One reason why John Ashcroft is attorney general today is because, when he was nominated for the post, his opponents kept flinging dubious charges of racism (and innuendoes about his stance on abortion) rather than pointing to his troubling record on civil liberties. While it's not clear that an anti-Ashcroft campaign could have succeeded with criticisms that were (a) accurate and (b) obviously relevant to the office he was applying for, it certainly would have had a better shot than the approach taken instead.
Now we have Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, whose recent comments on Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign?that "if the rest of the country had followed our lead [in supporting him], we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years"?can only be read as nostalgia for the days of Jim Crow. Where's the uproar?
Charges of racism: They're great when you need a sharp-edged weapon, but don't drag them out just because someone's merely, you know, an actual racist.