Wednesday, December 11, 2002

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Memo to Karl Rove -- part 2

I warned you last night that duck and cover wasn't going to work on the Lott story. Now look -- it's on page one of the Washington Post, and I'm betting it's on page one of the New York Times as well. Look at the transcript of Lott's conversation with Sean Hannity. Even scarier, read the summary of his phone-in with Larry King -- he's still waffling about whether Truman was a better president than Thurmond would have been! This is going to get uglier. Democrats aren't that stupid -- they know a gift from the gods when they see one.

Karl, you want to be the Mark Hanna of your day? You're not going to be able to do that if you convince an entire generation of potential Republicans that it's the party for nostalgic segregationists. Andrew Sullivan is right about this -- there's a generation gap in the reactions. If you fail to take action now, a lot of impressionable young minds will be convinced Bob Herbert -- God help me -- is right.

You've got a chance to prove that the Republican Party knows what century it is, but your window of opportunity is closing. The longer you wait to act, the less it seems like Republicans were genuinely offended by Lott's comments and five days of non-apologies and the more it seems like you're reacting to the news coverage. This is why Lott's contrition today will only feed the beast -- if he'd done it on Saturday, the story would have gone away. I'd say you've got another 24 hours, tops, before this turns into a genuine media frenzy, and the dominant question becomes why Bush has said nothing.

A lot of conservative pundits have called for Lott to step down as majority leader, but conservative pundits are trumped by Democratic politicians in news coverage. It looks like Republicans are stonewalling. Peruse the Post story -- isn't it getting a bit embarrassing that no elected Republican has publicly criticized Lott's remarks? (UPDATE: U.S. Rep. Anne Northup has stepped up to the plate.) Instead, you have Arlen Specter saying, "His comment was an inadvertent slip, and his apology should end the discussion." That's a great defense -- he didn't mean to say he favored segregation in public, it just slipped out accidentally! Worthy of Ron Bonjean, that line. Jesse Helms is also defending him.

Privately, Republican politicians are clearly upset about this -- they need a signal that it's OK for them to speak their peace about this. Karl, give them the go sign, and give it soon.

UPDATE: Click here for UPI's roundup of today's editorial page reaction to Lott.

posted by Dan on 12.11.02 at 11:01 PM