Wednesday, December 11, 2002
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"FLOODING THE ZONE" ON LOTT:
"FLOODING THE ZONE" ON LOTT: In no particular order:
1) The press smells blood. This story made the front page of the Chicago Tribune, and was the topic of two syndicated op-ed columns (click here and here). The story is slowly creeping towards the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post with the discovery that Lott's utterance last week echoed a statement he made in 1980. ABC's Note makes a good point on why the story will continue: "this is a TV Nation, and while he has offered three written statements, he has yet to apologize or seek to explain his comments on the air. Until he does that, despite his wagon-circling press strategy and strategizers, we aren't sure he has put things to rest."
2) Fire Ron Bonjean. Joshua Micah Marshall offers some sympathy to Lott's press spokesman: "Bonjean's attempt at damage control is so sorry and pitiful that it's almost like watching a car wreck. You want to look away. But you just can't help watching the carnage unfold." I actually think Marshall is underestimating Bonjean's incompetence. Consider this passage from today's Times story:
"A spokesman for Mr. Lott, Ron Bonjean, said the remarks at the 1980 rally also did not pertain to race but were made after Mr. Thurmond, then a top draw on the Republican circuit, had complained mightily about President Jimmy Carter, the national debt and federal meddling in state matters.... He noted that a campaign rally has a similar celebratory feeling as the party last week (my italics)."
So let me get this straight -- according to Bonjean, whenever a political event takes place in which celebratory feelings are present, Lott is allowed to get all wistful for the days of racial segregation?! Don't most political events -- campaign rallies, honorary occasions, national conventions, victory parties, Gridiron dinners -- have similar celebratory feelings? Doesn't Bonjean's defense of Lott suggest that perhaps the man should be relieved of his Majority Leader duties, so as to cut down on the number of celebrations he has to attend?
3) Is the administration position "evolving"? At yesterday's White House press briefing, Ari Fleischer said, "[Lott] has apologized for his statement, and the president understands that that is the final word from Senator Lott in terms of the fact that he said something and has apologized for it … The president has confidence in him as the Republican leader, unquestionably."
Now read Michael Kramer's column: "Unofficially, the Bushies are beside themselves. 'We need this like a hole in the head,' says one. 'At a time when we're trying to reach out to black voters, Lott's an embarrassment. Gore's right on the substance and also on the politics. If he runs again, blacks are going to remember that Gore was the one who bashed Trent early, and I can easily see all those Democratic commercials replaying [Lott's] words ad nauseam.'" Is this a subtle signal to Lott to take a flying leap?
4) The role of conservatives: Jacob Levy is right on the money here -- the New York Times has a lot of nerve saying that conservatives are belatedly joining the Lott-bashing. As Clarence Page noted today, "you don't have to look far to see the crackerjack job that Lott's fellow conservatives have done in taking him to the woodshed without any outside help." Or, to quote Jonah Goldberg, "For several days now, I've been searching for a conservative to come to the defense of incoming Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. I haven't found one." I'm glad the CBC, Gore, and Pelosi have called for Lott to step down, but the Times is inaccurate in saying conservatives have just been sitting on their hands.
5) A bigger story than Kerry's hair: Josh Marshall -- will you admit that the media is now taking this story more seriously than John Kerry's haircut?
ANOTHER UPDATE: Arthur Silber reports that Lott was interviewed by Sean Hannity and sounded more contrite than in his previous statements. At this point in the game, however, Silber's correct in pointing out that a chastened Lott in a leadership position is the worst of both worlds -- the Republicans will be politically vulnerable to the racism charge in 2004, and to compensate, Lott will acquiesce to a lot of Democratic proposals that should be opposed on substantive grounds. Chris Lawrence thinks Lott is going to pull a Clinton and gut it out.posted by Dan on 12.11.02 at 10:47 AM