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A Lott of shame

By Bob Weir
web posted December 23, 2002

When Senator Trent Lott first came under fire for his dumb comments at Strom Thurmond's centennial, I felt it was, as is so often the case in politics, being blown out of proportion in order for the Democrats to take advantage of a chink in the armor of the current Republican dominance. I felt that Lott should not give up his position as Majority Leader because, in my opinion, what he said, although totally bereft of sensitivity, didn't merit such harsh punishment. However, after his interview on Black Entertainment Television, I firmly believe the senator should not get within 100 yards of a leadership position. His mealy-mouthed mea culpa in front of the nation was one of the most embarrassing displays of pandering I have ever witnessed. Before the interview ended, I expected Lott to get on his belly and crawl across the stage simulating the butterfly stroke. He behaved more like Monica Lewinsky than a United States Senator. After such an ignominious, self-loathing emasculation, he no longer has any credibility with the electorate.

Lott talks with Black Entertainment Television reporter Ed Gordon during the network's 'Conversation with Ed Gordon' program on December 16
Lott talks with Black Entertainment Television reporter Ed Gordon during the network's 'Conversation with Ed Gordon' program on December 16

Promising to work assiduously on civil rights legislation in the future, including the present liberal agenda that supports racial preferences, Lott has shown what happens to principles when personal power is threatened. Prior to his self-imposed public humiliation, he was on record as being against the current form of Affirmative Action programs. Anyone who would do a complete 180 in an attempt to hold on to a leadership position has lost their right to serve. Principles are defined as ethical rules of conduct. If Lott was standing on principle when he took a position against A.A. as it is being used and abused in college admissions, employment, and other selection processes, then his sudden reversal amounts to a repudiation of principle. Oddly enough, those black groups that have been calling for his head should quickly see the obvious advantages of keeping him in place now that they have him whipped into submission.

Yes, the senator made some verbal blunders, but they pale in comparison to the pusillanimous performance he demonstrated on national television. If he truly was a person with conviction, courage, and a set of values that every citizen has a right to expect from their leaders, he would have stood up to his detractors, explained his comments forthrightly, and let the chips fall where they may. But to debase himself and the reputation of a venerable institution by what amounts to begging for the charity of his critics, is to reveal a paucity of character unequaled in contemporary politics. If this unfortunate chapter in our history has revealed anything, perhaps it is that people who harbor ill will in those private chambers of the heart, are in fact devoid of the necessary components on which integrity is built. Hate and integrity cannot coexist in one's heart and mind without causing a conflict that will one day be exposed. In psychology it's known as cognitive dissonance; the inability of the mind to deal with two conflicting ideas or emotions.

One could say that Trent Lott has been a closet segregationist for all of his adult life, but when he got into politics he had to restrain that part of his belief system, grow a benevolent smile and appear to be in harmony with the strident forces of his nature. His obnoxious utterance about the segregationist past of Senator Thurmond may have been an involuntary eruption of primal prejudices that have been held captive by the constraints of propriety and the adherence to expediency. That same expediency is governing his actions now as he seeks to make a Faustian bargain for the sake of personal aggrandizement. I feel sorry for Trent Lott; he started with merely a stupid comment and parlayed it into a degrading moral striptease that exposed his naked lack of substance. Now he expects his GOP colleagues to vote him into a position that requires all the virtues of leadership that he has relinquished during his quest for vindication. To do so would corrupt the entire legislative body and subject any future decisions to immense public skepticism and obloquy. It's quite apparent that Lott isn't worth the hassle.

Bob Weir lives in Texas and this is his first contribution to Enter Stage Right.

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