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Archive for Saturday, December 14, 2002

For the good of Republican Party, Lott should step down

December 14, 2002

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About everyone has said or written something that, upon reflection, they wish they could take back or alter. Perhaps they said something at a very emotional or stressful time or wrote something, maybe a letter, that would have been far better off buried in a desk drawer than being put in a mailbox.

It's happened to about everyone.

Right now, attention is focused on Mississippi Republican Sen. Trent Lott's remarks during a 100th birthday celebration last week for retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina.

At the birthday gathering, Lott said he was proud that his state, Mississippi, voted for Thurmond in his 1948 presidential bid. Lott added that the country would be better off today if Thurmond had won the election.

Lott's comments in support of a campaign in which Thurmond ran on a segregationist platform have triggered a firestorm of anger. Many Democrats are calling for Lott to step down from his Senate leadership role.

Lott didn't waste any time expressing his apologies. He said his remarks were a mistake of the head, not of the heart, and he used every means, on all types of media, to say how sorry he was for his insensitive comments. At the same time, he said he would not resign his Senate position.

Democrats have been quick to jump on Lott and have said he should step aside as the incoming Senate majority leader. All leading Democratic presidential hopefuls have criticized Lott and said how terrible it was to have someone with such segregationist beliefs in a Senate leadership position. Democrats don't acknowledge it, but they are giddy over the prospect of being able to use the Lott statement in their campaign efforts and suggest this is further proof the GOP is anti-black. They are as glad as can be that Lott made such a colossal blunder.

Who knows how long the Lott issue will command top headlines and provide fodder for talk shows. Democrats are sure to try to drag it out as long as they can. Republicans will say they have known Lott for years and know he is not racist, does not favor segregation and is a good man.

Some Democrats who have been quick to criticize Lott are using this issue to try to polish their own images, and a great deal of their public rhetoric is phony and self-serving.

Since Lott's initial remarks at Thurmond's birthday party, many have investigated Lott's past for comments that either confirmed or contradicted the sentiment he expressed at the party. Unfortunately for Lott, it was discovered that in the 1980s he said almost the exact thing he did last week.

Granted, most of the past comments being unearthed to try to prove Lott is a racist were made some years ago and why he said what he did last week is anyone's guess. The fact is, he repeated his thoughts about the country being better off today if Thurmond had been elected. Based on the inadvisability of his remarks, one has to wonder who is 100 years old, Lott or Thurmond?

Political history books provide ample examples of elected officials changing their positions and political philosophies on various matters. Many of today's lawmakers from southern states present a far different public image today than these same individuals may have embraced some years ago.

Times change, and people change. Some are genuine in their changed beliefs. Others profess to change, at least in their public positions, but inwardly remain the same. Still others inwardly embrace highly questionable ethics, beliefs and practices and yet outwardly try to appear to be honest, wholesome and moral individuals. There are a lot of phonies.

Regardless, it seems it would be better for all concerned if Lott were to step aside as Senate majority leader. In fact, he should have announced his intention to resign his high post soon after he made his offensive remarks. He should have taken the initiative, not tried to defend his poor judgment. He should not have put himself in the position of appearing to react to criticism either from Democrats or some of his fellow Republicans.

Why didn't he have the political smarts, the personal judgment or the courage to say how embarrassed and sorry he was and that he thought it best to resign from his Senate position? He should have taken the lead and not waited to apologize until after President Bush said he was wrong.

Of course, it's easy for those on the outside to say what he should or should not do, and there is no question he has a record of far more good deeds than bad. Even so, he made a dumb, offensive statement and he now should pay the price by relinquishing his position.

It would be the best way for him to show he recognizes how wrong he was. A resignation would quiet many of his self-serving, phony Democratic "friends" in the Senate and it would minimize damage to the Republican Party's 2004 election efforts. It also would help eliminate or diminish one more issue that reflects poorly on the country.

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