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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

You don't have to feel sorry for Trent Lott. But I'm willing to shed a few tears -- and not just crocodile ones -- for his hapless flack Ron Bonjean as he tries to spin his boss's way out of a web of old statements in praise of segregation, the Dixiecrat party, and miscellaneous other examples of the abhorrent and ridiculous.

As today's Times reports, at a rally with Strom Thurmond in 1980, Lott said "You know, if we had elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today."

Oops.

Bonjean's attempt at damage control is so sorry and pitiful that it's almost like watching a car wreck. You want to look away. But you just can't help watching the carnage unfold.

A spokesman for Mr. Lott, Ron Bonjean, said the remarks at the 1980 rally also did not pertain to race but were made after Mr. Thurmond, then a top draw on the Republican circuit, had complained mightily about President Jimmy Carter, the national debt and federal meddling in state matters.

"We want that federal government to keep their filthy hands off the rights of the states," Mr. Thurmond was quoted as saying.

Mr. Bonjean, when shown the article, said, "Clearly, Senator Lott was praising the policies of Thurmond and Reagan, of smaller government and reducing the federal deficit." He noted that a campaign rally has a similar celebratory feeling as the party last week.

Strom Thurmond, deficit hawk!

An antecedent of the Concord Coalition?

Who knew?

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.

A whole article devoted to attacking lil' ol' me? And in the American Spectator no less? (Or at least its online alter-ego, The American Prowler?) This isn't payback for my not agreeing to contribute a list of books to the Christmas Books issue, is it? (You know, the email request you guys sent me on October 21st?) The piece is sprinkled with a few of what I'd call small errors of fact. But in general it's all above-the-belt and just the author's take on my recent posts on John Kerry and Trent Lott. And after all, being attacked is fun -- especially by the right people.

Ok, back to fighting the good fight. Nice to see this little operation is drawing some blood.

As we've noted earlier, there's a cover story in this week's National Review alleging various forms of vote fraud in the South Dakota Senate race, which supposedly cost the Republican candidate, John Thune, the election. You've got conservatives in town jumping around like monkeys over this (I even see them popping up and down outside my window sometimes...). So let me just note a few points to keep this all in, shall we say, perspective.

Here's an article from today's Rapid City Journal -- the more conservative of the state's major papers -- in which the Republican Attorney General, Mark Barnett, debunks the RNC-collected affidavits on which the National Review article is based.

Definitely read the article to get the whole picture. But here are a few choice snippets.

"Realistically, many of the things set out in those affidavits are not crimes. They are what I would call local election-board management problems," Barnett, a Republican, said. "A fair number could be read as complaints about how effective the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort was. They had people watching, then jumping on the phone to one of their drivers."
And about those Democratic goons who kept the polls open late in that one precinct? Well maybe not so much ...
Barnett offered an on-the-spot Election Day legal opinion about what to do when poll workers inadvertently opened the polls at 7 a.m. Central time, an hour too early according to the law.

"Saying the polls were open too long is not an accurate way to describe it. It was opened too early," Barnett said. "Several affidavits assume that Democratic operatives are the ones who made it stay open. That's not accurate. It was Republican officials who made the decision, myself among them."

State law does not say polls shall be open for 12 hours, he said. The law says polls will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., local time.

"If you screw up and open at 6, you don't fix a morning screw-up by doing an evening screw-up," Barnett said. "If a voter had walked up to a polling place at 6:30 p.m. and found a padlocked door, we would have had the clearest case of a voter-rights violation that I ever heard of. If statute says you're open until 7, you're open until 7."

Hopefully this dose of truth will cut down on the local monkeys' hang-time.

In the department of quotes that just make you cringe, see this graf from the Associated Press article which reports Trent Lott's 'apology'.

Kevin L. Martin, government and political affairs director of the African American Republican Leadership Council, said people were overreacting to the remarks. "By no means was he endorsing segregation or anything like that. It was lighthearted, it was humorous." Martin said Lott captures 25 percent of the black vote in Mississippi, which he said couldn't happen if Lott were a racist.
Ugh ...

"A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embrace the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement." ... That's the apology Senator Trent Lott issued tonight in the face of the mounting controversy -- some of it blog-borne -- over his endorsement of Strom Thurmond's segregationist presidential platform from 1948.

In such a situation one doesn't want to appear to be flogging a dead horse even after the guy has a apologized. And to me this issue transcends partisanship so I especially would not want to appear to be doing that. But frankly this strikes me as a pretty feeble apology. He won't say what 'policies' he's talking about. He won't say they're wrong, just that they were 'discarded'.

It's probably too much to ask for him to get down on his knees and confess his sins. But given Lott's history of flirtation with neo-segregationist politics and the seriousness of the original statement, something a bit more explicit and specific was and is in order.

Really, why so grudging? Why so hard to say that he knows, like everyone else knows, that segregation was wrong? It's like getting blood from a stone. If Ron Bonjean needs some help drafting a new apology, I refer him back to my proposed statement from yesterday.

"I think that a lot of the fundamental principles that Jefferson Davis believed in are very important to people across the country, and they apply to the Republican Party ... After the War between the States, a lot of Southerners identified with the Democrat Party because of the radical Republicans we had at that time, particularly in the Senate. The South was wedded to that party for years and years and years. But we have seen the Republican Party become more conservative and more oriented toward the traditional family values, the religious values that we hold dear in the South. And the Democratic party is going in the other direction. As a result, more and more of The South's sons, Jefferson Davis' descendants, direct or indirect, are becoming involved with the Republican party. The platform we had in Dallas, the 1984 Republican platform, all the ideas we supported there - from tax policy, to foreign policy; from individual rights, to neighborhood security - are things that Jefferson Davis and his people believed in." ... Trent Lott, Interview in Southern Partisan magazine, IV, 1984.

For weeks I've been defending The New York Times from attacks from various quarters, alleging this mistake or that, of fact or interpretation.

Now I've found one. And though it's admittedly in the Times crossword puzzle I still can't let it pass.

On Saturday December 7th, the clue for 16 across was "Traitorous leader of occupied France in W.W.II." Now from the length of the word and the others around it, it was pretty clear the answer was 'Petain,' as in Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain. (I waited till today for confirmation. And 'Petain' it was.)

The only problem is that the clue doesn't match the answer because Petain wasn't the leader of occupied France. After France's defeat, the country was divided in two. There was the occupied zone in the North run by Germany. Then there was the collaborationist Vichy government in the South, which sued for peace and allied itself with the Nazis.

Petain was the head of state in Vichy, not 'occupied France.'

Now perhaps this is a point of detail (though to people at the time -- and since -- it was a very important point of detail). But regardless of that, points of detail are the lifeblood of crosswords, no? I could just imagine thousands of non-historical-illiterates searching for what the answer could be on Saturday since they knew it couldn't be Petain, and now having their confidence in the Times' crossword shattered, perhaps never to be recovered.

Maybe the Times really is suffering from some deep internal rot. Could Raines be responsible for this too? Is it some insidious pro-frog bias?

These days close-fought, down-to-the-wire elections are pretty much win-win propositions for Republicans. Either they win, in which case they're rightly psyched. Or they lose, in which case they get yet another chance to whine about how they got cheated, feel sorry for themselves, and generally indulge that defining emotional characteristic of contemporary conservatism: self-pity.

In the current issue of National Review, Byron York has a cover story -- unfortunately not available online -- in which he alleges that Senator Tim Johnson won reelection through vote fraud. I've wanted to respond to this profoundly problematic story online for a few days. But I haven't yet been able to make time. However, since Byron is going on Fox this evening to talk about the piece let me just flag one important fact. And I'll try to put together a thorough run-down of the issue at some later point.

York's piece is based on about fifty affidavits compiled by a bunch of 'Republican lawyers' in the state. One of them was John Lauck, whom TPM readers will remember from this earlier incident. South Dakota's Republican Attorney General Mark Barnett, according to the Sioux Falls' Argus Leader, "reviewed the documents for the first time last week [and] said there were no vote-changing revelations."

If you want the real scoop on this issue, read the piece by David Kranz from Saturday.

Wait a second. I thought John Snow was just another bland non-entity the White House was installing across the street at Treasury. Turns out Snow's company, CSX, also has some pretty good tax attorneys. In three of the last four years, according to this press release from Citizens for Tax Justice, CSX paid no federal taxes even though it showed a profit in each of those four years.

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