Why Trent Lott?

By Goldberg, Jonah | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, November 17, 2006 | Go to article overview

Why Trent Lott?


Goldberg, Jonah, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Who says the Republicans are the Stupid Party?

Huge numbers of voters told exit pollsters that they were disgusted with the nigh-upon-Roman excesses of the GOP; the self- dealing, the pork-barrel spending, the aloofness -- it was all just too much.

Meanwhile, strategists warned that the Republican Party was becoming too white, too male and too exclusively Southern. Ken Mehlman, the outgoing head of the Republican National Committee, declared just days after the GOP's recent thumpin', "We rely too much on white guys for our vote."

So what did the GOP senators do when they needed to pick their No. 2 man in the Senate? They shouted, "This is a job for Trent Lott!"

Recall, if you will, that Lott, the Mississippi Republican, was Senate majority leader in 2002 until he proclaimed that America would be better off if only Strom Thurmond -- the Dixiecrat segregationist candidate in 1948 -- had been elected president.

The gale-force winds of the subsequent political maelstrom were not only enough to blow Lott from his perch as majority leader but some witnesses actually swear they saw his hair move.

Now, I don't know if Lott's a racist. And I certainly don't believe his 2002 comments were intentionally bigoted. Lott's gaffe reflected something else about the man and the culture he represents:

He not only thinks the Senate is a country club, he thinks members have an unlimited right to rifle the club's supply room (aka the Treasury) in the name of their constituents. A Lott colleague once said, "After pork, Trent's default position is conservative, but he likes to compromise."

The inscription on his Profiles in Courage plaque almost writes itself.

Nobody disputes that Lott could be a great minority whip. He was elected precisely because he has the skills a minority whip needs: an intimate knowledge of the institution and the ability to shake down colleagues for votes.

Lott is detail oriented, collegial with an Old World gentility -- as well as a certain sexual confidence befitting a former cheerleader at Ole Miss. It also should be remembered that Lott's downfall was essentially a coup orchestrated in part by a White House that didn't think Lott's Confederate nostalgia jibed well with "compassionate conservatism. …

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