I’m rather pleased that Trent Lott won his race for Republican minority whip today–but in a most cynical way. What I want to know is that if Trent Lott’s comments lauding Strom Thurmond’s racist presidential candidacy were bad enough to have him disqualified from leadership then, what has happened in the intervening years to lessen Lott’s stigma? Has he done some penance I’m not aware of? Has he reached out in sincere ways to undo the pain he inflicted on the national African-American community with his downright dumb comments? Of course not.
Here’s how the Times characterized the remarks that lost him his leadership post:
In a 100th birthday party toast for Senator Strom Thurmond, Republican of South Carolina…Mr. Lott seemed to praise Mr. Thurmond, a longtime segregationist, for his 1948 presidential campaign. Noting that his home state had voted for Mr. Thurmond then, Mr. Lott added: “We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems.”
Oh, you mean all these Ne-groes causing such a stir in the massa’s house?? Strom would’ve known what to do with ’em, wouldn’t he? The historical delusion of some elements of the traditional South like Lott are simply unbelievable. To have a fantasy that Strom could’ve won the presidency let alone had a positive impact on anything if he had, is sheer delusion.
Trent Lott and his background will be crystal clear to many Americans when they contemplate the Senate’s Republican leadership. You’ve got Mitch McConnell running the show, in the pocket of Big Coal and other corporate lobbyists, and the chief foe of meaningful campaign finance reform. And you’ve got Trent Lott, racist fantasist who wants to refight the 1948 presidential campaign and put Strom (who’s mercifully dead) in the White House. That’s great. Serve it up to the American people on a big fat platter. That’s what I say.
Lamar Alexander, who Lott defeated by a single vote and who would’ve been far more palatable to the American people, got it precisely wrong when he said:
“One thing that this proves is that the United States Senate, like the American public, likes a comeback story,” said Senator Lamar Alexander,
It doesn’t prove that at all. It proves that the Republican Party doesn’t have an ounce of sensitivity to racial issues. It proves that the Good ‘Ol Boy network is alive and well among Senate Republicans. It proves that there is no such thing as moderation among Republicans, otherwise Alexander would’ve won.
John Breaux had this unintentionally humorous “take” on Lott’s victory:
“Nobody knew where he was; it was a stealth candidacy,” said former Senator John B. Breaux, Democrat of Louisiana and one of Mr. Lott’s closest friends. “His strategy was, ‘Run silent, run deep,’ like the old submarine.”
I wish he, like the hateful racist comments he espoused in 2002, had stayed submerged in the deep where he and they belong.
And Breaux added this little anecdote:
Mr. Breaux hastened to add a caveat: “Trent promised me he’d never give speeches at any more birthday parties.”
Even better: how ’bout if Lott doesn’t give any more speeches??
But I also like it this way with Lott in leadership, because it makes it much easier for Democrats to paint Republicans as totally insensitive to issues of race.
I thought bringing back a few of the cartoons that skewered Lott the last time around would be instructive. In case Republicans have no memory, we’ll offer them ours.