Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
December 20, 2002
POLITICS: The Great White Defendant
The Trent Lott saga is over, a week after it should have ended, as Lott steps down as Majority Leader but will remain in the Senate. The finishing blow for Lott seems to have been the decision by one of his two chief rivals, conservative stalwart Don Nickles, to throw his support behind the White House's favored candidate, outgoing National Republican Senate Committee Chairman Bill Frist. Our good friend Larry said about a week ago that Lott would last until today, so he gets the prognosticator's prize.
In a way, the conservative furor over Lott reminds me of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities, in which he talks about cops and prosecutors in the Bronx, sick of taking race-related heat for prosecuiting so many African-Americans and Latinos, and their excitement at finally getting their hands on "the Great White Defendant." I've about beaten this issue to death here - I'm hoping to "move on," like the man said - but a lot of the visceral reaction from conservatives was the opportunity to show that we are not, in fact, the racist lynch mob that the Democrats and their media allies would have people believe. And how better to prove that - and also, how better to prove that we're not like the sycophantic Democrats who rallied around Clinton when he finally got caught - than to take down one of our own?
As to the likely new Majority Leader, my all time favorite Frist quote is from the press conference when he took over the NRSC two years ago:
"I spent every day for twenty years waking up, training in the morning, working through about every other night for one thing, and that is to be within forty-five seconds, within forty-five seconds, to be able to cut out the human heart." After some uncertain laughter among his leadership colleagues, Frist added, "Under anesthesia."
Funny how this controversy, like most other political and international controversies over the past three years, has worked itself out exactly the way George W. Bush wanted it to. Branch Rickey - whose fingerprints are also on this particular controversy, if you think about it - used to say that "Luck is the residue of design." Bush gets lucky way too often to assume that it's coincidental.
Meanwhile, Drudge picked up on a report of a Democratic Senator with kind words for someone much worse than Strom Thurmond circa 1948. Will this story have legs? Probably not, especially coming the Friday before Christmas, but it's a nice reminder of the kind of thinking that does not deserve to hold responsible positions of authority.