Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democrats’ leader in Senate, made some unfortunate remarks on Sunday about Justice Clarence Thomas. Mr. Reid said he could support Justice Antonin Scalia if the president elevated him to chief justice, but he called Justice Thomas “an embarrassment.” When Sen. Trent Lott made stinging remarks about segregated America in 2002, conservatives and liberals alike criticized the Republican from Mississippi. Sen. John Kerry, for his part, said: “It’s now clear this is not the first time Trent Lott has made similar comments. I simply do not believe the country can today afford to have someone who has made these statements again and again be the leader of the United States Senate.” The debate eventually led to Mr. Lott’s resignation as Senate majority leader. On Sunday, Mr. Reid repeated his disparaging remarks about Justice Thomas, yet, tellingly, his Democratic fellows are awfully quiet.
On Nov. 19 on National Public Radio, Mr. Reid said it would be “wrong” if President Bush “gave us Clarence Thomas as chief justice.” The senator went on to say, “If they give us Antonin Scalia, that’s a little different question. I may not agree with some of his opinions, but I agree with the brilliance of his mind.”
Appearing on “Meet the Press” this past Sunday, Mr. Reid again showed his bias. Tim Russert, after mentioning Mr. Reid’s comments on NPR, asked if he could support elevating Justice Scalia, Mr. Reid said there were some “ethics problems” that the justice would have to overcome and then he said, “I cannot dispute the fact, as I have said, that this is one smart guy.”
Mr. Russert then asked the telling question: “Why couldn’t you accept Clarence Thomas?” The senator responded: “I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I don’t … I just don’t think that he’s done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.”
To the contrary, Justice Thomas, a constitutionalist, has been no embarrassment, and Mr. Reid is wrong to say that his opinions have been inarticulate.
While Mr. Russert might have followed up on Mr. Reid’s disparaging remarks about a sitting justice — the only black justice — on the nation’s highest court, we level heavier criticism at Mr. Kerry and other liberals for their failure to criticize their own leader simply because he is a Democrat. As Mr. Kerry himself pointed out in 2002: “Trent Lott’s statements place a cloud over his leadership because there can never be an appearance of racism or bigotry in any high position of leadership, particularly in the United States Senate. It saddens me greatly to suggest this, but in the interests of the Senate, his party, and the nation I believe Trent Lott should step aside as majority leader.”
Like Mr. Lott’s, Mr. Reid’s indefensible comments aren’t squaring with partisan politics. The Democrats are applying a double standard, and all’s quiet on the liberal front.