Saturday, January 18, 2003

Trent Lott

OK, it's way too late now, but it all happened while I was away.

Trent Lott makes some stupid remarks, which he should have known better than to utter in public, which this dinner was as C-SPAN was taping it. Almost immediately, some angry, appalled Republicans begin to get the word out and by late Saturday it's all the talk of conservative forums on the Internet.

By Monday morning, the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy is in total uproar, with many, many calls for Lott to step down. But over on the Democratic side, not a peep; and on the major news outlets, not a peep.

By Tuesday, calls for Lott to move over are deafening on the Right to the point that Rush Limbaugh joins in, though tenderly. The New York Times and the Washington Post finally pick it up, almost a week later, and then the story finally takes off.

The smart thing to do was for Lott to apologise and step down. But that's not in his make-up. Lott is all about "me, me, me." His actions from Day One as Senate Majority Leader have been one mis-step after another (the secret deal before he took office to share power with Dems), and his handling of the Clinton impeachment sealed the deal. He also loves the pork, to the point he forced the Navy to accept a carrier group it didn't want in order to provide jobs to his home state. At every confrontation with Democrats, he's caved, and time after time he makes deals with Democrats that assumes their good word, only to watch them renege later and stab him in the back.

Everything about Lott's actions and statements during his last flap were all about saving himself. He derailed the President's "big mo" post-election plans, and Republican excitement at their historic victory, putting his own stupidity, his lust for power and perk, front and center. He also pushed race, the Republicans' target-on-the-back, to the front of the news, from obscurity. He gave the Dems a powerful weapon, gratis.

Even today, as the 108th Congress convenes, race is still being used against Republicans. It should never have been. There should have been, and was expected to be, a smoothly accelerating run into the new, Republican year.

Thanks to Trent Lott, it's been a bumpy lurch. The only good thing about it is the ascencion of Bill Frist to the Leadership. But even that should have happened within days, not weeks, and with minimal fuss, not major media hoopla.

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