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    Racism Watch: Lottsa Republicans
    Posted on Tuesday, December 24 @ 13:13:48 UTC
    Topic: Slavery
    SlaveryBy A.F. Nariman, www.yellowtimes.org

    Trent Lott has gone from being knee deep to being buried up to his arching eyebrows in his own doo-doo with each of his five attempts to apologize for his ill-considered remarks at Senator Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday celebration on December 5, 2002. His words, "I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran fro 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 over all these years," have stirred up a maelstrom in Washington and across the country where reporters with little news to report in the post mid-term election and holiday lull have caught onto the story with the tenacity of a pit bull terrier's vicious hold on its victim.

    The remarks at Senator Strom Thrumond's 100th birthday celebration can be divided into two parts: natural exuberance and crossing the line. The first part where Lott said that Mississippians were proud to vote for Strom in 1948 could ostensibly pass the smell test. However, Lott clearly crossed the line when he said words to the effect that 'if the other states had joined us we would not have had all the trouble we had for over 40 years!'

    Syndicated columnist, and CNN Host, Bob Nowak has defended these remarks saying that they were meant as a harmless joke, and that he heard the audience laughing at the same. A more careful listen would have shown Bob that what one actually heard was momentary stunned silence, followed by a nervous giggle, which turned into laughter as the audience went from shock at the senator's faux pas to combined relief expelled as nervous laughter. Also, Nowak and his co-host of CNN's Crossfire of yesteryear, Pat Buchanan, are the only Republicans left defending Lott. The senator has been abandoned even by the likes of Rush Limbaugh!

    However, Lott's performance on Black Entertainment Television (BET) on Monday, December 16, 2002 was so pathetic and so undignified as to only have caused him to sink further into his own quagmire. It exposed a man willing to be a sycophant to keep his job. Here was a man willing to say anything (including blatantly lying) to save his own neck. Some of the gems that spewed from Lott's mealy mouth included that what he meant by "the country would have avoided the problems of the past 40 years" at Strom's birthday party was that Strom would have been good for the defense of our country, and balancing the budget, and other such ballyhoo. Of course, everyone in the listening audience knew that Strom's platform in 1948 did not distinguish him from other presidential candidates on defense or the budget, but on "segregation."

    Later, Lott added insult to injury when he stated that he had no idea the value of what Martin Luther King had achieved when he voted against the holiday in 1983. Finally, he put the nail in his own political coffin when he reversed his long held view and voting record and stating with a straight face he was for affirmative action across the board. Lott would have been much more believable if he admitted to his past mistakes honestly, and apologized for the same, and promised to do better in the future, instead of stretching and contorting the truth beyond recognition.

    The Republican Party, the party of the angry white man, has openly endorsed a policy of being anti-affirmative action. Most rank and file Republicans look askance at affirmative action as reverse discrimination. Republicans have coined a high-minded phrase "color blind," which has no root in current reality, and whose one and only one purpose is to defeat affirmative action. In fact, their use (misuse) of the word color blind is a ploy to add a veneer of being high-minded to achieve their own self-serving purpose of destroying affirmative action, when everyone knows we are not yet a colorblind society. Bush, the 'compassionate conservative' further muddied the issue with his newly coined phrase, in the third and last debate with Al Gore, of "affirmative access," which translates to: an underachiever like myself with a 1260 SAT score can get into Yale and Harvard with my family connections, but a black kid with a 1260 SAT must compete on "merit" alone.

    If one is so inclined one cannot but help but feel slightly sorry for a man that has nary a friend left in his own party and is about to be knocked off his pedestal for a few ill-considered words. However, in truth, it is not in the few words that carelessly escaped his lips that have sunk Lott's ship. It is that his "black" past has caught up with him. He has no one to blame but himself.

    When reporters dug up Lott's voting record they found a man steeped in Southern Segregationist tradition. Lott's voting record shows not only what he believed, but also how he acted on those beliefs over the years well into the 1990s.

    Lott during his career in the House and Senate voted against the following Civil Rights Acts passed by Congress:

    1975: Extension of the Voting Rights Act
    1980: Extension of the Fair Housing Act
    1980: Extension of the Voting Rights Act
    1980: Martin Luther King Holiday
    1990: Restoring Affirmative Action Programs struck down by the Supreme Court.

    Karen Tumulty, of Time Magazine, in a recent column, reveals yet another stain on Lott's record. In the 1980s as a freshman Congressman, Lott had confided to Tumulty, herself a newly assigned reporter for the L.A. Times on the congressional beat that in the 1960s both Lott and her then boss, Tom Johnson (later President at CNN), had both led the charge to keep his college fraternity, Sigma Nu, segregated not only at Ole Miss, but in all its chapters across the nation. Lott, who was trying to out her boss to the young reporter, ended up outing himself. This week Lott's own remarks came back to bite him.

    Recently, MSNBC unearthed an old tape on October 19, 2000 wherein Lott is caught praising Senator Thurmond in the background, while the elder senator is signing the Defense Authorization Act. Lott said, "This is a historic signature. He should have been president in 1947."

    Maureen Dowd, the bitingly clever op-ed columnist for the New York Times, recently scrounged around and came up with the past record of Lott: defending tax breaks for the segregationist Bob Jones University; stating as the featured speaker at the 1998 opening of the Jefferson-Davis Library in Beauvoir, Mississippi that he felt closer to Jefferson Davis than to any other American; and at a 1992 meeting with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a leftover Ku Klux Klan group, who had written an amicus brief in defense of "cross burning," that "the people in this room stand for the right principles and the right philosophy."

    While all of Washington is salivating at the fall of a leader of the Senate, the greater question is, "Is this one man's beliefs in particular, or is it a political party's attitude in general?" Are the Republicans hanging Trent Lott out to dry for many of the beliefs that they harbor in their dark minds?

    President Bush, having been soundly trounced by Senator John McCain in the snows of New Hampshire in early 1999, reverted to the dirty politics that had dogged his fathers campaign in 1988 with the Willy Horton ad. On the ropes and forced to win Super Tuesday by hook or by crook, Bush allowed his fellow southern cohorts to run a racist policy, such as accusing John McCain of having fathered an illegitimate black child. Bush also visited Bob Jones University, whose leader Bob Jones had called Catholicism an evil cult and where interracial dating is banned. Bush played the race card when it suited him. He was the Born Again Christian, while McCain was the divorced maverick with a sullied past. Bush got his Bible belt victory and chased McCain from the race as the latter's funding dried out.

    Most recently we have the case of the newly elected Senator Saxby Chamblis from the state of Georgia, who ran a segregationist campaign not in 1948, but in 2002. Chamblis' winning strategy included his championing the raising of "Old Glory" (the confederate flag, which is a remnant of our segregationist past) over the state capitol, and enough southern voters went to the polls to defeat Senator Max Cleland over this issue. Bush never said a word on the validity of raising the Confederate Flag during his own 2000 run, nor during Chamblis' campaign. Chamblis, a chicken hawk, also ran a dirty campaign, again sanctioned by the Bush White House, to depict Max Cleland, a war hero and a triple amputee from the Vietnam War, as a supporter of bin Laden. (Bush recently lambasted Lott, but said nary a harsh word to Chamblis on either issue and in fact campaigned for him). This 2002 mid-term campaign more than any other epitomizes the Republican Party, not of yesteryear, but of today.

    If the Republicans really want to wash their hands clean of their segregationist past; they should not only remove Lott from his leadership post, but must censure Chamblis for his racist campaign.

    Of course, the fourth estate was caught a sleep at the switch during Chamblis' racist campaign. The press never brought this issue to a crescendo so as to catch the public's attention in time to defeat this latest southern racist to hold office in the esteemed chambers of our United States Senate. It is not too late for the national press to revisit this issue.


    [A. F. Nariman has been interested in United States and world politics for close to twenty-six years. She has been a C-span junkie for the past decade or more. She has a yen for sleuthing out the intricacies of a political story. Her forte' is in the U.S. budget, as she is a Financial Advisor by profession and has a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and a MBA in Financial Institutions and Markets. Along with being a recent Democratic candidate for Congress in the 26th district of New York, she is a U.S. citizen and resides in New York State.]


     
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