First, let's establish what the Trent Lott imbroglio is not.
This is not just another case of liberals attempting to smear a good
conservative as a racist just because he happens to oppose any of the left's
pet positions on racial preferences or immigration. Nor is this a case of
taking a trifling comment out of context and inflating it into something
totally different, as liberals have done thousands of times.
No, what makes this case so galling is that it places the
race-baiters, the wielders of the ready smear and the professional
offense-takers in the right for once. In a tribute to Sen. Strom Thurmond,
R-S.C., Lott said: "I want to say this about my state (Mississippi): When
Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And
if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all
these problems over all these years, either."
Wince. Groan. Wail. How stupid, how morally obtuse can you be?
Strom Thurmond, who was a Democrat then, ran for president on the Dixiecrat
ticket, a segregationist and white supremacist splinter party. No one,
except the most purblind racist, believes that if the Dixiecrats had
prevailed "we wouldn't have had all these problems."
For Heaven's sake, what was he thinking? The country, black,
white and other, would be infinitely worse off if the segregationists had
won. Lott either does not really believe this, in which case he is a moral
cretin, or he spoke without thinking, in which case he's a fool. Either way,
he's a disaster.
Lott's defenders say it's silly to believe that Lott is a
segregationist at heart. He simply went a little over the top in
congratulating the first man to reach 100 in the Senate. Let's acknowledge
that this may be true. But let's also recognize what is at stake.
The most contentious, emotional and bitter arguments between the
two parties often touch upon race. Both Republicans and Democrats have
played the race card, but in the last two decades, the Democrats have honed
and perfected the art. They have done so because only by riling their black
supporters and exacerbating racial tension can Democratic candidates
continue to win elections.
The day Democrats fail to secure 80 percent or 90 percent of the
black vote, they cease to exist as a major party. Or at least, they would be
forced significantly to remake themselves as a party.
In 2000, the NAACP advertisement that blamed George W. Bush for
the dragging death of a black man in Texas enraged black voters and helped
drive up turnout for Al Gore. That ad was one of the lowest political smears
in American history. (The men responsible had been found guilty and, in one
case, put to death with Bush's blessing.) But it was only one example among
thousands of the way Democrats seek to tar Republicans as racists.
Any judicial candidate who has expressed skepticism about
affirmative action can expect the Democratic hit squads to accuse him of
being the first cousin of Bull Connor. Anyone in public life who so much as
misspeaks can face a p.c. firing squad. Remember the Washington, D.C.,
official who referred to "niggardly" spending habits and had to resign for
"offending" community sentiments?
Trent Lott has played right into their hands. In the coming two
years, we are likely to see two huge fights over Supreme Court appointments.
Even if the president nominates St. Francis of Assisi, the Democrats will
find a way to paint him as "insensitive" to "minority" concerns. With Trent
Lott leading the battle for Bush's nominees, their chances decline
Nor has Lott proved such a brilliant leader until now. He helped
Clinton shepherd the Chemical Weapons Treaty (a useless piece of paper)
through the Congress. He failed to prevent Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., from
bolting the party. He agreed to a power-sharing deal with Sen. Tom Daschle,
D-S.D., in 2000 when Republicans held the majority. When adulterous Air
Force officer Kelly Flinn faced court martial for insubordination, he jumped
in with both left feet, urging that she was being railroaded only because
she was female.
Sens. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Don Nickles, R-Okla., and Rick
Santorum, R-Penn., would all make excellent leaders. There are other fine
candidates, as well. But at this point, the Republican motto should be
"Anyone but Lott."
OK, with the possible exception of Strom Thurmond.