Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

This graf from an

This graf from an excellent and telling article in Sunday's Washington Post certainly has the smell of death about it.

In an indication of White House wariness about getting squarely behind Lott, sources said Lott sought statements of support last week from national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell but was rebuffed. Both are African American. Some White House officials said it was clumsy of Lott to ask.
Grasping for straws. Not finding many straws.

Last night we held

Last night we held an impromptu contest to see which reader could identify the nationally-prominent Republican politician who told Southern Partisan magazine ...

Your magazine also helps set the record straight. You've got a heritage of doing that, of defending Southern patriots like [Robert E.] Lee, [Stonewall] Jackson and [Jefferson] Davis. Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more. We've all got to stand up and speak in this respect or else we'll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda. (See last night's post for the full post)
Now, the truth is that hundreds of readers wrote in with the correct answer: Attorney General John Ashcroft ("Missouri's Champion of States' Rights and Traditional Southern Values" according the headline on the interview's front page) who sat down with the Southern Partisan in 1998. That was when he was thinking of running for president and eager to burnish his standing with the ... well -- what shall we call it? -- the racial traditionalist crowd?

In any case, it's hard to announce a winner when there are so many winners and hard to give a prize for the same reason. So probably the best thing to do is just add the entire Ashcroft interview to the TPM Document Collection. You can find the quote above on page three of the interview. And don't miss what comes right after that quote, where Ashcroft says how real Missourians were part of the Confederacy too and bemoans the fact that the national history standards released in the early 1990s "make no mention of [Robert E.] Lee's military genius!" Or on page four where the interviewer gushes at Ashcroft after hearing what a staunch defender he is of the states' rights cause.

Southern Partisan: That's great. I did not realize that you'd been such a big part of fighting the states' rights fight.

Senator Ashcroft: Well, frankly, there aren't any big parts. There are just a lot of soldiers, and I happened to have been one of the soldiers at whom they fired a shot...

Oh golly gee ...

How about another quote

How about another quote from the Post article mentioned below...

The [White House] officials said Bush and his aides believe Democrats are hypocritically exploiting the issue out of partisan opportunism, and that the absence of news from the war on terrorism last week contributed to the focus on Lott. The officials said Bush would oppose any effort by Democrats to undermine Lott.
To an extent, the second clause of the first sentence is simply a statement of fact. But it's also, I think, a kinda revealing statement of how much the White House has to come rely upon and use the war on terrorism to muffle down domestic political problems.

You can believe in the necessity of the war on terrorism and still recognize how crassly the White House sometimes exploits it for the narrowest political purposes.

As longtime readers know

As longtime readers know, TPM sometimes likes to leaven the seriousness of political talk with an occasional contest or game. So how 'bout this one.

One of the things Trent Lott has gotten in trouble for was a 1984 interview he gave to the 'neo-confederate' magazine Southern Partisan. That -- in case you don't remember -- is the magazine which has questioned whether the non-white races are capable of democratic self-government and taken what you might call a rather too open-minded attitude toward whether or not the murder of Abraham Lincoln was a good thing. Happily, henceforth the bar will be set higher, it seems: any cavorting with crypto-racist whackjobs will simply be beyond the pale.

Now, which very-nationally-prominent Republican politician, as recently as 1998, told Southern Partisan ...

Southern Partisan: On the local and national front, we have another effort at twisting meanings and twisting history. It's this idea of national history standards ...

Republican Politician X: Revisionism is a threat to the respect that Americans have for their freedoms and liberty that was at the core of those who founded this country, and when we see George Washington, the founder of this country, called a racist, that is just total revisionist nonsense, a diatribe against the values of America. Have you read Thomas West's book 'Vindicating the Founders'?

Southern Partisan: I've met Professor West, and I read one of his earlier books, but not that one.

Republican Politician X: I wish I had another copy: I'd send it to you. I gave it away to a newspaper editor. West actually disassembles all of these malicious attacks the revisionists have brought against our founders. Your magazine also helps set the record straight. You've got a heritage of doing that, of defending Southern patriots like [Robert E.] Lee, [Stonewall] Jackson and [Jefferson] Davis. Traditionalists must do more. I've got to do more. We've all got to stand up and speak in this respect or else we'll be taught that these people were giving their lives, subscribing their sacred fortunes and their honor to some perverted agenda.

P.S. Extra credit points for identifying the mysterious 'perverted agenda'.

Well it turns out

Well, it turns out that a big plug on the OpEd page of The New York Times generates a fair number of visits to the site.

Who knew?

In case you haven't seen it the lead-in in Paul Krugman's column today said ...

"Right now we're debating whether the Republican Senate majority leader is a racist who yearns for the days of segregation or just a good ole boy who says a lot of things that make it seem like he's a racist who yearns for the days of segregation." So writes Joshua Marshall, whose talkingpointsmemo.com is must reading for the politically curious, and who, more than anyone else, is responsible for making Trent Lott's offensive remarks the issue they deserve to be.
Actually there was another piece in The New York Post by John Podhoretz ("The Internet's First Scalp" -- where do they come up with those Post headlines?) which mentioned this site and others in making the broader point that the Lott story was a watershed for Internet journalism.

Let me just say thanks to Krugman and Podhoretz and a lot of other people who've privately and publicly said kind things about this site. It's appreciated.

In any case, I'd certainly like to think that this site played some role in keeping this story alive while the bigs were ignoring. But I'm certain that the web generally -- and particularly a lot of different weblogs -- kept this story in front of people and forced attention to it long enough that it became impossible to ignore.

As long as I'm being given some of the credit, though, for getting this ball running it's only fair for me to tell you that I have retained the services of a particularly muscular security consultant whom I've instructed to be on the look-out for any shellac-headed middle-aged men who might make a lunge at me with violence in their eyes or malice in their hearts.

Okay, I haven't retained anyone yet. But, ya know, I'm thinking about it. So if anybody's got any ideas, just put them out of your head!

Ive been thinking recently

I've been thinking recently that it's got to be just an extra stroke of bad luck for Trent Lott -- and to a degree the whole Republican party -- that this whole scandal is breaking just as the Supreme Court is hearing a case on the constitutionality of cross-burning.

But it turns out there's more. It's almost like a harmonic convergence of recrudescent, whack-jobian, good-ole-boy racism. And it's all bearing down on Trent Lott's head.

You'll remember that yesterday morning TPM broke the story of the amicus brief then-Congressman Trent Lott filed on behalf of Bob Jones University back in 1981.

Well, it turns out there's another amicus brief in the mix. You'll also remember we talked yesterday about Trent Lott's friends at the Council of Conservative Citizens. That's the white supremacist group, the leaders of which Lott often meets with and for whom he's been known to pen an occasional newsletter column. (Here's an excellent backgrounder on all matters relating to the CCC from a watchdog outfit that tracks hate-groups.) Well, it turns out the Council of Conservative Citizens filed an amicus brief in the cross-burning case! Yes, it's all coming together! And guess which side they're on?

(New York Post columnist Robert George first discovered this new amicus brief morsel and flagged it in The Corner.)

Now it's worth noting that there are legitimate constitutional questions raised by laws banning cross burning. And one certainly needn't be a racist to raise such first amendment issues. But you don't have to get too far into the CCC's brief before you start finding some ... well, entertaining reading.

This from the 'Statement of Interest'...

The particular emphasis of the Council is the protection of the expressive rights of the millions of Americans of British and European descent who hold to conservative views on matters of racial and ethnic relations.
I guess that's one way to put it.

Or here's another nugget from the 'Summary of Argument'...

Because it is a symbolic expression of political speech, government cannot criminalize cross burning on account of the fact that various persons and groups who may have the occasion to view such conduct may become angry or fearful.
Various persons and groups who may become angry or fearful. It really doesn't get much choicer than that, does it?

All brought to you by the friends of Trent.

As we noted a

As we noted a few days ago, back in 1984 then-Congressman Trent Lott gave a lengthy interview to Southern Partisan magazine, a 'neo-confederate' publication known for its, shall we say, rather problematic views on racial matters and other topics. (For an example of the SP's take on slavery, the magazine said in 1996: "Slave owners . . . did not have a practice of breaking up slave families. If anything, they encouraged strong slave families to further the slaves' peace and happiness.") Now we bring you the Trent Lott interview from 1984, word for word, page by page. It's just been added to the TPM Document Collection.

Coming later this afternoon

Coming later this afternoon, TPM publishes the full text of Trent Lott's 1984 interview with Southern Partisan magazine.

Any suggestion that a

"Any suggestion that a segregated past was acceptable or positive is offensive and it is wrong ...Recent comments by Sen. Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country. He (Lott) has apologized and rightly so. Every day our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals. And the founding ideals of our nation and in fact the founding ideals of the political party I represent was and remains today the equal dignity and equal rights of every American." Those are President Bush's words today on the Trent Lott matter, given during a speech in support of his faith-based services intitiative.

It's a few days late in coming, I think. But he said the right things and he said them with eloquence. So no criticisms from me. The question of course is why Lott couldn't have said something similar, even yesterday when he was in full-bore self-abnegation mode. The question, I think, answers itself.

As of last evening, it began to look increasingly to me like Lott may really be finished as Majority Leader. I'm not predicting it. But at a certain point the question ceases to be how many people are insisting he resign and how few people are willing to say anything in the guy's defense. And as nearly as I can see, that's almost no one. Sure, Arlen Specter spoke up for him. But then we all know that the main reason for having Specter in the Senate is that if, for some reason, no one else will step up to the plate and say something moronic, you at least have Specter to do the job. In truth, no one is defending the guy.

What I think most Republicans understand is that a lot of Democrats would actually prefer Lott stay as Majority Leader. They'd like him to get battered and be wounded politically -- and that's pretty much already taken care of. But they'd really prefer he stay in place. Because as long as he's Senate Majority Leader, politically speaking, he's the gift that just keeps on giving.

Consider the fact that right now we're debating whether the Republican Senate Majority Leader is a racist who yearns for the days of segregation or just a good ole boy who says a lot of things that make it seem like he's a racist who yearns for the days of segregation. I think you can say that that's a debate the Democrats are pretty comfortable having. And it'll keep being that way. Republicans are starting to realize that.

TPMLivewire