all legitimate questions being asked by some critics. And that doesn't necessarily make them naysayers resistant to forward march of morality.