Not a Whole Lott of Difference: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist Will Continue to Support Establishment Objectives, Signaling No Real Change in the Senate. (Politics)
McManus, John F., The New American
At the December 5, 2002 birthday party for retiring Senator Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (RMiss.) uttered his now-famous comment that the country would have been better off if Thurmond had been elected president when he ran as a Dixiecrat in 1948. In a matter of days, that off-the-cuff remark was used to link Lott and the GOP to the South's segregationist past and to taint Republican conservatism with racism--even though Lott did not mention segregation and segregation was only one of the planks in the Dixiecrat Party platform.
The Left took full advantage of the opportunity created by Lott's political faux pas. But, as we shall see, so did the Bush White House, although not so openly. In fact, Lott's departure from the important Senate majority leader position in favor of Senator Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) smacked of a carefully crafted White House operation. Some if not all of that operation may even have been directed by insiders at the Council on Foreign Relations, the Establishment's inner sanctum into which Frist had recently been welcomed. Lott was never similarly knighted.
Lott's voting record as measured by THE NEW AMERICAN'S "Conservative Index" was more conservative than Frist's--but not by much. During the eight years that they served together in the Senate, Lott earned a "Conservative Index" rating of 65 percent as compared to Frist's 60 percent. Those scores are admittedly better than those earned by liberal Democrats, but dismal in terms of how a genuine conservative would have voted. Moreover, not all votes are equally important. On issues of great importance to the power elite, such as creating a cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security, Frist, like Lott, voted the Establishment line.
Prior to the Lou imbroglio, Frist reportedly became a favorite of President Bush because of his success in regaining the GOP's Senate majority as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee during the last election cycle. As the new Senate majority leader, Frist can be expected to carry water for the neoconservative wing of the Insider Establishment just as Lott did, but perhaps more effectively.
When the controversy over Lott's remarks erupted, Lott played into the hands of his political enemies by repeatedly apologizing for something he did not say and al most assuredly was not thinking. (Does anyone, including the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, honestly believe that Lott really had segregation in mind when he favorably commented on Thurmond's run for the White House?) Lott even went so far as to apologize for having voted against the Martin Luther King national holiday, as if to suggest that his position on that issue--a position held by many other Republican lawmakers at the time--was somehow racist.
But Lott's spineless approach notwithstanding, he probably could have withstood the onslaught against him until the president himself delivered a haymaker of a blow. It came on December 12th during Mr. Bush's speech in Philadelphia before what the New York Times said was a "mostly black audience of religious leaders." They "rose from their chairs," said the Times, "and erupted in shouts of approval and a long burst of applause" when Mr. Bush stated:
Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country. He has apologized, and rightly so. Every day our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals.... And the founding ideals of our nation and, in fact, the founding ideals of the political party I represent was, and remains today, the equal dignity and equal rights of every American.
White House spokesman An Fleischer immediately insisted that the president wasn't backing away from accepting Lott's apology and "doesn't think [he] needs to resign" as majority leader, the post to which he had just recently been reelected by his colleagues. …