Whole Lott o' Shakin' Goin' OnOkay, let's get my biases out of the way first: I live for stuff like this. I love it when some pious piece of crap like Trent Lott puts his foot in his mouth, and it seems to happen to politicians of both stripes on a routine basis. However, it's extremely rare when anybody but a Republican says something quite this racist and shocking.
First, let's do something the Conservative Media rarely do: let's look at what Lott actually said.
"I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."
Most Americans are woefully ignorant of history, but Trent Lott is not among those people. He knew perfectly well when he said this that Strom Thurmond was running on the Dixiecrat ticket on a platform of segregation -- white people should be protected from black people, and black people should be isolated away from white people.
This is not a case of "oops, I didn't remember that part." You don't say you voted for Strom Thurmond for president in 1948 without also saying you are now (or at least were then) a racist. The fact that he goes on to say that if the Dixiecrats had won with their platform that we wouldn't have "these problems over all these years" is a explicit, direct and uninterpretable attack on the very concept of civil rights. In fact, he endorsed Thurman's platform in an almost identical way in remarks in Mississippi in 1980. This was not some trip of the tongue, friends.
I applaud the media for not blaming the wrong person. It would have been easy to make this about Strom Thurmond, who was and probably still is a bigot. Or maybe Strom really did have a change of heart a la former Georgia governor Lester Maddox (who I used to know personally -- he was a friend of my mother's -- and can attest that he did in fact reform, albeit in something of a simple-minded and unintentionally patronising way). I don't know how Thurmond truly feels about blacks today, I suspect he likes blacks just fine -- as long as they vote Republican. But Strom's former open racism and his views in 1948 are not the issue. The issue is that there are powerful men in this country who still hold those views, and do not repudiate them as morally wrong. Strom Thurman's former positions will, as a result of Lott's gaffe, be re-examined -- which is a very good thing. But hopefully this will not result in new hate being stirred up against Thurman. I personally can't stand the drooling old coot -- he has been nothing more than a warm body (literally) who's staff makes every decision for him for at least 20 years, just staying in place to prevent the possibility of some Democrat with a functioning brain getting into office. He barely remembers his own name, much less how to actually represent the people (the idiot people of South Carolina) who keep re-electing him. When he announced his retirement, I joked that they should replace him with Ronald Reagan to keep things consistent. But again, this controversy is not actually about Strom or his views, and so far the media have done a good job separating that from the actual fracas.
So what did Lott do when confronted with the general outrage and shock over his remarks? He issued what I would have to say is the feeblest apology I've yet seen from a politico who steps in it:
A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embrace the discarded policies of the past.
Notice how he doesn't say that the Dixiecrat platform was wrong or morally repugnant. Just that they were "discarded," as if to imply that the ideas had some worth but people just moved on. Notice how he doesn't repudiate his original remark that he's "proud" of voting for Thurmond in 1948, nor does he retract the idea that the racist Dixiecrat platform would have solved "all these problems" we've had with the uppity black folk since then.
Now, this would be a big deal if anyone of such importance had said it. Even people from Lott's own party have condemned the soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader for his remarks -- such as Family Research Council head Ken Conner, who openly called for a new Senate leader.
But I ask those of you who doubt my insistence that the concept of the "Liberal Media" is dead and gone -- what would have happened if Gore had said this? If Clinton had said this? Would the conservative New York Times really have ignored the story for five days if Gephardt or Kerry had said this? Give me a freakin' break.
I watch the mainstream TV news outlets more or less daily. Not one word about this story on CNN. Not on MSNBC either. Or Fox as far as I can tell (can't stand to watch Fox for more than a few minutes -- talk about biased!!). If Clinton had said this, the whole country would have come to a halt as every major media outlet -- not just a few editorial newspaper boards -- would have raked him over the coals. You can be sure the Democratic Party would have been quick to distance themselves as fast as possible.
But the Republicans? They shrug and ask what's the big deal, he apologised?
It's as if they don't know that Lott has for decades been closely associated with the Council of Conservative Citizens, formerly known as the Council of White Citizens -- a pro-racist group Lott once got in trouble for addressing. At the time he claimed he was "ignorant of the group's agenda" but he has continued to align himself with them. On the incredibly evil Bill O'Reilly's Fox program as recently as last week, Lott pointed with pride to an endorsement he got from the group for his idea of using US troops to protect the US from "illegal immigrant invasions." In 1992, he specifically said to the CCC at their convention that they had "the right principles and the right philosophy." According to the CCC, as of 1999 Lott was a dues-paying member. Go and visit their web site and see if you think this is the sort of group the incoming Senate Majority Leader should be affiliated with.
President Bush seems to think so -- he and his lapdog Ari "I put my foot in my mouth a lot too" Fleisher have refused to directly criticise Lott or his statement.
That Lott isn't being asked -- by his own party -- to at least step down from the Majority Leader position (if not resign outright) tells you everything you need to know about which of the two corrupted political parties (and make no mistake, they are both corrupt) has the most rotten core.