By Alexander Bolton - 01/10/10 04:53 PM EST
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a highly respected Democrat from California, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) past comments about the president’s skin color and dialect were a mistake but the matter should be closed.
“Clearly the leader misspoke. He has also apologized. He has not only apologized to the president, I think he’s apologized to all of the black leadership he can reach,” Feinstein said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Some Republicans and journalists have compared Reid’s comments to remarks former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) made in 2002 asserting the nation would have been better off if segregationist candidate Strom Thurmond had won the 1948 presidential election.
Republicans have accused Democrats and liberals of a double standard for not condemning Reid and calling for his resignation.
Feinstein said she was not aware of any Democratic senators “jumping out there and condemning Sen. Lott.”
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.), a veteran GOP lawmaker who also appeared on the program, said Republicans should keep their distance from the controversy.
“This is going to be an issue Democrats that the Democrats are going to have to deal with internally, as to whether these kinds of statements … are appropriate from their leader in the Senate,” said Hoekstra.
Hoekstra’s comments were implicitly critical of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, who called on Reid to follow Lott’s example and resign his leadership position.
Hoekstra said Reid must also judge for himself whether he should maintain his position as a leader in light of the controversial comments.
“It is a Democrat issue, it is a personal issue,” he said. “Republicans ought to stand on the sidelines and let Democrats work through this process.”
Reid has come under strong GOP criticism for telling political journalists in an off-the-record conversation during the 2008 presidential campaign that voters would be willing to accept Obama because was “light-skinned” and had “no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”