Is it okay with you if I needle Byron York a bit more about the South Dakota story? Thanks. I appreciate it.
As you know we’ve been talking about the South Dakota voter fraud hoax for months now. And the National Review’s Byron York has been pushing the story heavily in the aftermath of Tim Johnson’s reelection victory.
For a moment, let’s set aside whether or not there’s any truth to the charges. One of the biggest obstacles for Republicans who are pushing this story is South Dakota’s Republican Attorney General, Mark Barnett, who insists, rather inconveniently, that the charges are pretty much all bogus.
So, predictably, the guns have now turned on Barnett.
In recent days the National Review has published a number of pieces claiming Barnett is stifling the investigation into voter fraud. The claim of late has been that Barnett is ignoring the voter fraud issue in hopes of future political gain. (Barnett and National Review have actually now gotten into a public spat.) As this editorial note from yesterday put it, Barnett is “a Republican with designs on the governor’s office.”
Can we unpack this for a moment?
If Barnett’s angle is riding this to the governor’s mansion, the guy is really thinking outside the box, isn’t he?
Normally, if one wants to get nominated by one’s party and then get elected, the angle is to curry favor with members of your party, not infuriate them by discrediting them, right? Now, the thinking at National Review seems to be that Barnett simply wants to avoid controversy and thus doesn’t want to get involved in a messy voter fraud investigation that will make him too controversial to get elected. “Starting an aggressive and controversial investigation into voting irregularities,” says York, “would be a sure way to anger at least half the electorate in his state.”
But does even that make sense? If this were a race in California or New York or even Ohio, it might. In states with lots of Democrats, a Republican has to rely on large numbers of crossover Democrats, who might not react well to someone who pushed voter fraud charges — rightly or wrongly — against other Democrats. A stretch still, but not unreasonable.
Yet, as Republicans were very fond of noting — until John Thune lost — voter registration in South Dakota leans heavily Republican. Republican candidates don’t need many crossover Dems. They don’t need any. So what on earth would Barnett would be thinking? And if his angle were avoiding controversy wouldn’t he just be taking some uncontroversial middle road? As National Review is rightly noting, he’s got himself in quite a controversy by so aggressively seeking to refute National Review’s claims.
Just because Barnett’s a Republican and doesn’t believe in the voter fraud charges doesn’t mean the charges aren’t true. But National Review seems to be straining to find any ulterior motive — even the most ridiculous — to explain Barnett’s inconvenient apostasy.
Does National Review think Barnett is going to switch parties and become a Democrat?
Now that would be a story!
“[Jim Sasser is] sending Tennessee money to Washington, to Marion Barry … While I’ve been transplanting lungs and hearts to heal Tennesseans, Jim Sasser has been transplanting Tennesseans’ wallets to Washington, home of Marion Barry.” … Bill Frist, 1994 campaign stump speech. Marion Barry was one of the worst things that ever happened to Washington, DC. No doubt about it. What he had to do with a Senate race in Tennessee isn’t so clear.
P.S. Also see this article on North Carolina Congressman Cass Ballenger (R) and why he said yesterday that he found out-going Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney so annoying that it gave him “segregationist feelings.”
It’s sad, really sad, to watch some conservatives try to wriggle out of, or turn the tide against Democrats, in this evolving national conversation about race. Patrick Ruffini runs a very nice blog from the rightward side of the political spectrum and he’s just posted an entry attacking one of mine of last night. He argues that the Democrats have just as bad a history of race-bating in the urban centers of the North.
It’s certainly true that, as Southerners of all political stripes have long said, racism isn’t limited to the South. It’s just more visible there.
That said, Ruffini’s list of particulars is pretty revealing in its weakness. He says it’s a list he came up with off the top of his head of instances since 1968. Oddly, most seem to be from 1968 and 1969. They’re examples of the original Mayor Daley or George Wallace when he ran as a Democrat in 1972. Isn’t this sort of pitiful?
Another example of his is former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo. That, of course, is a poor and telling example since Rizzo eventually became a Republican in large measure because of his admittedly rather unrefined views of racial matters. As in the South, there were tons of racist and anti-civil rights Democrats. Most became Republicans.
My point here is not to pile on. Democrats certainly aren’t pure on race. Far from it. But I think most conservatives will realize that the argument Ruffini is trying to make is a losing one. Not to mention a pathetic one.
Many Republicans want to rid their party of this ugly baggage. Many more refuse to play this sort of politics for advantage. But over the last forty-odd years, many Republicans, in many small and large decisions, decided to organize much of our national and even more of our regional politics around race. They shouldn’t whine. They shouldn’t cry. They shouldn’t make up excuses. They made their bed. Now they should sleep in it.
P.S. Ruffini says I have ‘statist economic views’. What on earth he’s talking about I have not a clue.
Here’s the transcript of Bill Clinton’s brief exchange with a CNN reporter about the Trent Lott business …
CNN: Do you have a comment on Senator Lott?
Clinton: No, other than….I think that — obviously — I don’t agree with him.
But I think there is something a bit hypocritical about the way Republicans are jumping all over him. I think what they really are upset about is he made public their strategy.
The whole Republican apparatus supported campaigns in Georgia and South Carolina on the Confederate flag. There is no action coming out of the Justice Department against all those people, Republicans, who suppressed black voters in the South, in Arkansas and Louisiana, and lots of other places. Telephone operations telling people in Florida they didn’t have to vote on Election Day, that they could vote on Saturday but not if they had parking tickets. I mean, this is their policy.
So I think the way that the Republicans treated Senator Lott is a pretty hypocritical since right now, their policy is in my view inimical to everything this country stands for. They tried to suppress black voting, they ran on the Conferederate flag in Georgia and South Carolina and from top to bottom Republicans supported them. So I don’t see what they’re jumping on Trent Lott about.
I think the Democrats can say we disagree with what he said and we don’t think its right but that’s the Republican policy. How do you think they got a majority in the South anyway?
CNN: So he should step down as majority leader?
Clinton: I think that’s up to them. But I think that they can’t say it with a straight face. How can they jump all over him when they’re out there repressing and trying to run black voters away from polls and to run on the Confederate flag in Georgia and South Carolina. Look at their whole record. The others, how can they attack him? He just embarrassed them by saying in Washington what they do on the back roads every day.
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Bill Clinton says that it’s “pretty hypocritical” for Republicans to ditch Trent Lott for stating publicly what they say “on the back roads every day.”
Here’s the full quote he gave CNN yesterday …
“How do they think they got a majority in the South anyway?” Clinton told CNN outside a business luncheon he was attending. “I think what they are really upset about is that he made public their strategy.”
He added: “They try to suppress black voting, they ran on the Confederate flag in Georgia and South Carolina, and from top to bottom the Republicans supported it.”
No one compares to Bill Clinton when it comes to cutting to the chase and telling truths in a way sure to make Republicans howl. And howl they will. Because this statement is undeniably true. An RNC flack named Jim Dyke gets off a feeble reply in the CNN piece (see this piece for more on Jim Dyke and his … well, just read the article). But this really gets us into the bigger story, the bigger picture.
One needn’t think that the Republican party itself is racist. I don’t. (In any case, that’s too big a word, too general a question.) What the Republican party does have is a history — not by accident, but by design — of playing to and benefiting from the votes of racist and crypto-racist constituencies in certain parts of the country — particularly, though not exclusively, in the South. They built the Republican party in the South on the foundation of racial resentment and civil rights rejectionism. Since then they’ve built a whole house on top of it. But the foundation’s still there.
To deny this is to deny the obvious. There’s just been a prohibition on saying it. And a good deal of the Republican displeasure with Lott — though mixed with a lot of genuine outrage at his retrograde views — is tied to his having brought this all into the open.
More later on bogus Republican outreach to African-Americans, voter suppression, and comic relief from the ridiculous Conrad Burns.
Compare and contrast …
“There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus,” DiIulio tells Esquire. “What you’ve got is everythingâand I mean everythingâbeing run by the political arm. It’s the reign of the Mayberry Machiavellis”— Esquire,
The [decision over which side to take on the Michigan affirmative action case] is ultimately likely to be resolved by Bush’s chief political strategist, Karl Rove, who is the architect of Bush’s effort to broaden the GOP appeal to minorities.— Washington Post,
December 18th, 2002
Looks like DiIulio had no idea what he was talking about …
Basically, Luntz said that the “problems” Lott was talking about, which voting for Strom Thurmond would have avoided, were Bill Clinton’s moral and sexual lapses. If ever there was a statement so ridiculous that the speaker deserved to be laughed out of three dimensional space, buddy, this is it.
Meanwhile, Chris Matthews is actually pretty good on the Trent Lott stuff, talking about the Dixiecrats and their exodus into the Republican party. The guy was up there speaking truth to power. Or at least to Bill Bennett. Same difference, basically.
One of the subtexts of the intra-Republican fight going on right now is that congressional Republicans are already looking to push an agenda that is, let’s say, racially edgy. They don’t want to hit that fight with Lott’s baggage in tow.
Ed Kilgore is the Policy Director of the Democratic Leadership Council — in other words, not exactly like a proxy for Al Sharpton or anything. And today he told me this …
The angle some people may be missing about conservatives and Lott is that they are eager to pursue a number of things–a scaleback of affirmative action policies, private school vouchers, appointment of conservative judges with backgrounds more questionable than Lott’s–that will create some concerns that the GOP is not exactly the reborn Party of Lincoln that appeared on TV screens at the 2000 convention. Given this agenda, conservatives don’t want the task complicated by a Senate Leader (whom they don’t like anyway) whose very name will conjure up racial dissension for the foreseeable future. For one thing, they’re afraid the Bush White House will put the kibosh on controversial conservative initiatives if Lott has carry the water. So don’t be fooled into thinking that GOP conservatives will drop an anvil on Lott strictly because they are horrified by his words.
I think that’s exactly right. If Lott now tries to remake himself as a born-again civil rights man, that just makes him doubly useless to the fire-eaters in his caucus. Certainly not all Republican Senators see it in this light. I doubt Linc Chafee or McCain or Olympia Snowe look at it this way. But then that’s why it’s the conservatives in the caucus who are pushing hardest to dump him.
Also be sure to read this New Dem Daily (I’m sure written by Ed) on what the Lott scandal really means.
I was wrong! I was wrong! There really is a voter fraud scandal in South Dakota — the scandal surrounding the increasingly suspicious affidavits used by the state and national Republican parties to help prove their charges of voter fraud.
As we noted yesterday, South Dakota’s Republican Attorney General Mark Barnett said that two of the three affidavits that alleged anything illegal turned out to be “either perjury or forgery.” The signer of the third affidavit could not be located.
Now it turns out, according to an article by David Kranz in today’s Argus Leader, that those affidavits were “pre-worded” by Republican lawyers involved in the RNC’s voter fraud investigation.
The chairwoman of the Tripp County Republicans apparently just went through the reservations with pre-written ‘I was in on voter fraud’ affidavits to see if she could get anyone to sign. Here’s the key passage …
Kim Vanneman, of Winner, said in an interview Monday that she traveled through the Rosebud reservation, including the town of Mission, asking people if they had any evidence of wrongdoing on Election Day, particularly of Democrats paying people to vote.
âI just went through the document, read it, asked them if it was correct, and if they wanted to sign it,â said Vanneman, a notary public who verified the statements.
Vanneman said she does not know the source of the original allegations, but word on the streets of Mission was that Democrats were paying $10 to those who would vote.
âI didnât do the investigating,â she said. âSomebody else did that. They (the affidavits) came through work of different attorneys.â
For some reason, no one else involved in the Republican-backed investigation seems to have any idea where the affidavits came from either.
Other Republican lawyers involved in the effort — including the previously mentioned John Lauck — either don’t know or won’t say who was responsible for drawing up the “pre-worded” affidavits. They’re referring all questions to the Republican National Committee.
I think we may have a scandal on our hands after all.
Department of Curious Omissions: Last Friday in National Review Byron York wrote yet another article on purported “massive” South Dakota voter fraud scandal (“The South Dakota Vote Scandal: How High Does It Go?“). The article strongly implies that the State’s Attorney General Mark Barnett is covering up evidence of Democratic voter fraud abuses. Never once in the article does York identify Barnett as the Republican State Attorney General. (He ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination earlier this year.)
How high does the Democratic voter fraud scandal go? Apparently all the way up into the Republican party. Now that’s massive!
Back during the South Dakota Senate campaign we devoted lots of space to trumped-up Republican charges that Democrats had turned the state’s Indian reservations into hotbeds of voter fraud. At some point I want to devote a long post to all the ins and outs of what happened in the voter fraud pseudo-scandal. But for now it’s enough to remember that Republicans made a series of wild-eyed allegations of ‘massive voter fraud.’ Those charges were then amplified by a number of local reporters who turned out to be working in embarrassingly close coordination — in one case, cohabiting — with the Republican operatives who ginned up the accusations in the first place.
The whole thing was a rather shameless attempt to stymie efforts to get more people to exercise their legitimate right to vote — and stir up politically-helpful racial animosity too. The ‘massive fraud’ charges eventually collapsed under the weight of their own ridiculousness, though this didn’t stop Republican candidate John Thune and the RNC from a series of scurrilous ads and mailings accusing Democrat Tim Johnson of having a hand in the fraudulent voting.
On election day Johnson beat Thune by a minuscule margin of 524 votes. The Thune campaign grumbled about voter fraud. But in the absence of any evidence, Thune took the high road and conceded the race.
But there turned out to be an interesting division of labor: While Thune was taking the high road, his Republican operatives — working for the RNC — fanned out across the state’s Indian reservations collecting affidavits purporting to prove widespread voter fraud — enough to have cost Thune the election.
These affidavits were turned over to the State Attorney General Mark Barnett and, helpfully, to Byron York of the National Review and a number of other conservative news outlets. York’s piece, which was based on the 50 RNC-collected affidavits, made the cover of the current issue of the National Review with the headline “South Dakota’s Invalid Senator: How the Democrats Stole a Senate Seat.”
As you might expect, the charges got lots of play in DC, reviving the claims of voter fraud. But if you were reading the South Dakota press you’d see that the state’s Republican Attorney General, Mark Barnett, found the affidavits a good deal less impressive than York did. On December 10th he told the Rapid City Journal …
Realistically, many of the things set out in those affidavits are not crimes. They are what I would call local election-board management problems. 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.
Barnett didn’t think any of the allegations would have changed the result of the election. But he said he would open investigations into “two or three affidavits out of 50” which included allegations of vote buying.
A few days later Barnett came back with the results of his investigation, recounted here in December 13th AP story …
Barnett dismissed allegations in three affidavits, purportedly from people who were offered rides to the polling place in a Johnson van and offered $10 to vote. One of the people could not be located, and the others said they did not vote and were not offered money to vote. One said his signature had been forged on his affidavit, and the other said she signed hers because a friend told her to.
“These affidavits are either perjury or forgery, or call them what you will. They are just flat false,” Barnett said.
So Republican attempts to substantiate their own charges of fraud and forgery end with RNC operatives caught filing perjurious or forged affidavits to prove their phony case. At least, so says South Dakota’s Republican Attorney General.
Trent Lott’s career is currently swirling down the drain in part because he has a long-standing association with a white supremacist group called the Council of Conservative Citizens and because he gave a 1984 interview to a crypto-racist magazine called the Southern Partisan. Attorney General John Ashcroft is going on Larry King Live tomorrow night. Ashcroft also has at least some connection with the very same group and he gave an interview to the same magazine only four years ago.
Is Larry going to ask him about it? If not, why not? Should Ashcroft get a pass for some of the same stuff that’s ending Lott’s career?
His Larryness has his own website. And down in the lower lefthand corner there’s a link where you can send an email suggesting a question for a guest …
Coming tomorrow: the final nail in the coffin of the Republican South Dakota voter fraud smear.
Poor word choice of the day watch. Senator Richard Shelby on CNN’s Late Edition: we should not “lynch” Senator Lott.
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 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 …
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.
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 that a big plug on the OpEd page of The New York Times generates a fair number of visits to the site.
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!
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.
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 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, TPM publishes the full text of Trent Lott’s 1984 interview with Southern Partisan magazine.
“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.
One of the iconic events of the civil rights era was the murder of three civil rights workers — James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner — in Philadelphia, Mississippi on June 21, 1964. They even made a major motion picture about it — Mississippi Burning (1988).
“In 1989,” according to a March 29th, 1999 article in The Washington Post, Trent Lott, “refused to co-sponsor a congressional resolution designating June 21 as Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner Day after the three civil rights workers murdered 25 years earlier in Mississippi.”
This little snippet gets at what is really almost the bigger scandal of this whole Trent Lott affair. I didn’t dig this fact up in some dusty vault. I didn’t get put onto it by some secret source. It’s in a Washington Post article from three years ago.
The truth is that everyone who’s sentient and even remotely keeps up on politics has known about this stuff for years — at least since the last Trent Lott-segregation scandal broke back in late 1998. Sad to say, everyone just agreed not to pay attention, not to care.
P.S. Special thanks to TPM reader NP for bringing this particular three year old article to my attention.
As you likely now know, Trent Lott did an interview on Sean Hannity’s radio show on Wednesday (audio feed here). He said various things, sort of apologizing, sort of not apologizing. My only reason for hedging about that is that you should really hear what he said for yourself because everyone’s going to have a different opinion about his tone, what was spin, and what was sincere.
One thing I do feel compelled to mention is the instance where Lott seemed, frankly, to lie through his teeth. That came when Hannity asked Lott about his association with a group called the Council of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist group, which is the successor to the White Citizens Councils from the civil rights era.
(If you think I’m exaggerating by calling them white supremacists, here’s what David Keene, head of the staunchly conservative American Conservative Union, told The Washington Post when asked why they barred the CCC from their annual Conservative Political Action Conference: “We kicked [them] out of CPAC because they are racists.”)
Here’s the exchange between Hannity and Lott about the CCC.
HANNITY: I want you to just–to address this one issue that has been brought up by your critics. You had this controversy some years ago. You spoke to a group called the Concerned Citizens Council (sic). You want to explain that? What, if any, relationship do you or did you have with that organization, which has been accused of having racist points of view?
LOTT: Well, the event they are talking about, I presume, was an open forum for candidates running for public office. And the public was invited, the media was invited. This was not a closed thing. There were Democrats and Republicans there, and African-Americans there. And it was one of those events that you have almost every two years when you have important elections at a small community–you have them all over the state.
You don’t usually ask who’s sponsoring this thing. Now, in this case, I knew some of the people that were involved, but I also knew that a lot of political candidates were going there, and I said, you know, the things that we support in terms of opportunity for people there that I’d say anyplace else. But the main thing was, it was an open forum.
And here’s Lott saying they have the ‘right principles and the right philosophy’…
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who last week claimed “no firsthand knowledge” of the controversial Council of Conservative Citizens, six years ago told the group’s members they “stand for the right principles and the right philosophy.”
This week, after being asked about a newly surfaced copy of the group’s 1992 newsletter, in which he appears to endorse the group and ask for its support, Lott renounced the organization and said through a spokesman he has nothing to do with them.
December 16, 1998
The Washington Post
And here’s some hints that Lott may actually be a dues-paying member of the group …
According to a number of CofCC members, including Dover, Mississippi Senator Trent Lott is a dues-paying member of the group, which is particularly strong in his home state. (Governor Kirk Fordice, for example, is an open and enthusiastic supporter of the group.) The Citizens Informer occasionally carries Lott’s freely distributed newspaper column. Moreover, despite Lott’s claim that he had “no firsthand knowledge” of the CofCC, Edsall reported on December 16 that Lott addressed the group in 1992, telling the audience members that they “stand for the right principles and the right philosophy.”
When I asked Baum–who had just volunteered that Barr was not a CofCC member–whether Lott does, in fact, belong to the group, he said, “We don’t deny or confirm whether anybody’s a member. If Trent Lott says he’s not a member, then put it to bed: he’s not a member.” When I noted that another CofCC member had told me that there is a record of Lott’s membership at the group’s headquarters in St. Louis, Baum replied, “There’s no earthly way you could obtain that information if it were true.” John Czwartacki, Lott’s spokesman, says that Lott rejects the group’s views and “does not consider himself a member.”
January 4th, 1999
The New Republic
And here’s information about the columns he’s written for the group’s newsletter and his meetings with the group’s leaders in his congressional office in Washington and in Mississippi …
During its 10 years of existence, the council has maintained sustained relations with Lott. Photos of Lott at the group’s gatherings in Mississippi and of Lott meeting in Washington with its officials have appeared periodically in the Citizens Informer, the organization’s quarterly publication. The Informer regularly publishes a column Lott writes and distributes from his Senate office.
One of its earliest publications, the spring 1989 Citizens Informer, pictures Lott as he “talks with relatives, from left, his Uncle Arnie Watson; cousins, Frances and Frank Hodges, and aunt, Eurdise. Arnie Watson, a former State Senator, is a member of the Carroll County Citizens Council’s Executive Committee, and Frank Hodges is a member of the Carroll County Citizens Council.”
The summer 1997 issue of the Citizens Informer has a picture of Lott meeting “privately at his office with CofCC national officers”: Lord, President Thomas Dover and CEO Gordon Lee Baum.
January 13th, 1999
The Washington Post
Every time he opens his mouth he digs himself deeper. First it was nostalgia for the good old days of Jim Crow. Now it’s lies.
One other thing. Next time the AP rips off a story we broke at 11 AM and runs it as their own story at 5 PM maybe they could toss in a little attribution? I know it’s their rep and all but do they have to be so slimy. Dow Jones Newswires caught wind of the Bob Jones Amicus Brief from the story TPM broke too. But they were classy enough to say we’d broken the story.
(AP said the “old court filing surfaced on a day when Lott tried to quell criticism.” Dow Jones Newswires said “A congressional aide also circulated to reporters a copy of the brief unearthed by columnist Joshua Micah Marshall.”)
Well, Trent Lott does a call in to Larry King tonight. And it’s already been taped. And TPM’s got the transcript. And well, let’s just go to the tape.
The first run through about Lott’s opinions about Strom Thurmond’s 1948 candidacy?
Having said that, you know, I see — I was 7 years old when, you know, Strom first ran for president. I don’t really remember anything about the campaign.
And would Thurmond have been a better president than Harry Truman?
KING: But you don’t think he’d of been a better president, say, than Harry Truman who defeated him that year?
LOTT: You know, I’d have to go back and look at the election of that year. Harry Truman obviously did a lot of great things for our country, and, you know, I was trying to remember who the Republican nominee was…
KING: Dewey. Tom Dewey.
LOTT: Yes, it was Dewey. I don’t — you know, I couldn’t tell you one thing about what Dewey’s policies were at the time. I remember the headline, you know, that Dewey wins.
KING: Yes, Dewey defeats…
LOTT: Yes, Harry Truman won. But, you know, one of the things that people don’t even, you know, remember is that his running mate was a guy named Fielding Wright from my state.
Are we in meltdown mode now?
Here’s a new statement just out from Joe Lieberman
Senator Lott’s recent comments about Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential
campaign were hurtful, divisive, and fundamentally un-American. And the
hurt they have caused is not going away, and will not until Senator Lott
speaks out more explicitly.
The policies of the past that Senator Lott’s initial statement appeared
to embrace — specifically, racial segregation — are not just
“discarded,” as his apology put it. They are deeply offensive, morally
wrong, and wholly contrary to our nation’s most important ideal. And
the revelation today that Senator Lott expressed nearly identical
sentiments in 1980 raises some troubling questions that Senator Lott
must answer immediately and fully if he is to restore his credibility as
a national leader.
In particular, I would urge Senator Lott to come forward with a specific
renunciation and repudiation of the indefensible days of segregation,
which are a painful stain on our history, and which either ruined the
lives or compromised the freedom of millions of our fellow Americans.
It’s not enough to say his words may have been misinterpreted. He needs
to speak from his moral center and make clear his commitment to racial
equality. One way to do that would be to go beyond issuing another
apology and meet directly with the members of the Congressional Black
Caucus and show that he understands the hurt his comments have caused.
That would go a long way toward healing the wounds that are widening
This is not about politics. It’s about the fundamental American
principle of equal opportunity — about the core American value that we
are all equal because we are all children of the same God. That’s
evident from the fact that Americans across the political spectrum —
liberals, centrists, and conservatives; Republicans, Independents, and
Democrats; and people of every race — have expressed outrage at what
Senator Lott said.
To that end, I believe that President Bush also has a responsibility, as
the nation’s leader and the leader of Senator Lott’s party, to show us
where he stands and make clear that Senator Lott’s words were
unacceptable. The President has spoken vaguely so far through his press
secretary, but that is not enough. These harmful words and their
underlying message have hit a nerve among the American people —
offending our most basic values — and I’m confident the President
understands that. But the longer he waits to speak out, the more
troubling his silence will be.
Honestly, Joe seems a bit late to the party. But he’s at least right on the last point. The president’s silence is becoming, well … deafening.