If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s politically-correct, guilt-ridden, white liberals. Lately, too many Republicans have been behaving just like them. Even the black ones.

Or as current Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele — an African-American — said of the controversy over Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s supposedly racially insensitive language (Reid said “negro” among other things): “There’s a big double standard here … When Democrats get caught saying racist things, an apology is enough. If that had been (GOP Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell saying that about an African-American candidate for president of the United States, trust me … the DNC would be screaming for his head very much like they were with Trent Lott.”

In 2002, Republican Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott was forced to resign his position over what were perceived as racially insensitive comments in which he praised the late Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential campaign. Citing Lott’s example, Steele has called for Reid to step down as Senate Majority Leader.

Steele is not the only one in his party calling for Reid’s head, and neither he nor any other Republican is wrong that a double standard exists. But the problem is not so much the double standard, but that such an absurd, politically-correct standard exists in the first place, something Steele and his fellow Republicans are all too eager to enforce.

Such Republicans would be better off taking the advice of GOP Senator Tom Coburn, who notes, “It pains me that Republicans are saying Harry Reid ought to step down. When you point a finger, you have four fingers pointing back at you. There is not anybody in Washington who has not said something that could be judged inappropriate and wrong.”

I would extend Coburn’s charitable observation further — there probably isn’t anyone in this country who has not said something that could be judged inappropriate and wrong.

Call me crazy, but I’m one of these weird people who is always seeking to broaden, not restrict, the limits of permissible dissent. During the 2008 election, when every Republican from Sean Hannity to Sarah Palin was warning that Barack Obama was consorting with some “terrorist” named Bill Ayers, I was far more interested in learning what Ayers was all about than using him to discredit Obama. The same went for Obama’s controversial preacher Jeremiah Wright. Naively, I figured Obama’s actual political platform was all conservatives needed to discredit him and believed serious voters should concentrate on policy differences, not personalities. Of course when there are no real policy differences between candidates it only makes sense that the personalities involved will eventually descend into name-calling and other pettiness, as they certainly did during the 2008 presidential campaign.

On the Right, Republican presidential candidates like Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul have been called “racist,” “anti-Semite,” and “isolationist,” though such slanders usually reflected political positions that had earned them my vote — whether opposition to welfare or affirmative action, ending foreign aid (including Israel) or the rollback of American empire. Such slanders are more often used as ways to prevent discussions establishment politicians would rather not take place than accurate descriptions of the slandered. There are simply some issues the powers-that-be, Republican or Democrat, do not want brought to the public’s attention, therefore principled, outspoken men like Buchanan and Paul must be targeted and turned into monsters they are not — at least long enough to get through an election.

In 2008, when The New Republic ran a ridiculous article trying to paint Paul as a racist by drudging up some old newsletters, a supporter of rival presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney asked me, snidely, “Hey Jack, did you hear Ron Paul was a racist?” I replied, “Did you hear Mitt Romney was a socialist who implemented government-run healthcare?” Today, Obama and the Democrats exorbitant healthcare plan — much of it based on the Massachusetts model — is a major concern for conservatives. Paul’s momentary, alleged “racism?” Not so much. Once again, policy — not personality, or even perfect Republican hair — should always be the focus.

The term “racist” is perhaps the most potent cuss word in modern politics, and despite my intense dislike for Harry Reid’s politics, neither he nor any man deserves to be called something he isn’t, especially in the name of petty, partisan revenge. Coburn is right, when Republicans point fingers they can expect to have more pointing back, invariably, inevitably, and without mercy.

One would think that fighting political correctness is one of the few, basic things you could count on from conservatives. Yet, still confused, Steele says of Reid’s language: “It’s either racist or it’s not.” Hey Michael, it’s not. Neither were Trent Lott’s comments. And instead of constantly surrendering to the gods of political correctness, the Republican Party would have been better off standing by Lott in 2002 and not subscribing to the same liberal nonsense in 2010 .

Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.