Victor Davis Hanson

Why in matters of stupid behavior do liberals and Democrats often get second and third chances from the media and general public not accorded to their conservative and Republican counterparts?

We're seeing it now in the national reaction to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's reported racial gaffe. Compare how he's being treated to what happened to Trent Lott in 2002.

Arguing with Idiots By Glenn Beck

Public and media pressure forced Lott to resign his Senate minority leadership post after going way over the top at a private birthday party for Strom Thurmond. In his tribute to Thurmond, Lott heaped praise on the centenarian senator's 1948 Dixiecrat presidential candidacy -- despite the fact it was predicated mostly on promoting racial segregation.

Compare that to what's happening to Reid, who reportedly remarked in 2008 (and has not denied) that then-candidate Barack Obama could win the presidential race because he was "light-skinned" and did not adopt a "Negro dialect unless he wanted to have one."

Almost immediately, most of those in the Democratic establishment and in the media who once had gone after Lott insisted that Reid's liberal credentials exempted him from resignation.

Obama himself in 2002 called for Lott to step down from his leadership post. Reflecting the general double standard, the president has made no such requests of Reid -- apparently, as Obama put it, because the senator is a leader on "issues of social justice."

Vice president Joe Biden as a presidential candidate once characterized Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

What exactly did Biden mean by "clean?" The press, of course, didn't bother to probe too deeply, instead seeming to think that good old Joe Biden was running off his mouth again.

That leeway was quite in contrast to the national outrage, led by the media, in 2006 after Virginia Republican senatorial candidate George Allen stupidly pointed to a volunteer for the opposing campaign and called him "Macaca or whatever his name."

Such asymmetrical media and cultural reactions transcend race.

In 2005, public outrage properly arose when it came out that syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams had accepted $240,000 to promote the Bush administration's "No Child Left Behind Act" -- while purportedly posing as a disinterested public commentator.

His syndicate, Tribune Media Services (which distributes my column), properly dropped Williams, and the government lifted his contract.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.