Glenn Reynolds finds the differences between the popular reaction to Senator Chris Dodd’s statements and the popular reaction to Senator Trent Lott’s statements "particularly disturbing." I’m not entirely sure why, as the two cases aren’t all that similar beyond the initial foolhardy statements.
OK, OK, I am sure why. There’s a rapidly spreading meme which makes Lott look a lot better, and it goes like this: “Lott suffered for saying nice things about Strom Thurmond.” There’re also a lot of right-wingers who don’t know why Senator Robert Byrd, former KKK member, gets a free pass for his history. There are times when I’m not sure either, just like I wasn’t sure why Strom Thurmond got a free pass.
Anyhow, the assertion that Lott got in trouble for simply praising Strom Thurmond is blatantly untrue. Lott got into trouble a) for saying nice things about Thurmond’s segregationist past, followed by b) revelations about his association with the Council of Conservative Citizens, c) the discovery of his racially-inflected interview with Southern Partisan; and d) relevations about his efforts to keep blacks out of his college fraternity. Lott turned out to be a long-time associate and friend of white supremacists. That’s why he’s not Senate Majority Leader anymore.
Dodd’s comments were dumb and he should issue an apology immediately. However, you can’t really compare the two situations unless Chris Dodd proves to have fairly recent ties to the KKK or other white supremacist groups. If he does, the two situations are comparable. Otherwise — not quite.