3 Big Differences Between Reid and Lott

The Republicans have suddenly discovered their previously undetectable racial sensitivity, and are calling for Harry Reid to resign as Majority Leader of the Senate because of some awkward language Reid used to describe his enthusiasm for Barack Obama’s candidacy. They are equating Reid’s stated enthusiasm for Obama’s candidacy to former Senator Trent Lott’s stated enthusiasm for segregation. Sadly, some soft-minded liberals are joining them in claiming that Obama and those of us too smart to fall for this false equivalency are hypocrites.

There is a difference between Reid and Lott, and what Reid and Lott said, that distinguishes the cases for anyone who is neither intellectually dishonest nor intellectually stunted. In fact, there are three big differences, and I’ll point them out for those who think that all unfortunate mentions of race are equivalent, and justification for a political death penalty.

1. What They Said: Let’s look at what Harry Reid said, in his enthusiasm for Obama’s candidacy. He made the accurate observation that Obama’s skin is relatively light, and said that he speaks “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” It uses a ’50s era term for African-American, it (inaccurately?) implies that America might face more difficulty in supporting a darker-skinned candidate, and it implies that the pattern of speech employed by a segment of African-Americans is a broader “Negro dialect”. One might just as fairly express joy that a Missouri politician speaks with no inbred hillbilly dialect.

Distasteful, I agree, and not the sort of thing I like to see from a Democrat.

Trent Lott, on the other hand, said that he was proud to have voted for Strom Thurmond when he ran as a segregationist and opposed anti-lynching legislation, and that “if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.” Do I need to map out the differences? While Reid was speaking enthusiastically about electing a black president, Lott was speaking enthusiastically about segregation and wishing that we could go back to the pre-civil rights South and lynching. To find a distinction between the two does not demonstrate hypocrisy, it demonstrates an understanding of the difference between a little insensitivity and a deep resentment of uppity blacks causing problems.

2. Who They Are: As President Obama points out, Harry Reid has worked with him and other Senators on socially progressive causes to help the underprivileged for years. He’s got some credibility on racial issues. He’s built up a store of good will that he can draw upon in assuring his friends that he is sincere in his remorse and forward in his thinking.

Trent Lott was a product of the Republican racist “Southern Strategy” to win the votes of those who believed exactly what Lott said to Thurmond – we’d be better off with segregation and lynching. Lott was an enthusiastic supporter of the Klan-like CCC, and sought to regain citizenship for Jefferson Davis. He voted against extending the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. He voted against the Martin Luther King holiday. Suffice it to say, Lott had not built up a store of good will on racial issues.

3. Reid Has Been Forgiven: It is amusing to see all the pundits (especially the white ones, and certainly including me) and right wing politicians trying to tell everyone else how to think about a verbal exchange between two men who have already put it behind them. The RIGHTeous indignation on behalf of someone who has announced himself satisfied with an apology is enough to make one think that they are more interested in political opportunism than concern about Obama’s tender feelings.

Folks, this thing is not about hypocrisy, for the simple reason that it is not hypocritical to distinguish between a thoughtless remark supporting a black presidency and a career spent yearning for the good old days of segregation and lynching. The intellectually corrupt Republicans and the fuzzy-thinking liberals who are attempting to equate the two are acting as though Lott’s only flaw was one awful remark, and that Reid’s remark is equivalent to a career.

11 Responses to “3 Big Differences Between Reid and Lott”

  1. Xavier Onassis says:

    Excellent analysis my friend! You nailed it.

  2. les says:

    It's really too bad we can't have a sane and honest opposition party, far less a productive one that cares about governing the country instead of simply ruling it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    If they're using such a skewed version of hypocrisy, aren't they guilty of the same thing if they are calling for Reid's scalp and didn't do the same thing for Lott?

  4. I Travel for JOOLS says:

    Of course you were clever enough not to put your OWN words in quotes, but your statement is very misleading. Do you really believe Trent Lott would participate in a lynching? And, as for hypocrisy, how about beloved Robert Byrd – Dem-WVa? He actually was a member of the KKK and also voted against the Voting Rights Act among other things. Both Byrd and Thurmond are older than dirt and they both had plenty of past sins.

    And, interestingly, what does Harry Reid have to say about Byrd?
    This is right off Byrd's CURRENT website.
    "His number one priority has always been the people of West Virginia. It has been a great example for all of us to never lose sight of the fact that you are elected by the people from your State and the people in your State should have first priority."

    Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid,

    Just exactly what is the difference between what Lott actually said (not what you interpreted he said) and what Reid said. There aren't that many differences.

    I don't condone comments by either Lott or Reid, but your arguments are weak at best.

  5. les says:

    The stupid is strong in Jools, and the Byrd comparison pretty much carries automatic troll rating. The difference, so opaque to young Jools, between Reid's and Lott's statements is clear in the post; so here's the difference between Thurmond and Byrd:

    Strom: I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the nigra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches

    He never renounced his early positions.

    Byrd: I know now I was wrong. Intolerance had no place in America. I apologized a thousand times… and I don't mind apologizing over and over again. I can't erase what happened.

    Yeah, pretty comparable. Byrd was and is a Dem; Thurmond was part of Nixon's Southern strategy, changed to Repub. and continued a racist.

    The fact that there are so many folk like Jools, unable to see reality but somehow able to master a voting machine, goes a long way to explaining how we got where we are.

  6. I Travel for JOOLS says:

    As long as I've been on Gone Mild, Les has hurled insults my way. He doesn't know a thing about me but obviously despises me because he thinks he knows who I am.

    Well, Mr. Les, I have faced the reality of racism on a highly personal level. When you stand up against racism to the extent of it costing you your marriage, maybe we can talk civilly. Until then, I've got no use for you.

  7. les says:

    He doesn't know a thing about me but obviously despises me because he thinks he knows who I am.

    Well, Jools, yes, not really, and no. I don't despise you, and I don't think I know you at all. I respond, mostly negatively, to your comments, which are all the info I have. Unfortunately, your comments tend to exhibit inaccurate facts, simplistic thinking, uninformed and illogical positions and unsupported/unsupportable conclusions. In short, you write some stuff that's patently stupid. Much of which is easily contradicted with a little work and/or thought, which you apparently don't bother to do or are uninterested in.

    I don't know, and am generally uninterested in, your personal life; don't know whether you're a great guy, a jerk, or what. I'm simply tired of the prevalence and repetition of stupid in my world.

  8. Anonymous says:


    If someone doesn't "renounce his early positions", should it haunt him forever?

    Why don't you try attacking "Jools" ideas instead of attacking "Jools" personally? I know you can find the words to express yourself, why don't you try to use them. If your "net balls" are so big that you can't present an alternative opinion without the need to resort to personal attacks, just let me know. I'd be happy to provide a little encouragement.

  9. les says:

    Typical of anonymice, there's not much there. But:

    If someone doesn't "renounce his early positions", should it haunt him forever?

    Uh, gee, well, if someone doesn't renounce or change their position, yeah; it is, like, their position. If it's haunting–like Strom Thurmond's lifelong racism and preference for legally enforced segregation–then I leave the exercise for the student.

    Next: Why don't you try attacking "Jools" ideas instead of attacking "Jools" personally?

    Uh, I guess you missed my second response to Jools; I refer you to it, for your edification. Jools presented two "ideas". The first, an imagined equivalence between statements by Reid and Lott, was nicely demolished by Dan's post. The second, an imagined equivalence between the positions of Strom Thurmond and Robert Byrd, I addressed. I suspect that, like many tender anonymice, you were distracted by the presence of incivility, and mistook it for an ad hominem argument. Perhaps the internet is too rough a medium for you.

  10. Anonymous says:


    How is it that you can consider "The stupid is strong in Jools" to not be an attack directed personally towards Jools?

    Until you're willing to put your full name and contact information on your Google account, you're just as anonymous as the rest of us.

  11. les says:

    How is it that you can consider "The stupid is strong in Jools" to not be an attack directed personally towards Jools?

    Ah, my bad; overestimating my audience, yet again. Though, I would have thought the second response cleared things up. In future, I will try to emphasize I'm responding to a blog comment, not to an individual unknown to me. I note that your responses have all been to personal style, rather than ideas. Pot, Kettle, etc.

    As to anonymity, given the nature of the tubes I find it preferable. I don't have a problem with yours either, just the difficulty of sorting the anonymice, one from another. A tag's not really difficult.

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