Joe Conason's Journal

Trent Lott waxes nostalgic over the segregationist era. Plus: Paging John McCain!

By Salon Staff
Published December 6, 2002 5:42PM (EST)

The content of their character
If there remain any Democratic voters in Louisiana, of any color, who wonder why they should bother to vote in the special Senate runoff there, perhaps they ought to consider yesterday's remarks by Trent Lott -- whose power will be much enhanced if Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defeated. According to ABC's The Note, the Mississippi Republican and incoming majority leader recalled fond memories of the 1948 Dixiecrat campaign at the party celebrating his beloved colleague's centennial:

"I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn't of had all these problems over all these years, either."

By "we" Lott obviously means "we white folks," since nobody else in Mississippi could vote in that halcyon era. (Maybe he should change his Senate honorific to Imperial Wizard.)

For those who aren't quite sure what Thurmond stood for in his presidential campaign, the Boston Globe provided this useful overview of the ancient segregationist's career.

Over at the National Review Online, an adjunct fellow from the very respectable Hudson Institute offered his adoring appreciation of Ole Strom, which praised the South Carolina senator for holding "the record for the longest filibuster (a real one of the old style, the kind Jimmy Stewart's character staged in 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington') of 24 hours and 18 minutes."

Amazingly, the same piece endorses Thurmond's opposition to "the liberal civil-rights movement because it sought to force radical change. He opposed not its goals, but its tactics. It forsook the legislative route of state legislatures and ordered, measured, consensual change for the heavy, centralized hand of the federal government and the courts."

The enamored author seems to have forgotten what that Jimmy Stewart-style marathon speech was all about. Thurmond was filibustering the 1957 Civil Rights Act, which merely sought to establish a U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and authorized the U.S. attorney general to enforce voting rights.

So Southern blacks were supposed to seek their rights in state legislatures, without being able to vote for state legislators. This is what passes for logic (and "color-blindness") among conservatives these days. And Republicans still wonder why black Americans reject their party.
[2:09 p.m. PST, Dec. 6, 2002]

It's up to McCain
The legislative struggle over the "independent commission" to investigate 9/11 is beginning to resemble the mysterious events surrounding the homeland security bill, only worse.

The coalition of victims' families was promised a voice in the choice of commission members. But the White House asked their opinion about the chairman only after the job had been offered to Kissinger. And now the Senate Republicans are seeking to deny their promised selection of a Republican member to protect against a coverup. The families want former Sen. Warren Rudman, whose warnings about terrorist danger were ignored by this administration in early 2001. Trent Lott doesn't want Rudman, a moderate from New Hampshire and an honest man who never fit too well into Lott's bent style of governance.

Senate Democrats can complain, but responsibility for restraining the unscrupulous Lott and fulfilling those promises rests squarely with John McCain. The Nov. 14 press release from his office "hailing" the agreement on the commission's composition clearly states: "Two commission members each will be chosen by the Senate Republican leader (one with the concurrence of Sen. McCain), the Senate Democratic leader, the House Republican leader, and the House Democratic leader. One member will be chosen by the president, and one member chosen jointly by Congressional Democratic leaders. The president will choose the commission chair; Democrats choose the vice-chair. Subpoenas could be issued if six members agree or if the chair and vice-chair agree."

The Arizona senator (his e-mail is here) agreed to represent the interest of the families -- and by extension of the public -- in a tough probe untainted by political expediency. They didn't trust Lott or the White House, for very good reasons. Now Senate sources say it isn't clear whether McCain will put up a fight over this issue. He shouldn't let those families down by shying away from a fight with his old adversary Lott on behalf of his old friend Rudman.

He may have to be willing to fight Karl Rove again, too. Someone is trying to fix this commission, but no one is taking responsibility -- just like that orphan Thimerosal provision, which nobody wanted to admit writing into the homeland bill. Does anyone believe that the fingerprints of White House staff aren't all over both of these incidents?

Reaching Rush
A number of readers have complained that Rush Limbaugh's Web site doesn't include an e-mail address for him. Today another reader provided this helpful information: "Although he has a priority emailbox as part of his $39 package, there is another email address that's hard to find. It's I doubt he reads all the letters to this box, but I'm sure someone does, and points out to him when he's goofed -- which is virtually every day." I'm sure he wants to know how all you of feel -- even if you're not a $39 dittohead.
[9:11 a.m. PST, Dec. 6, 2002]

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