The Washington Post reports that a Muslim Democrat running for a U.S. House seat in Nevada says Harry Reid encouraged him to end his campaign because “a Muslim cannot win this race.” Reid reportedly made this statement during a private meeting last year.
Reid’s spokeswoman confirms that the meeting took place but denies that her boss made such a comment. She calls the candidate — Jesse Sbaih — “a liar.”
Immediately following the meeting Sbaih sent an email to a top Reid aide. He wrote:
As an American citizen who deeply loves his country, I am profoundly disheartened and saddened that the Democratic Party is refusing to accept a candidate like me because of my religion and ethnicity. It’s distressing to hear that my religion and ethnicity somehow disqualify me from running for a congressional seat despite everything that I have accomplished and contributed to our country and its people.
Reid’s aide responded:
[T]his was never about the Democratic Party not embracing your ethnicity or religion….it was about how to create a path and a base of support so you could withstand the attacks that we knew would inevitably come from the opposing side.
The “path” that, in the words of Reid’s aide, “would ultimately help you in your long term political and professional goals” consisted of being appointed to some commission in lieu of running for Congress.
Did Reid tell Sbaih that he shouldn’t run for Congress because, as a Muslim, his prospects of winning were poor? Jon Ralston, the dean of Nevada political reporters, says “the man who has a gaffe catalog thicker than War and Peace will have a hard time getting people to believe he’s not capable of saying it.”
Whatever Reid’s precise words, it was clearly Sbaih’s takeaway that he shouldn’t run because of his religion. Reid will have an even a harder time convincing people that this isn’t what he intended to convey.
There’s actually nothing wrong with the kind of political calculation that Reid stands accused of engaging in. Why shouldn’t he, as Party boss, discourage the candidacy of a man who, for whatever reason, is unlikely to succeed?
Only in the twisted world of political correctness is Reid’s sentiment, however he expressed it, problematic. But if it’s a problem for Reid, and for Democrats hoping to win the open seat Sbaih seeks, how can we complain?