Monday, January 11, 2010

Republicans Cite Lott in Calling for Reid to Quit

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A double standard, charge Republicans vainly seeking Sen. Harry Reid's immediate resignation as majority leader. A different context than other racial gaffes, counter Democrats who want Reid to stay on in spite of his embarrassing remarks about Barack Obama.

Reid apologized to Obama and a handful of black political leaders after a new book reported that he was favorably impressed by Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign and, in a private conversation, described the Illinois senator as a ''light-skinned'' African-American ''with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.''

Obama, who tries to steer clear of the political thicket of race and politics, accepted the apology and said he wanted to close the book on the episode. Republicans were eager to keep it open Sunday, comparing Reid's remarks to those that cost Trent Lott the Senate leadership in 2002 and questioning why there was different reaction now.

Lott had cheered the 1948 presidential campaign of Strom Thurmond -- a segregationist Democrat opposing President Harry Truman -- during a 100th birthday tribute to Thurmond, by then a longtime Republican senator.

Lott, R-Miss., eventually apologized but resigned nearly two weeks later after a growing number of Republicans questioned his effectiveness, especially after he told Black Entertainment Television he supported affirmative action, no longer opposed the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, and would back programs aimed at minorities. He resigned from the Senate in 2007.

In Reid's case, at least so far, Democrats have been content to chide the Nevada Democrat and cast his remarks as inappropriate and, as Obama said, ''unfortunate.''

''There is this standard where the Democrats feel that they can say these things and they can apologize when it comes from the mouths of their own,'' Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele, who is black, said Sunday. ''But if it comes from anyone else, it's racism.''

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said in a statement that Reid should step down, calling his comments ''embarrassing and racially insensitive.''

''It's difficult to see this situation as anything other than a clear double standard on the part of Senate Democrats and others,'' Cornyn said.

For is part, Reid has no intention of stepping down as majority leader and is ''absolutely running for reelection,'' his spokesman, Jim Manley, said.

''The Republicans are saying this because they know they can't beat Harry Reid,'' Manley said in an e-mail. ''The only way to get him is to try to push him out. Sen. Reid stands by the president and will continue his life's work to improve people's lives.''

Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island rejected comparisons to the Lott episode.

''I think that's a totally different context. Harry Reid made a misstatement,'' Reed said. ''He owned up to it. He apologized. I think he is mortified by the statement he's made. And I don't think he should step down.''

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