Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2002 / 8 Teves, 5763
Lott has to be dumped
to save W's authority
At Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, Trent Lott opened his
mouth and put President Bush's foot in it.
The Republican Senate majority leader made it clear he's sorry white
supremacy is no longer the law of the land. That's the only way to
understand his retroactive endorsement of Thurmond's segregationist
As a senator from Mississippi, Lott can be as nostalgic as he likes. It's
between him and his voters. But as a senior spokesman for the
Republican Party, he is now toxic.
Lott in the Republican leadership validates the Democrats' contention
that the GOP, despite its Martin Luther King Day oratory, is an
anti-black party. It makes a mockery of Bush's attempt to portray
himself and his party as compassionate conservatives. And it puts the
President's agenda at risk.
In the next Senate, for example, Bush will be sending up a good many
conservative judicial nominations. Past Republican nominees have
been attacked for being weak on civil rights. Does the President really
want them defended by a Jim Crow majority leader?
Bush's economic plan calls for a stimulus package (i.e., a tax cut for the
affluent). He says it's motivated by a desire to create jobs, something
especially important to the black community, where unemployment is
running about twice the national average. But who will believe Bush's "I
care" message when it is delivered standing next to Lott?
Last week, the Supreme Court decided to reopen the issue of
affirmative action, which surely will touch off an emotional national
debate on race. The President opposes racial set-asides as "the soft
bigotry of lowered expectations." How can he expect to be taken
seriously when his man in the Senate openly yearns for the hard
bigotry of legal apartheid?
Lott presents Bush with a similar problem on implementing homeland
security. Civil libertarians fear the administration will trample
constitutional protections and unfairly target people of color. Bush's
response boils down to, "I'd never do that, trust me." But trusting him
becomes harder if it means trusting Lott.
And it will. The Democrats will see to that. By the time they get
through, Bush and Lott will be a duo, as famously linked as Mutt and
Jeff or Batman and Robin. This has serious electoral implications for
the GOP. Democrats will, rightly, use the Bush-Lott connection as a way
to turn out black voters. And they won't, as the President once hoped,
be casting ballots for Republicans.
Lott in the leadership makes a mockery of the President's hope that his
hiring practices prove that he's color-blind. Under the Dixiecrat
doctrine of the majority leader, Colin Powell would have been assigned
to an Army "colored" unit, Condoleezza Rice would be teaching piano in
Birmingham and Secretary of Education Rod Paige would need a
National Guard escort to get into Southern schoolhouses.
Obviously, the White House doesn't pick the Senate's leadership. Just as
obviously, Bush has the muscle to force Lott out. And he should, right
Performing a public Lott-ectomy would be a way for the President to
signal to black voters that the Republican lunch counter is finally ready
to serve them. That's good politics.
It also would help the White House get its agenda and appointees
through Congress, which makes it good government. Most of all,
dumping Lott would go a long way toward building the moral authority
and national unity Bush will need as he takes the country to war.
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JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.
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