Harry Reid is no Trent Lott

No sooner did news break of Harry Reid's uttering a well-meaning but awfully outdated sounding endorsement of Barack Obama than the media invoked the specter of former Republican Senate Leader Trent Lott's career-killing racist remarks in 2002.

If you've been living under a rock all weekend, the news is that John Heilmann and Mark Halperin's book reports that Reid told them he encouraged Obama to run for president in part because he is, "light-skinned" and has "no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." Lott, by contrast, praised Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential candidacy, saying:

"I want to say this about my state: 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 all these years, either."

Thurmond's campaign platform that year explicitly endorsed "the segregation of the races," and condemned the Democratic Party's call for, "a civil rights program calling for the elimination of segregation, social equality by federal fiat."

Republicans, understandably, want to milk this imbroglio for all that it is worth, even though Reid already apologized to Obama and Obama accepted his apology. "Trent Lott resigned and Harry Reid should resign," well-known civil rights activist Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said Monday morning. (Cornyn has a 6 percent rating from the NAACP, although presumably he would say they are the true racists since they have "Colored People" in their name.)

Turnabout is fair play, right? Well, only if you don't understand the difference between endorsing a pro civil rights African-American's presidential campaign and anti-civil rights white man's one. Reid's comments, though he used archaic language, were simply a frank political assessment of how America could best achieve the goal of an African-American president. If it were up to the likes Trent Lott, that day would never have come.

Harry Reid is no Trent Lott | News