The Nevada senator and Democratic majority leader doesn't need — nor probably desires — a defense from an Alabama newspaper. The charisma-challenged and often charm-less Reid shrinks before your very eyes when compared to the dynamic Senate leaders of past generations.
Instead, call this a defense of context.
Reid finds himself in hot water this week over comments made during the 2008 presidential campaign.
According to a new book titled Game Change, Reid assessed Barack Obama's candidacy for president favorably because, the senator said, Obama is "light-skinned" and lacks "Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
They were awkward, poorly worded and racially backward phrases. "Awkward" and "Harry Reid" — not the first time those two words have been joined in a sentence.
Yet, in making hay over Reid's remarks, Republicans have taken to comparing Reid to Trent Lott, the Mississippi Republican who stepped down from his leadership position in the Senate after making racially insensitive remarks.
To Republicans and some in the Washington press corps, the stars have perfectly aligned. Not quite.
Here is where context is important.
Reid has no easily identifiable track record of dabbling in racial politics.
Lott, on the other hand, did, including a handshake relationship with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a descendant of the White Citizens' Councils that were known in the '50s as the "Country Club Clan."
Further, Lott's remarks came during a birthday party for Strom Thurmond, the South Carolina senator who ran for president on a segregationist plank in 1948. Had Thurmond been elected, Lott said, "We wouldn't have had all these problems over the years." The scandal came when Americans wondered, what problems would a segregationist president have eliminated?
So far, at least no similar record has been uncovered. Until it is, those championing the Reid-is-Lott meme might want to hold their fire.