The Self Made Pundit
Tuesday, December 17, 2002
LOTTS O’ LIES: Trent Lott’s chances of surviving his retroactive endorsement of Storm Thurmond’s 1948 Dixiecrat race for president would be better if Lott were only a bigot and a liar. Unfortunately for Lott, he is also a clumsy liar.
As Lott engages in serial apologizing in an effort to keep his post as Senate Majority Leader, he is tripping over his own lies.
On Larry King’s show last Wednesday, Lott tried to excuse his comments expressing support for Thurmond’s segregationist campaign for president by pleading ignorance about what Thurmond stood for a half century ago. After apologizing for comments at Thurmond’s 100th birthday party, Lott added:
Having said that, you know, I see – I was 7-years-old when, you know, Strom first ran for president. I don't really remember anything about the campaign.
Lott’s plea of ignorance was laughable. Lott is a 61-year-old senator from Mississippi – a state at the heart of the civil rights struggles of past decades – who has served with Thurmond in Congress for three decades. If Lott had been a thirtysomething political neophyte, his plea of ignorance might have been plausible. Coming from him, the plea was ludicrous.
Indeed, in his interview with BET’s Ed Gordon last night, Lott effectively admitted that his earlier plea of ignorance about Thurmond’s segregationist background was a lie:
GORDON: But you also saw a senator that personified for years segregation.
LOTT: Yes, but let me tell you...
GORDON: Did you not, though?
LOTT: I did. I did.
GORDON: And you knew and understood what he stood for?
LOTT: I – absolutely I did.
Later in the interview, Lott tried once again to fall back on his claimed ignorance to excuse his record in voting against the Martin Luther King Holiday in 1983. Lott’s whopper that he did not knot know what Martin Luther King represented was so ridiculous that Lott quickly began back pedaling when Gordon prodded him:
GORDON: Let's talk about the King holiday.
LOTT: I want to talk about the King holiday. I want to go back to that.
I'm not sure we in America, certainly not white America and the people in the South, fully understood who this man was; the impact he was having on the fabric of this country.
GORDON: But you certainly understood it by the time that vote came up, Senator.
LOTT: Well, but...
GORDON: You knew who Dr. King was at that point.
LOTT: I did, but I've learned a lot more since then.
Having chosen mendacity and ignorance for his sword and his shield as he fights for his political life, Lott also tried the lie that he is in favor of affirmative action. Lott conveniently ignored his 1998 vote to eliminate affirmative action for federal construction contracts. When Gordon probed this untruth, however, Lott fell back on feigning ignorance of what affirmative action really means.
GORDON: What about affirmative action?
LOTT: I'm for that. I think you should reach out to people ...
GORDON: Across the board?
LOTT: Absolutely, across the board. That's why I'm so proud of my own alma mater now, University of Mississippi, that obviously had a difficult time in the 60s and 70s, now led by an outstanding chancellor, Robert Khayat, that has gotten rid of the Confederate flag, that has now has an institute of reconciliation, that has a leadership...
GORDON: Yet your votes in the past have not suggested that you are for affirmative action.
LOTT: I am for affirmative action. And I practice it. I have had African-Americans on my staff, and other minorities, but particularly African-Americans, since the mid-1970s.
I have had a particular program ...
GORDON: But to have one on one's staff--you understand the difference, though, to have a black on your staff and to push legislation that would help African-Americans, minorities across the board, are completely different.
LOTT: You know, again, you can get into arguments about timetables and quotas.
Lott has apparently reached the point that he is willing to say anything – no matter how outrageous or untrue – to keep his job as Senate Majority Leader. While Lott might have been able to survive if he had merely been a bigot and a liar, I suspect his being a clumsy liar is one liability too many even for his Republican colleagues.