Sen. Lott's Misplayed hand.(EDITORIALS)
Byline: THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The selection of the Senate Republican leader is up to the Republican senators, but events are trending badly against Trent Lott, in substantial part because of what Mr. Lott has said and done since the story broke. Last week this newspaper, with other conservative editorial pages, rebuked the senator for his indefensible statements. Since then, he has made two attempts at public statements of explanation and apology. Both on "The Sean Hannity Show" and at the later hometown press conference his words and demeanor disappointed many of his friends and supporters. The tone was peremptory and oddly upbeat. Whatever the original intent of his words may have been, his subsequent comments disclosed little appreciation for the depth of civic passion they aroused - amongst conservatives as well as liberals. His use of the word "mixed" to describe meetings with blacks and whites in attendance only emphasized his seemingly anachronistic sensitivities about race in America.
Some Republicans and conservatives continue to rally to Mr. Lott, largely because they refuse to surrender one of their own to the predictable shots being taken by the political opposition. But because the criticism of Mr. Lott was stronger, earlier from the conservative rather than the liberal side, this defense has proved less stout than it otherwise might have been. Clearly, other Republicans, including some who have spoken out against him, are his historic intra-party enemies who are taking this opportunity to gain a march on the majority leader. Yet others - in and out of the Senate - have other grievances against him, having nothing to do with the race issue.
However, the two big blows that may prove fatal came from President Bush on Thursday and several Republican senators over the last 48 hours. The president's statement was triggered by Mr. Lott's ineffective performance on Sean Hannity, but was probably motivated by the president's independent decision to distance himself from Mr. Lott. But the negative statements by his fellow Republican senators and their call yesterday for a conference Jan. 6 to resolve the matter was clearly motivated in large part by what was perceived as Mr. …