Why Lott must go

Posted: Dec 13, 2002 12:00 AM
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 tremendously. 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.