Trent Lott, the Republican Party's eternal Maalox moment, has given the Beltway's liberal pontiffs on race exactly what they crave: a big, fat excuse to extract legislative payoffs to ease their collective "pain."
On Wednesday, the Senate Republican leader went on Fox News and CNN promising more race-conscious government remedies to make amends for his tacit endorsement of segregation. In interviews with Sean Hannity and Larry King, Lott cravenly pledged support for "community renewal" (more minority set-asides); said he would "put more money into education so no child is left behind" (more federal spending for failed urban programs); and boasted of his "African-American interns" and appointments (more racial preferences).
My fellow conservatives, if you weren't already convinced that the Mississippi senator was a gutless, ineffective, self-preservationist sap before his remarks at Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party last week, this pandering to the race Mafiosi in the aftermath of his comments seals the deal.
Democrats are circling the wagons. Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut demanded that Lott "speak from his moral center" (this presumes he has one) and that he "make clear his commitment to racial equality." How does Lieberman think Lott should do this? Oh, no, not by calling for an end to government racial preferences (as Lieberman once did before he was re-educated) or by meeting with the true moral heirs of the civil rights movement — leaders like conservative Ward Connerly who could teach Lott a lesson or two about principled support for race neutrality and how best to achieve it.
Lieberman wants Lott to meet "with the members of the Congressional Black Caucus (to) show that he understands the hurt his comments have caused." Yes, by meeting with the racial demagogues of the Black Caucus, Lott can show his clarion commitment to racial equality.
And how will the "hurt" be repaired? Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., already has his wish list in order. According to the Biloxi Sun Herald, Thompson thinks Lott can "make up for his statement" by "pushing for a minimum wage increase, expanded affordable housing and a prescription drug benefit." Cha-cha-ching.
Both liberals and conservatives who are lambasting the vacant Lott as an unrepentant bigot give him too much credit, methinks. The former college cheerleader did at Thurmond's birthday party what he has done all of his life: He mouthed the words he thought his audience at the moment wanted to hear. Lott never actively donned a white sheet, like his Senate colleague and ex-Klansman Robert Byrd, D-West Va. Instead, Lott is, and always has been, on the sidelines of America's race debate.
When James Meredith weathered violent riots in his brave quest to integrate the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1962, Lott was neither standing next to him nor standing with the segregationist mob. The Ole Miss alum was holed up inside his frat house, preserving his and his brothers' political viability.
There is only one cause, one animating spirit that Trent Lott is committed to: not the South, not the segregationist past, but himself and his future in high office. And now, to save his hide, Lott will shake his pompoms and turn somersaults to please whomever (Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the Rev. Al Sharpton) can help him stay in power.
One of the supreme ironies in all this mess is that the White House and GOP leadership are entirely comfortable with the kind of contemptible race-conscious payoffs Lott is poised to make on behalf of the Republican Party. As governor of Texas, George W. Bush signed laws supporting minority contracting set-asides; directing electric utilities to develop diversity and set-aside plans; and creating race-targeted scholarship programs.
Bush also enthusiastically campaigned for a baseball stadium tax hike on the grounds that "a vote for the tax would be a vote for contracts for African American businesses," and to the horror of equal-opportunity conservatives, he ordered his Justice Department to support racially discriminatory federal contracting set-asides last year before the Supreme Court.
So while the headless chicken brigade here in Washington screams about Lott "tearing the country apart" with his idiotic words, the New Segregationist policies supported by both the party of Sharpton and the party of Bush continue unabated. It's racial logrolling as usual.
Michelle Malkin is author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow's review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website.
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