Reid/Lott Double Standard?

Are Democrats Practicing a Double Standard on Racism?

From FOXNews.com:

Republicans are citing the example of Trent Lott -- who made a racist remark at the 2002 birthday party for Sen. Strom Thurmond -- in calling for Sen. Harry Reid to resign his majority leadership post after describing then-2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama as "light-skinned" with "no Negro dialect," unless he wants one. While Democrats and African-American leaders demanded Lott’s resignation, this time they are vigorously defending Reid, who said this after Lott resigned: "He had no alternative… If you tell ethnic jokes in the backroom, it's that much easier to say ethnic things publicly. I've always practiced how I play." Is there a double standard, and should Reid resign? 

Poll results on Fox-

Yes to both. If a Republican had made these remarks the Democrats would be howling. 93% (78,025 votes)
 
Yes to a double standard, but no to resigning. Reid apologized, Obama accepted -- let's move on. 5% (4,217 votes)
 
No to both. Lott's comments were racist, while I agree with Democrats who say Reid simply "misspoke." 1% (1,041 votes)
 
Undecided. But either way, someone in Reid's position should know better. <1% (401 votes)
 
No opinion. <1% (94 votes)

What is your opinion of this situation? How would you vote, or would you suggest another option?

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Sean Fericks's picture

Sen. Reid's comment's discussed how others would think of President Obama. He never said that he held any particular views himself. He was simply asking whether or not this nation was colorblind, and he (probably correctly) came to the conclusion that we are well on our way, but that a fairer skinned black man with no southern accent would do better than a dark skinned black man with a heavy Mississippi accent. That is not racist. It is pragmatic.

Sen. Lott's comments lamented that we did not choose Sen. Thurmond as our President during the civil rights movement. Sen. Thurmond was clearly racist at the time and ran as a states' right's candidate who was against individual rights for non-whites. Regarding Sen. Thurmond's candidacy, Lott said, [QUOTE ]When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either.[/QUOTE ]I think that he was referring to the general issue of states' rights (see the 10th Amendment) aside from racism. However, he failed to observe that individual rights trump state's rights. All men are created equal. That is why Sen. Lott deserved to be criticized, and eventually run out of office.

As a Nevadan, I am eagerly awaiting my chance to retire Sen. Reid. But let's attack him on issues of merit. There are plenty. Why must we try to create this straw man?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I don't think either Lott or Reid were making racist comments. If Lott's statement is put in context, we see a man paying tribute to another man at his 100th birthday party. Lott wasn't going to bring up the wrongs of Thurmond's past at such a venue (note: in 1948, Thurmond was a Democrat and broke away from that party soon after). Lott is also not the only politician to pay tribute to Thurmond- should Carl Levin and Joe Leiberman also step down? Why hasn't Robert Byrd been removed for using the phrase "white n***er" in 2001? Oh, I know- because he's a Democrat and he apologized. It wouldn't matter if a Republican offered their firstborn- the Dems aren't going to apply the same standard to their own party. Ever. Period.

Ron Bean's picture

I was watching CNN at work yesterday and the panel admitted that there was a double standard. To paraphrase their conclusion they said that read's statement wasn't racist because "he has voted our way every time".

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Sean Fericks's picture

Susan R wrote:
I don't think either Lott or Reid were making racist comments. If Lott's statement is put in context, we see a man paying tribute to another man at his 100th birthday party. Lott wasn't going to bring up the wrongs of Thurmond's past at such a venue (note: in 1948, Thurmond was a Democrat and broke away from that party soon after). Lott is also not the only politician to pay tribute to Thurmond- should Carl Levin and Joe Leiberman also step down? Why hasn't Robert Byrd been removed for using the phrase "white n***er" in 2001? Oh, I know- because he's a Democrat and he apologized. It wouldn't matter if a Republican offered their firstborn- the Dems aren't going to apply the same standard to their own party. Ever. Period.

I am unaware of the content of Sens. Leiberman's and Levin's speeches, but they should all be held to the same standard. Even Sen. Byrd's comment was not racist. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FIBJt-c2o0 If you will listen to the whole segment, you will see a feeble man who is attempting to condemn racism, and fails to understand our modern sensitivity to the word, "nigger".

I agree that a birthday party is the wrong venue for castigating a man for his errors of the distant past. But don't celebrate them either! Sen. Lott was completely out of line to lament the failure of the third party Dixiecrat ticket. The Dixiecrat party slogan was "Segregation Forever!", and it's platform was patently racist. It pretended to defend states' rights against the intrusions of the federal government. In reality, it placed states' rights above individual rights. The Constitution enumerates certain individual rights that superscede states' rights. The Dixiecrats did not see black people as human individuals with rights, so the federal government had a Constitutionally mandated duty to protect black people's individual rights from Sen. Thurmond's racist policies. Sen. Thurmond organized the Dixiecrat party against such "federal intrusion" and ran as it's candidate for President of the United States. It is in reference to this history that Sen. Lott said, [QUOTE ]"When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either."[/QUOTE ] If our nation would have elected a President Thurmond, blacks would not be attending BJU, Clarence Thomas would not be a Supreme Court Justice, and our nation would still be under the sin of racism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixiecrat
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strom_Thurmond

It would have been very possible to celebrate the long and eventful career of Strom Thurmond without validating his racism. Sen. Lott could have even celebrated Sen. Thurmond's repentance from his early years of racism. Unfortunately, Sen. Lott did exactly the opposite, and some errors require stiff consequences. The cases of Sen. Reid and Sen. Lott are very different. There are plenty of issues with which to attack Sen. Reid and the Democrat party. Go after the real issues and stop building cheap straw men.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Mr. Lott said in his apology, "My comments were not an endorsement of his positions of over 50 years ago, but of the man and his life." That makes perfect sense- I think it is disingenuous to claim that by Lott's compliment he was really saying that he wished a segregationist candidate had been elected. Most people pay insincere compliments to others on a regular basis, trying to find something nice to say about a person (or what they are wearing). If he would have made those comments while standing in the Senate or on a political platform, I could understand folks interpreting his comments as being supportive of a segregationist, but not at a personal and private event like a birthday party. Maybe we should start putting bugs in politicians bathrooms so we can hear what they sing in the shower- we could probably find ammunition to force all of them to resign eventually. But I thought that if someone apologizes, that's makes it all ok, right? I mean, how many times did Bill Clinton apologize, and his supporters got mad at the tenacious Republicans who were hot on his tail, and said 'Leave the guy alone- he apologized'.

Trent Lott has no record of voting against civil rights legislation or making racist comments, but Byrd- an ex-Klansman, and a Kleagle no less, who fillibustered the 1964 Civil Rights Act and opposed the nominations of Thurgood Marshall and Clarence Thomas to the bench, who writes letters years after he left the KKK containing thoughts such as "The Klan is needed today as never before and I am anxious to see its rebirth here in West Virginia" and vowed never to fight "with a Negro by my side. Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds."- when he chooses to purposefully use a racial epithet as an 'illustration', he gets a pass. Saints preserve us.

Like I said- I don't think what Lott or Reid said were meant in the way in which they are being interpreted, but if we are going to fire people from public office for mis-speaking or paying a compliment to the 'wrong' person, then be consistent and fire them all.

Sean Fericks's picture

The OP was about the similarities between Sen. Reid’s comments on candidate Obama, and Sen. Lott’s comments about candidate Thurmond. The goal of the OP was to demonstrate that Sen. Reid is duplicitous when it comes to race relations.

My point has nothing to do with Sen. Byrd or President Clinton. It has nothing to do with the nature of political “apologies”. My point is simply that the content of Sen. Reid’s comments was not racist. It assessed the willingness of modern American society to vote for a black candidate. The content of Sen. Lott’s comments specifically endorsed a blatantly racist presidential ticket from 1948. Sen. Lott’s apology was not truthful about the content of his speech. Sen. Lott claimed, [QUOTE ] My comments were not an endorsement of his positions of over 50 years ago, but of the man and his life.[/QUOTE ]But his original words were, [QUOTE ] When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either.[/QUOTE ]That is an endorsement of a racist presidential ticket. It is fundamentally different than Sen. Reid's comments on candidate Obama. Thus, the Democrats are NOT being duplicitous in this particular instance.

The two situations are very different. Sen. Reid is clearly not a racist. Sen. Reid MUST be defeated in 2010. There are plenty of genuine issues to attack him on. We should dispense with the “gotcha” games and the straw men or we will loose our credibility.

BTW, my objections are politically pragmatic, and intellectually principled in nature. I am on the Elko County GOP Executive Committee, so don't worry. I am not a closet Democrat or a closet Reid supporter.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

The OP is also about the double standard that exists when it comes to politicians chomping down on shoe leather in public. I've said that I don't think Reid's comments were racist, but unless you have the ability to see into the thoughts and intents of Lott's heart, you don't know that he was talking about Thurmond's policies of 50 years past, or just paying a somewhat gushing compliment to a 100 year old man at a party (where I'm sure everyone was fairly loosened up). But let's just say that he was speaking in support of Thurmond as a segregationist. Has Lott attempted to pass any segregationist policies? Has he opposed the nomination of black candidates to the bench? Does he have the long history of racist comments that Senator Byrd has? Then why hold Lott's feet to the fire and not Byrd's? Because Byrd is senile? Is that why is he using Congress as a glorified nursing home?

BTW, I'm a Libertarian, not a Republican, and I think the GOP is WRONG in how they are handling this. I think the castigation of Reid is just as ridiculous as the fuss made over Lott. People are going to make stupid, ill-considered comments- our VP is a master of this ability. But decisions about someone's entire career should not be made over ONE comment- they should be tied to that person's pattern of behavior and their voting record, and the venue should also be taken into consideration, as this is as much a part of the context as everything else.