Trent's got a Lott to say

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott takes shots at his successor and critiques the war in Iraq.

By J.J. Helland
August 19, 2005 2:00AM (UTC)
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Salon editorial fellow J.J. Helland weighs in with a report on Trent Lott.

Democrats have found an unlikely ally in their opposition to the conservative agenda in Trent Lott. He hasn't changed his party registration or anything, but Lott has been unusually candid in recent criticisms of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and in his calls on President Bush to develop an exit strategy for the war in Iraq.


The Mississippi senator's new biography, "Herding Cats: A Life in Politics," is due out next week, and in it Lott accuses Frist of engaging in a "power grab" when Lott came under fire for some insensitive racial remarks in 2002. Lott remains embittered.

"When [Frist] entered the Senate in 1995, I had taken him under my wing," Lott writes. "He was my protege and I helped him get plum assignments and committee positions."

Lott charges that the scheming and manipulation by Frist and other GOP colleagues were the reason he was forced from his leadership position in the Senate. He also claims that President Bush wasn't particularly helpful when the Senate leader was feeling the heat and looking for high-level support. Are Lott's recent barbs evidence that the Republican Party's legendary solidarity is giving way to a mutiny? Probably not -- not yet anyway. But Lott is one of a growing number of Republicans who have questioned their party's leadership and conduct of the Iraq war.


At a lunch meeting yesterday for Rotary Club members, Lott called on President Bush to develop an exit strategy and wondered why the American military was "doing all of the heavy lifting" and why the Europeans haven't been more involved.

While Democratic leaders must be enjoying their foes' internecine squabbles, they probably shouldn't get ahead of themselves. As for Lott, he retains his knack for insensitivity, as demonstrated by his remarks Wednesday about how the Iraqis will eventually have to govern themselves.

"Bring all the different religions and sects in your country together and rule and govern yourselves," Lott said, "or you can go on killing each other like you have [in the Middle East] for 2,000 years, but you've got to make the choice."

J.J. Helland

J.J. Helland is Salon's editorial fellow in New York.

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