Trent Lott's `Advance to the Rear' May Doom GOP Senate Majority

Article excerpt

It's time for Sen. Trent Lott to resign. Rather than rally Republican senators behind a free-market, limited-government agenda, Lott of Mississippi has ducked fights, squandered opportunities and watched his majority shrink. With House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois limiting himself to backstage maneuvers, Lott's cowering behind his desk has left the Grand Old Party virtually faceless. Given Lott's recent legislative cave-ins, that's probably a good thing.

The Senate majority leader never met a towel he hasn't thrown in. On April 25, he surrendered on Social Security reform. His complaint? President Clinton never presented his own plan to fix the failing federal retirement scheme. "I don't believe the president will really honestly address it," Lott said on ABC's This Week.

Boo-hoo. Why couldn't Lott himself have promoted Sen. Rod Grams' bill that would free Americans to put 10 percentage points of their 15.3 percent FICA taxes into personal retirement accounts? (The balance would fund the transition to a privatized system.) Lott could have emphasized that these personal accounts would be strictly voluntary. Those who like today's Social Security system could stay there. Those who don't could invest in stocks and bonds. Let Clinton explain why Americans should be denied even the option of investing their own money.

Well, that might make Clinton sweat, and who wants that? Genteel to a T, Lott poured the president a mint julep on this issue. Now, back to the blueprints for the Clinton Library.

Lott also has given the president a new tool to stymie Republicans on any issue that gives them the shakes: simple refusal to submit a plan. Partial-birth abortion? "We're still waiting for the White House to move." School choice? "We just can't find President Clinton's proposal." Tax cuts? "The president hasn't decided what he wants us to do." So it goes when the Senate's GOP leader thinks he's the president's bartender.

Lott skipped an April 15 antitax rally at the Capitol. His office claimed that a budget meeting conflicted with the tax-day demonstration. However, as veteran columnist Bob Novak reported, that conference began at 3:15, long after the 1 o'clock kickoff of the tax protest.

Would House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt duck out of a pro-union rally on Labor Day? Hardly. Gephardt stands for a sorry set of views, but God bless him for fighting daily for his misguided agenda. …