15 December 2002

Thank Heavens I Don't Have to Live in Mississippi

People say that I never have a kind word to say about the President. Okay, here's a kind word about the President: He did a hell of a lot better job responding to the outrage over Trent Lott's hoof-in-mouth disease than Trent Lott has done.

President Bush used strong, forceful language and firmly repudiated both Lott and the ideas Lott is now trying to pretend he doesn't endorse. Had Lott himself said something that firm, he would have been off the hook a week ago -- but he can't, because even Trent Lott can't convincingly lie that much. At his core, he's racist and thus can't bring himself to call segrationism "morally repugnant" or "untrue to the ideals of this nation" the way Bush did. That's because Lott does believe that segregation would have prevented a lot of "problems" we've had since those days.

That's the core of the problem. Nobody I've spoken to about this (mostly Republicans) believe Lott didn't mean what he said the first time. You can't fake stuff like that, and you can't hide when you say it out loud. All the "I'm sorry"'s in the world are just going to sound like "I'm sorry I said that in front of a camera" to blacks and anyone with half a brain in their heads.

Even if Lott somehow managed to grit his teeth and lie to the cameras, there's his absolutely abysmal record on race issues to haunt him. He voted against the 1981 renewal of the Civil Rights Act. He supported Bob Jones University in the brouhaha over their ban on interracial dating. He opposed the creation of a holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. He championed the nomination of segregationist Charles Pickering for the US Court of Appeals (it was unsuccessful, thank heavens). He only got into Congress in the first place because he replaced his boss, arch-segregationist Bill Colmer. He is one of only a few few Senators to get consistent "F" grades from the NAACP during his three decades in Congress.

I personally don't have an opinion on whether Lott should resign his office -- he represents a pretty backward, poor and racist state (and yes, I've been there and seen this firsthand) and neither he nor the voters in that state seem to have any interest in making Mississippi anything other than the most third-world-like state in the union. They consistently show up as 50th out of 50 on most polls that measure which states offer anything like good health, good education, good social services or good jobs for their people, average literacy, average IQ and so on. This is, after all, one of the states with a confederate flag incorporated into its design.

So, as a representative of the state (both the physical state and the state of mind), he's probably doing a pretty good job. But Senate Majority Leader? Sorry, but I don't think so. I think it's past time Congresspeople on both sides of the aisle grew some balls and said "buh-bye" to Lott as Leader.

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