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Dodd displays a Lott of hypocrisy

By Doug Patton
web posted April 19, 2004

When U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., uttered his now-infamous (not to mention politically stupid) remarks on the occasion of former Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday, he was rightfully forced to step down from his position as Senate Majority Leader.

"I want to say this about my state," Lott had said. "When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems for all these years, either."

At that time, in a column titled "A Whole Lott of Bad Judgment," I wrote that for the sake of the Republican agenda -- especially in the area of judicial appointments -- Lott's continued service as Majority Leader had become a huge distraction.

One of Lott's harshest critics was his Senate colleague, Democrat Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

Sen. Christopher Dodd"If a Democratic leader had made [Lott's] statements," Dodd said at the time, "we would have to call for his stepping aside, without any question whatsoever. If Tom Daschle or another Democratic leader were to have made similar statements, the reaction would have been very swift. I don't think several hours would have gone by without there being an almost unanimous call for the leader to step aside."

Oh, really? Well, this past week, Senate Democrats had a golden opportunity to prove the veracity of Dodd's statement. Dodd was on the Senate floor, doing exactly what Lott was trying to do at the Thurmond birthday party: praise the long service of a fellow United States Senator.

It seems that West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd -- a former Ku Klux Klansman who voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act and just a couple years ago used the "n" word in a TV interview -- had just cast his 17,000th vote in a long and colorful career of Senate soliloquies and pork barrel spending. Several of his colleagues from both sides of the aisle paid tribute to Byrd's longevity in the body. But apparently, Dodd felt the need to go several verbose steps further, and in so doing, inserted his foot directly into his mouth.

"It has often been said that the man and the moment come together," Dodd said of Byrd. "I do not think it is an exaggeration at all to say to my friend from West Virginia that he would have been a great senator at any moment. Some were right for the time. Robert C. Byrd, in my view, would have been right at any time.

"He would have been in the leadership crafting this Constitution," Dodd blathered on. "He would have been right at the great moments of international threat we faced in the 20th century. You would have been right at the founding of this country, right during the Civil War. I cannot think of a single moment in this nation's 220-plus year history where [Robert Byrd] would not have been a valuable asset to this country."

Sixteen months ago, Trent Lott could not apologize profusely enough to suit anyone -- myself included -- because apologies simply were not enough after opining that a segregationist presidential campaign should have succeeded and that America would be better off today if it had. But in this case, Democrats and Republicans alike seem content to accept a mere "sorry if I offended anyone" apology from Dodd. Little has been said by anyone in either party (or the national media) about Dodd's outrageous contention that a man who once wore the white sheets and hood of the KKK while participating in sick racist ceremonies and terrorizing people of color, would have been right for a place in the United States Senate at any time in our nation's history!

Let us review Christopher Dodd's comments about the Lott-Thurmond controversy: "I don't think several hours would have gone by without there being an almost unanimous call for the leader to step aside."

We're still waiting, Senator…

Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a speechwriter and policy advisor for federal, state and local candidates, elected officials and public policy organizations. His weekly columns are published in newspapers across the country, and on selected Internet web sites, including www.GOPUSA.com, where he serves as the Nebraska Editor. He also writes for Talon News Service. Readers can e-mail him at dpatton@neonramp.com.

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