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News Wrap: Harry Reid Defends Record on Race

January 11, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid apologized for making controversial remarks regarding President Obama's race in 2008, and three U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan following a firefight with militants in the south.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid defended his record on race today and his relations with President Obama. The Nevada Democrat apologized over the weekend for remarks about then-candidate Obama in 2008. According to the new book “Game Change,” Reid said the Illinois senator could be elected because he was a — quote — “light-skinned African-American with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

Today, outside Las Vegas, Reid said, in fact, he actively encouraged Mr. Obama to run.

SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev., majority leader: I can still remember the meeting that took place in my office with Senator Barack Obama, telling him that, “I think you can be elected president.”

I have apologized to the president. I have apologized to everyone that — in the sound of my voice that I could have used a better choice of words.

HARI SREENIVASAN: On Sunday, some leading Republicans called for Reid to resign. But a spokesman for Reid said he has no intention of stepping down as majority leader. And, late today, President Obama told the TV One cable channel that Harry Reid is — quote — “a good man.” He said, for people to make hay out of him makes no sense.

This was a deadly day for NATO forces in Afghanistan, with three Americans and three other Western soldiers killed. The Americans died in a firefight with militants in the south. Still, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, said the tide is turning against the Taliban.

GENERAL STANLEY MCCHRYSTAL, U.S. Commander in Afghanistan: I believe that we have changed the way we operate in Afghanistan. We have changed some of our structures. And I believe that we are on the way to convincing the Afghan people that we are here to protect them. We have been at this for about seven months now. And I believe we have made progress. It’s not a — it’s not a completed mission yet.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Another 30,000 U.S. troops are deploying to Afghanistan. That will raise the total American force there to nearly 98,000.

The suicide rate is rising sharply among young male veterans between 18 and 29 years of age. Between 2005 and 2007, the rate of soldiers who took their own lives increased 26 percent, according to the Veterans Affairs Department. Last year, at least 349 active-duty and reserve service members committed suicide, more than were killed by enemy action in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Citrus growers in Florida struggled today to outlast a wave of record cold. South Florida was under a hard freeze warning, and readings in Miami fell below 37 degrees. Farther north, growers kept spraying crops to protect them with an insulating coat of ice. But a spokesman for the state’s largest citrus growers group reported considerable damage. Florida produces 40 percent of the world’s orange juice supply.

There were signs of confidence today among the Big Three Detroit automakers. At the annual Detroit Auto Show, Chrysler said it’s planning to hire more engineers and other workers, starting next Monday. General Motors reported it can’t keep up with demand for new vehicles. It said it may reopen some closed factories. And Ford won two major awards, for truck of the year and car of the year. It’s the only major U.S. automaker not to accept federal rescue aid.

On Wall Street today, industrial stocks got a boost on news of higher exports from China. The Dow Jones industrial average gained more than 45 points, to close just under 10,664. The Nasdaq fell more than 4 1/2 points to close at 2,312.