The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

The Rave

September 5, 2012

GOP must confront foot-in-blog syndrome

Mark Harris's foot-in-blog moment in which he posted that he was "offended" that he encountered a "Mexican" working in the American pavilion at Epcot before traveling to the Republican National Convention in nearby Tampa was just one of the oddball displays of tasteless conduct at the convention.

Earlier in the week, another attendee at the convention was ejected for throwing peanuts at a black woman working for a cable news network.

The comments come as the Republican Party tries to argue convincingly that voter ID legislation is not intended to disenfranchise urban and minorities who may be more likely to vote for Democrats and less likely to hold driver's licenses that would serve as suitable identification.

After the story was published, Harris posted a clarifying statement that gave little ground.

"I would say being offended may been too harsh, disappointed or dismayed may have been a better choice of words," he wrote.

Monday, he submitted a letter to the editor in which he declined to apologize for the blog post and attacked his fellow Republicans who had criticized his comments.

Harris just does not get it.

There is history here worth acknowledging. There is no love lost between Mark and Irene Harris and the Snyder County commissioners Malcolm Derk and Joe Kantz.

The Harrises and the commissioners represent dueling factions of the county's Republican Party generally engaged in squabbles of little interest to the general public. It is possible that if any member of the GOP had made the comments, Kantz and Derk may have been just as vociferous in their criticism. Whether the commissioners relished the opportunity to attack Harris is beside the point. Harris' comments were an embarrassment to the Republican Party and to Snyder County. His defiant refusal to acknowledge his misstep indicates the problem was no momentary lapse in judgment.

Small-minded nativism should not belong in the party of Lincoln.

This is no matter of right-left ideological divide, it is a matter of common decency. If Harris does not understand that, he has no place representing a major political party.

Republicans ought to examine the way the party selects those who attend the national convention and otherwise represent the GOP.

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