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The Myth of Trent Lott

Steve Menashi writes:

When Trent Lott made his outrageous comments about the segregationist presidential candidacy of Strom Thurmond, Republican leaders publicly rebuked him and pushed him out of his position as Senate majority leader. Why didn't Democrats show similar leadership with regard to McKinney in the recent election?
Let's grant, ad arguendo, that McKinney and Lott are equivalent figures. What committees does Cynthia McKinney chair? What primary challengers were brought forth against Trentt Lott? See what I'm saying here.

The delightfully non-segregationist majority of conservatives out there seems to have convinced itself that Trent Lott was exiled to the ninth circle of hell for his sins. But, in fact, he's doing fine and continues to be an influential Republican Senator.

December 26, 2004 | Permalink

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Comments

The real myth here is that the Democrats won anything by pushing the most extreme and racist interpretations possible to Lott's remarks, an interpretation pushed by that ethical highroader Ted "I never killed anybody, you can't prove anything" Kennedy.

It is also a myth that Bush wasn't completely delighted with the final outcome, which was the removal of somebody considered too willing to compromise with the Democrats. Bill Frist, who is expecting the Republican Presidential nomination for his subservience to the Whitehouse, is certainly none too disappointed, either.

The reality is that the Democrats, especially Ted Kennedy, were used by Bush and his cronies for their own benefit. And it is especially ironic that Matthew still believes the myth that Lott was truly a segregationist. Matthew's viewpoint falls in under mental trap "he is our enemy, after all, so it must be true".

When you look at Lott's bio, you realize that we aren't dealing with an elitist Southerner, but rather somebody who grew up in poverty as the son of a sharecropper and pulled himself up by his boot straps. (In another day, he would have been Southern Democrat.) If you look at the policies that Lott has been instrumental in pushing in the state of Mississippi, you will see a man more closely aligned in many respects to the ideals of the old Southern Democrats, and less to the extremism of the neo-cons.

Go ahead and spit bile at Lott. I hope you enjoy it as much as George "misunderestimated" Bush does watching the show.

Posted by: Krusty Krab | Dec 26, 2004 11:32:59 AM

So Krusty, would America be a better place today if Strom had been elected President?

Posted by: D. | Dec 26, 2004 11:41:00 AM

Stop writing "ad arguendo"! I have made this point before.

Posted by: Trollificus the Latin Troll | Dec 26, 2004 11:50:03 AM

Hey Krusty,

Lott is not only a segregationist, he is a racist, bigot, confederate.

Posted by: Matt Taylor | Dec 26, 2004 11:52:55 AM

Let us not forget that the Lott was "rebuked" only several weeks after the remarks in question, when the major dailies began running stories about it, and that only happened because Josh Marshall and Duncan Black had kept the issue alive. (Remember how Eschaton had the 1948 Mississippi Dixiecrat ballot guide on its front page for the better part of a month?) The Republican leadership was hoping the issue would fade, and showed virtue only when forced to do so by increasing negative publicity.

Posted by: bza | Dec 26, 2004 11:55:32 AM

You must respect a man who mows his own lawn with no shirt on wearing--yes--spandex bicycle pants while drinking a can of beer. That there is a Gulf coast senator, babe, Trent Effing Lott.

Posted by: Kiril | Dec 26, 2004 11:55:58 AM

And it is especially ironic that Matthew still believes the myth that Lott was truly a segregationist.
...
When you look at Lott's bio, you realize that we aren't dealing with an elitist Southerner, but rather somebody who grew up in poverty as the son of a sharecropper and pulled himself up by his boot straps. (In another day, he would have been Southern Democrat.)

Are you actually trying to give us "he would have been an old-style Southern Democrat" as a defense against being a segregationist? "Grew up in poverty...son of a sharecropper..." -- who do you thing the segregationists were?

Posted by: DonBoy | Dec 26, 2004 12:16:36 PM

Besides all the other bogus equivalencies between Lott and McKinney, there is the one between expressing nostalgia for apartheid, and saying hateful and irresponsible things about George W. Bush.

McKinney's remark was terrible, but you really have to have drunk the Bush Kool-Aid to equate saying even the most reprehensible things about him, to the fond wish that an entire race of people were still second-class citizens.

Posted by: son volt | Dec 26, 2004 12:23:42 PM

What exactly did McKinney say?

Posted by: abb1 | Dec 26, 2004 12:49:09 PM

Lord, do I hate it when people speak in ignorance.

As press secretary for one of the primary challengers McKinney had to face, I can assure Menashi (not that I'm sure he'll listen) that McKinney speaks for Democrats about as well as I speak Esperanto. For all the work done to stop McKinney, though, in the end the voters had their say. They saw to my chagrin a field of candidates with real or imagined flaws, and decided to stick with the devil they knew.

Plenty of Democrats myself included showed leadership against McKinney. But we lost. She won. End of story. When Republicans show similar leadership by putting themselves on the line to stop Lott, they can get back to me for praise and hosannas. Otherwise, they can buzz the f off.

Posted by: Greg Greene | Dec 26, 2004 1:06:00 PM

Lott hasn't been unseated for the same reason that Robert Byrd has never been unseated: he's too powerful to have his racism ever be more than a momentary setback.

Posted by: Chip | Dec 26, 2004 2:25:14 PM

Let's see; Lott opined that the country would have much better off had ol' Strom won. Strom, of course, ran a campaign with the motto: 'Segregation Forever.'

And, let's not forget, Lott had--and continues to have--a decades long association with the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that has been called 'the KKK with neckties.' Do a Google on this group to find out their opinions on Jews and the so-called 'mud people' and 'brown glop.'

On to McKinney's sin; she had the temerity to ask, shortly after 9/11, what Bush knew and when he knew it. Two years later, the 9/11 Commission reached many of the same conclusions contained in McKinney's question.

Posted by: Jadegold | Dec 26, 2004 2:45:31 PM

Byrd has apologized for his KKK past, and even apologized for using the term "white nigger' in a radio interview.

Lott, OTOH, has been very cozy with the Ccnservative Citizens Council, which is a racist, segregationist group.

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | Dec 26, 2004 2:50:06 PM

Krusty Krab,

Strom Thurmond ran on a
segregationist platform. That was his
only issue. To praise Thurmond's
candidacy is to praise segregation. What
other interpretation is possible?

Posted by: Daryl McCullough | Dec 26, 2004 3:32:40 PM

Lott is a product of his time. I don't apologize for his behavior, because I didn't condone it to start with. I am also totally uninterested in replaying the Lott debate, since anybody who was willing to have shifted their viewpoint would have done so already. (Obviously, this includes me!)

You can keep rerunning the propaganda if you like, but it didn't help you then, and obviously you don't accept it actually backfired on you. Even worse, Bush played your dumb asses, and you don't even know it!

It is very possible to be a closed minded bigot without condoning segregationist, and without condoning racism. Indeed, reflexively accusing others of bigotry is just another form of bigotry, in this case just wrapped in a pretense of moral superiority. Going around labeling people who grew up poor and white in the south as racist bigots is no more open minded or less bigoted than what you accuse him of being.

Posted by: Krusty Krab | Dec 26, 2004 3:55:49 PM

"Lott is a product of his time."

Krusty,

There are a whole lot of white southerners who grew up in the same time frame as Lott who don't share his bigoted views. He's a creep.

Posted by: old grizzly | Dec 26, 2004 4:17:12 PM

Seems to me that someone who is honestly "uninterested in replaying the Lott debate" wouldn't be posting about Lott. Posting message after message rehashing an old debate is a poor way of showing one's lack of interest in it.

FWIW, I think McKinney ought to be given exactly the same punishment as Lott: let's make her a Senator.

Posted by: Matt Austern | Dec 26, 2004 4:24:15 PM

"When you look at Lott's bio, you realize that we aren't dealing with an elitist Southerner, but rather somebody who grew up in poverty as the son of a sharecropper and pulled himself up by his boot straps."

So it's ok for him to have racist attitudes? The soft bigotry of low expecations, Krusty.

Posted by: Joel | Dec 26, 2004 4:29:22 PM

When you look at Lott's bio, you realize that we aren't dealing with an elitist Southerner, but rather somebody who grew up in poverty as the son of a sharecropper and pulled himself up by his boot straps

Aside from being irrelevant (economic status has no bearing on one's racial views), it is also highly exaggerated.

Lott's dad wasn't always a sharecropper; early in Lott's life, Lott's dad became a shipfitter at the shipyard in Pascagoula. This was a solidly blue collar job where the work was steady and the benefits were actually pretty decent (thanks to the unions and the steady flow of Navy and commercial work). We should also note Lott's mother was a schoolteacher. From this, we can easily surmise the Lotts led a fairly middle class life--not exactly the battle for daily survival Krusty would like to portray.

Posted by: Jadegold | Dec 26, 2004 4:36:13 PM

Speaking of hair (Donald Trump vs. Matt Yglesias...see the Grace School post comments), Trent Lott's hair might be the most over-sprayed, stuck-in-place helmet hair I've ever seen!

Posted by: Deborah White | Dec 26, 2004 4:47:07 PM

"It is very possible to be a closed minded bigot without condoning segregationist, and without condoning racism. Indeed, reflexively accusing others of bigotry is just another form of bigotry, in this case just wrapped in a pretense of moral superiority. Going around labeling people who grew up poor and white in the south as racist bigots is no more open minded or less bigoted than what you accuse him of being."

So tell me, Krusty: is it possible to publicly cheer for segregation -- of the "separate and unequal" variety beloved by Thurmond and his suporters -- WITHOUT being a racist bigot? Which, of course, is exactly what Lott got caught doing and criticized for -- not for being "poor and white". You'd better change your pseudonym; crabs, as invertebrates go, are rather intelligent.

Posted by: Bruce Moomaw | Dec 26, 2004 6:19:09 PM

"FWIW, I think McKinney ought to be given exactly the same punishment as Lott: let's make her a Senator."

Posted by: Matt Austern

Matt, wasn't Lott 'punished' by being reduced to committee chair?

I *insist* on equal punishment for Evul Libruls - McKinney *must* be punised with not only Senatorization, but she must also be Chaired!!

Anything less, and the terrorists will have won.

Posted by: Barry | Dec 26, 2004 6:52:03 PM

"What exactly did McKinney say?"

McKinney says some out-of-left-field things, but what gets her in real trouble (and unseated from Congress) are her stated views on Israel/Palestine. Her views are not kosher in the Democratic party, but somehow she won her seat back in the last round.

Posted by: George | Dec 26, 2004 8:37:59 PM

abb1 asks: "What exactly did McKinney say?"

This is what she said:

"We know there were numerous warnings of the events to come on September 11th. . . . What did this administration know and when did it know it, about the events of September 11th? Who else knew, and why did they not warn the innocent people of New York who were needlessly murdered? . . . What do they have to hide?"
..."What is undeniable is that corporations close to the administration have directly benefited from the increased defense spending arising from the aftermath of September 11th," McKinney charged. "America's credibility, both with the world and with her own people, rests upon securing credible answers to these questions."

Always better to read the whole link, but that, in a nutshell, is what she said.

But more than George suggests, it's not just her "views" in the I/P conflict, but it's also that she gladly accepts campaign contributions from the interesting characters, like the North American leader of Islamic Jihad and a gent who's serving 23 years in federal prison for illegal financial dealings with Libya.

Of course, both of those men gave to more than just McKinney - difference being when the others politicians found out who they were, they returned the money. Support from these guys might also perpetuate the kind of enthusiasm that has one voting along with the 409-6 minority for sanctions against Libya.

In other words, the kind of Democrat that abb1 probably likes.

Having said that, I agree with MY. Comparing Lott's position in the Republican party and McKinney's in the Democratic party is ludicrous on its face.

Posted by: SoCalJustice | Dec 26, 2004 10:30:27 PM

"...and a gent who's serving 23 years in federal prison for illegal financial dealings with Libya." Geez. If it had been illegal financial dealings with Iran instead of Libya, McKinney's "punishment" would be the vice-presidency. SoCal, you are surely aware of Cheney's repeated attempts, when at Halliburton, to remove sanctions against Iran, a powerhouse in the Middle East. Libya, which granted does have a, er, eccentric and unpredictable leader who did support some terrorist activities some time ago, is less populated than Puerto Rico. Let's get some perspective and consistency here.

Posted by: karol | Dec 26, 2004 10:57:01 PM

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