Well, there’s the other shoe dropping. Early today I got a tip that back in 1980 Trent Lott had used nearly the identical “poor choice of words” to lament Strom Thurmond’s defeat in 1948. I was told by a very reliable source that he’d said the words at a Reagan campaign rally in Mississippi in 1980 with Thurmond by his side. Try as I might I couldn’t get a hold of a transcript to confirm it.
But as of 10 PM this evening Drudge has it blaring across the top of his site. So I think we can be pretty confident that someone else was able to confirm it.
I don’t want to overplay the political significance of this. And I’m certainly not going to say the guy is toast. But I think Trent Lott’s in real trouble. The conventional wisdom on the news today was that Lott had pretty much put this story to bed with his ‘apology.’ I didn’t think that was true. Now it seems clear that it’s not true.
But you don’t have to have your ear to the ground or be getting tips about long forgotten speeches to know this. Much of the wobbly coverage of this story (and much of the deep unease over this among conservatives) stems from fact that this obviously wasn’t some misstatement or hyperbole or slip of the tongue. It’s what the guy believes. You can tell that from just listening to his words. And it’s clear from the man’s long history of hobnobbing with neo-confederate wing-nuts and general nostalgia for the pre-civil-rights era South. It’s even painfully, and belatedly, clear from his weird unwillingness to utter even a pro forma condemnation of segregation. It’s what the guy believes. And for a lot of reasons that makes it hard for a lot of journalists to cover it.
You don’t have to believe that the guy’s an out and out racist. But it’s very hard not to conclude that he sees the old Jim Crow days as the good ol’ days. And that’s pretty damn bad.
This shines a light in some pretty dark places. It makes a lot of people really uncomfortable. And it’s not going away.