by Patrick J. Buchanan – December 18, 2002
When the official autopsy is performed on the corpse of Trent Lott, it will be revealed that he died of a stab wound that came from above. This time, Caesar knifed Brutus.
Before a black audience in Philadelphia, Bush rose to declare in piety and self-righteousness, “Recent comments by Sen. Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country. He has apologized and rightly so. Every day that America was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our ideals.”
Thus did the president join those who had placed the most malign construction on Lott’s ill-chosen but innocent words of tribute to Strom Thurmond and throw Lott, a loyalist who has hauled water for him for two years on the Hill, to the wolves.
A controversy that had been fading away was resuscitated and raised to world headlines. And with his own president declaring him a shameful sinner, Trent Lott had to apologize and beg “forbearance and forgiveness” of those who had sought to smear and destroy him.
Not only was Lott abandoned by his president and his old friend Jack Kemp, he must have been even more disheartened at the sickening silence of his Republican caucus. He was their leader, he was under savage attack, and they never rode to the rescue.
Who came to Lott’s defense? Robert Novak, Jesse Helms and Sen. Paul Simon, an old-school liberal who was at Strom’s birthday bash and saw no more malice in Trent’s tribute than did a dozen journalists who were there and did not even report his remarks.
The joy on the left is justified. Rarely has more damage been done to a party by its enemies – with less – than was done last week and this to the GOP.
Let us go back and revisit the exact words of Trent Lott at that party for Sen. Thurmond. Said Lott:
“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.”
Lott never used the word segregation, though it was instantly inserted in stories and headlines. But what did Lott mean? Probably nothing. But the least likely interpretation is that Lott, as majority leader, consciously decided, then and there, to declare it would have been far better for America if Strom had been elected because, then, America would still be segregated!
Can any decent, fair or honorable man seriously argue that this is precisely what Trent Lott meant to convey?
Yet this is the precise thought crime of which he is accused, and for which President Bush said he rightly apologized. Ronald Reagan would never have knifed a friend and ally like this, even if were he guilty! It is a failing of the Bush family that they believe in loyalty up, but not loyalty down.
The consequences of this rout of the Republicans, due to their own cowardice, are going to be sweeping.
The liberal establishment has the bit in its teeth. All the momentum of November is gone. Republicans are going to be made to apologize for their past racist sins, to grovel before the inquisition, to abandon any and all plans to block the “civil rights” agenda of Sharpton, Jackson, Daschle and Gore. They will be told to drop any thought of nominating conservative Southern judges to U.S. courts. All efforts to overturn affirmative action – i.e., reverse discrimination – are almost surely now dead.
It is hard to see how Lott survives, or why he would want to. His own president cut him dead and collaborated, almost surely at the instigation of “Boy Genius” Karl Rove, with his assassins. And rather than fight the false charges, Lott apologized four times and threw himself on the mercy of a court that had convicted him, without evidence, of a thought crime he did not commit. Now, he is asking forgiveness of the very enemies he was elected to fight.
How does one now lead?
What should the president have said? A suggestion.
“Every day that America was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our ideals. I believe that. Sen. Lott believes that. Sen. Thurmond came to believe that. As for those who have maliciously and falsely accused Sen. Lott of a statement he never made and a sentiment he never expressed, they should stop dealing the race card from the bottom of the deck.”
Lott’s enemies would have scattered like the jackals they are. Now, with Bush’s assist, they have horribly wounded his majority leader. Trent Lott is the victim of a hate crime, not the perpetrator of one.