Jewish World Review Dec. 13, 2002 / 8 Teves, 5763

Zev Chafets

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Consumer Reports

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 Dixiecrat Party.

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 now.

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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11/18/02: It's the war, stupid
11/14/02: The Dems don't have a prayer
11/07/02: Watch for Dubya to give Arik political hug
10/31/02: Sharpton the patriot
10/22/02: Rabin, gone but not missed
10/17/02: Israelis bracing for US' punch at Iraq
10/14/02: Geriatric war resisters
09/27/02: Al Gore: The Lost Boy of American politics
09/05/02: The intifadeh's over, and the Israelis won
08/29/02: At the world summit, just anger & hypocrisy
08/21/02: No time for weak knees on Iraq
08/16/02: A pro-Arab pol may get the beating she deserves
08/13/02: Fight it out now
08/02/02: Memo to The Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. values won't sell in Arab world
07/31/02: Israel's nutty neighbors

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