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January 2010


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Column: Sen. Reid’s Remark Reminded Me of ATF Official’s “Jew Them Down” Remark

Allan Lengel

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — The revelation in a new book on the 2008 presidential campaign about the stupid remarks Sen. Harry Reid made about President Obama was somewhat of a shocker.

The book “Game Change” reported that Reid “was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” as he said privately.”

It reminded me of an interview I had several years ago with a high ranking ATF official in Washington when I was a reporter at the Washington Post.

I was sitting there with the official and an ATF press spokesman, when I asked the official about undercover drug buys.

“Do you ever bargain over the price with drug dealers? I asked.

The official casually responded: “Sometimes we try to Jew them down.”

I was shocked. I couldn’t look up for a moment as I jotted down notes. I couldn’t believe in Washington — a pretty sophisticated town — that a official could make such a foolish remark and not think twice.

He was a nice guy and well intentioned. But obviously somewhat ignorant and lacking in sophistication.

I could have written about it and and damaged his career, but I didn’t. I decided to let it pass.

But I still think about that incident and wonder how anyone with any stature in Washington could make such a stupid remark.

Then I heard Sen. Reid’s remark and was reminded that yes, ignorance in the officialdom of Washington is part of the DNA that will live on for generations no matter how smart some of these folks think they are.

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Comment from Leecal
Time January 11, 2010 at 2:48 pm

I don’t agree that this was racist. And everyone who says it is, always piles on “extra remarks” that usually are racist, to make their point.
President Obama IS a light-skinned Black man.
And he definitely ‘twangs’ his speech pattern at will.
I’ve heard him do it any number of times.
Just my opinion.

Comment from mikepapas
Time January 11, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I am not a minority so I am less sensitive about these things, but I thought that Reid’s remarks were completely true, and just described the reality of the situation.
It reminds me of when someone apologized to me for calling my wife my wife, as if the word wife was some sort of insult.

Comment from mikepapas
Time January 11, 2010 at 4:01 pm

I think the phrase “Jew them down,” which everyone in my family used when I was growing up, falls into an entirely different category. It reveals a prejudgment.

Comment from harrythebody
Time January 11, 2010 at 9:44 pm

If you did write about the offensive ATF managers remarks I doubt it would have hindered his career given that a former Acting Director of ATF has commented, among other racist and discriminatory comments, that he’ll “piss on any white man on the job.” A fish rots from its head down.

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