by Lowman S. Henry | January 03, 2003

It is no secret that there is a double standard in the nation’s capital. Republicans – especially conservative Republicans – are always held to a different and higher standard than Democrats – especially liberal Democrats.

This was evident during the Clinton Administration when former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was forced from his leadership position largely over personal indiscretions of a private nature, while Bill Clinton had sex with an intern in the Oval Office and survived politically to complete his term. Both engaged in improper conduct, one paid a substantial political price; the other tucked his shirt in and went merrily along his way.

Perhaps it is just a matter of expectations. Conservative Republicans are expected to behave themselves, but since the age of Kennedy the standard of personal behavior for liberal Democrats has been set rather low.

Events unfolding over the past few weeks in Washington, D.C. have again put this double standard on display. Former Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, rightfully, was forced to relinquish his leadership post after making inappropriate remarks about racial segregation. Republicans quickly got their act together and engineered his departure.

In the days that followed the Lott firestorm two other U.S. Senators – both Democrats – brought disgrace upon themselves and the institution in which they serve through words and deeds.

Most notably, ultra-liberal Senator Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat, inexplicably lauded terrorist madman Osama bin Laden, who you may recall recently murdered several thousand of our countrymen, saying the world would have a better view of the United States if America followed bin Laden’s example of being “a good neighbor so people would have a different vision of us.”

A good neighbor? How many good neighbors do you know of who fly airplanes into skyscrapers killing innocent citizens? Given the fact the President has declared a war on terrorism, Senator Murray’s comments are nothing short of treasonous. But, did you hear about them on the national news? Was there a national clamor for her censure? No, apparently if you are a liberal democrat backing a terrorist is as acceptable as having a fling in your government office.

Then, there was the bizarre decision by Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia to play the role of Confederate Brigadier General Paul J. Semmes in the upcoming Civil War epic “Gods & Generals.” What makes that so brazen is the fact Byrd is an admitted former member of the Ku Klux Klan. His decision to play the role of a Confederate bent on preserving slavery is a smack in the face to freedom-loving people everywhere.

James Tolbert, who heads the West Virginia chapter of the NAACP chastised Byrd saying “It’s not in keeping with his Senate position to be playing that kind of role.” But, national NAACP leaders and the media talking heads remained silent on Byrd’s thespian expedition.

It strikes me that Byrd’s transgression is no less severe than Lott’s – both harkens back to an era of racism in this country that is better left consigned to the dustbin of history. And, Murray’s comments make her the Jane Fonda of our generation. Neither, however, have paid or will pay much of a price. That’s just one of the perks of being a liberal Democrat in Washington, D.C.