Lott Should Not Resign

Political correctness reared its ugly head again with the media firestorm over remarks that Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R.-Miss.) made at the 100th birthday party for Strom Thurmond (R.-S.C.). In an attempt to be gracious, Lott said the nation would have been better off if Thurmond, retiring after his long years of service in the Senate, had been elected President in 1948 when he was the nominee of the State’s Rights Democratic Party.

Quick to take offense was Rep. Elijah Cummings (D.-Md.), the new chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who is quoted in [the December 10] Washington Post as being “very concerned” and “very upset” about what Lott had said. Cummings said the CBC was “trying to resolve exactly what action we will take.” Perhaps the CBC is debating whether to call for Lott’s censure or his departure from the leadership post.

Whatever else one thinks of Thurmond, his record in Washington belies the stereotype of a crude Southern racist in the mold of a Senator Bilbo, particularly in the later years when he paid very close attention to the concerns of black voters of his state. HUMAN EVENTS political reporter John Gizzi reviewed Thurmond’s record in an online story. Gizzi noted that in the years following World War II when Thurmond was governor of South Carolina and made his presidential bid, there is no question that he was a supporter of segregation. Almost any successful Southern politician was back then, including those thought to be relatively progressive such as Senators John Sparkman (D.-Ala.) and J. William Fulbright (D.-Ark.). However, as governor, Thurmond sought to abolish the poll taxes that limited black voter participation and to improve the state’s segregated school system.

I’ve known Trent Lott for almost 35 years. We have spent a great deal of time together both socially and professionally, including many instances where he was out of earshot of reporters. We were on trips overseas and were in situations where, if Trent is a racist, it would have been clear. Yet, I’ve never heard one word come from his mouth that could be construed as racist. Not a joke. Not a flip remark. Nothing.

But political reporters seized upon his remark, causing even Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.), as partisan a Democrat as you will find, to come to the defense of Trent Lott. Now, Daschle has backtracked, facing criticism from within his own ranks for having come to the defense of his adversary across the aisle.

Those in the conservative movement know that I have had serious differences with Trent over the years regarding his leadership of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate. Believe me, I am hoping and praying that he will be a tougher leader of the 108th Congress than he was in the last session or in other past ones.

However, he absolutely should not resign over the unfortunate remarks that he made at a birthday party in attempting to pay homage to an aging senator.

Knowing Trent as I do and how strongly he is opposed to communism, I believe what he meant to say is that Thurmond was a patriot and had he been elected we would have taken a much tougher stance vis a vis the Soviet Union than what the foreign policy establishment would have favored. Resigning over this issue would greatly strengthen the opposition. So, Trent would be doing the right thing by his country by not giving the left the victory they want just because he had made an unthinking comment.