You might say that Mel Gibson has had a Trent Lott moment.
Gibson, the movie star and producer of "The Passion of the Christ" _ suddenly under a national spotlight, drunk and spewing anti-Semitic epithets _ reminded me of Lott's moment of undoing at a 100th birthday party for then-Sen. Strom Thurmond.
Of course, as was the case with Lott, C-SPAN was not covering Gibson's pronouncements at that early-morning hour in Malibu. But there are similarities in the incidents and the lessons to be learned.
Perhaps it was the intoxicating company of old friends, and the comfort of a room in the Senate where he has spent so many years, that allowed Lott to drop his guard and wax nostalgic on national television about one of the more racist moments in American history.
Sure, it bothered me that the Mississippi Republican could be so clueless. But what really bothered me was that we were trying to do something important and I knew that Lott's remarks would set us back.
Conservatives, black and white, were making headway getting an important new message to black citizens. Increasing numbers of blacks were beginning to understand that dependence on big government programs was not going to fix their plight. But the message of throwing off the government yoke, of taking on more personal responsibility, was being carried by the Republican Party.
Many blacks, although getting and buying into this message, were still uncomfortable in making a leap away from where they had been politically all their lives, and over to a party that for them was suspect. I knew that the thoughtless, racist-sounding remarks from the then-Senate GOP leader would fuel the fires of doubt among these blacks.
And, of course, black liberals made hay as Lott groveled on BET, fighting to hold on to his leadership post. The left easily conflated a wayward senator with a conservative message of his party. The result was damaged credibility for important principles crucial for addressing black poverty and social breakdown.
Does Mel Gibson dislike Jews? Seems little doubt about it.
However, given the realities with which Jews must contend in today's crazy world, I'd doubt that it provides much relief having identified another confused anti-Semite, even if in this case it happens to be a now-contrite movie star.
We live in a world with 1.7 billion Muslims living in 56 Islamic countries, with control over a good portion of the world's oil resources, who have managed to give credibility to a line of reasoning that unrest in the Middle East is because of Israel. They somehow cannot adjust to the existence of a single tiny Jewish country in a world with a grand total of 13 million Jews, a little less than half of whom live in that country.
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