Meltdown So what kind of toast is Trent Lott? Texas or melba?
I haven't ventured a prediction about the senator's future before today because, frankly, I was fencesitting about what might happen — Lott's comments were ugly, but I've seen politicians get through tough spots before. [For instance: remember John McCain and the Keating Five?] But yesterday's double blow — the condemnation from President Bush, followed by the Timearticle about Lott's pro-segregation campaigning during his fraternity days — made it all but impossible for him to hold on.
Why? Because the Time report made clear that no amount of groveling can stop the press from uncovering more embarrassments — with reporters now competing to outdo each other with stories about Lott's past, the scandal has taken on a life of its own. And because the president's comments, which were pretty stunningly vehement, made clear that the party's Eleventh Commandment — "thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican" — had just gone out the window.
Lott plans a press conference in Pascagoula today, at which — if he doesn't quit — he's certain to throw himself at the mercy of the court of public opinion. Let him. Even if he manages to make a meaningful apology this time, the stories that come out by the time tomorrow's newspapers hit the web will put him on the defensive all over again. Then he has to worry about the Saturday advance stories from the newsmagazines. And the Sunday morning shows. The Lott story will stay front and center throughout the weekend. Short of a televised exculpation by the Congressional Black Caucus itself, can anyone imagine how to stop that from happening?
Unless Lott miraculously manages to short circuit the story this afternoon, mounting public pressure from continuing revelations about his past will persuade more and more Republicans to abandon him in hopes of changing the subject. Either he makes today's apology one for the history books — or he's done for.
The Morning Rush A few stories I want to blog before I get back to work:
The press is on Trent Lott like the Royal Navy after the Bismarck: Josh Marshall reports now that in 1983, he filed a friend of the court brief urging the Supreme Court to reinstate a tax exemption the IRS had revoked from Bob Jones University because it refused to admit black applicants. [See the case here.] A friend of the court brief? Wow — that must have been one mighty long "poor choice of words."
Flag? What flag? Georgia Republicans, facing up to reality, finally confess that they can't schedule a flag referendum without changing the state constitution first. [I predicted that a week and a half ago. Advantage: me.] But don't fear, confederatos — maybe the Republican Party will get around to having a referendum in 2004. Wait, Bush runs that year — umm, better make that 2006. No, that's a gubernatorial year. But I'm sure they'll get around to it sometime.
Them that has the gold makes the rules: With Republicans firmly installed behind the levers of state power, the Georgia GOP is busily setting about its first order of business — keeping things that way. The 2002 gerrymander that gave Democrats a lock on the state House of Representatives is in the governor's crosshairs — but only because the party wants Georgians to have "fair maps," the party insists. The same goes for the state's congressional district map, the 1990s version of which produced a lopsidedly Republican congressional delegation for a Democrat-governed state; Democrats worked to even the balance this year, but Republican officials want to see whether revisiting the issue might make the map "fairer." Uh-oh.
The Other Bush Doctrine Have you ever wondered what history will remember the Bush administration by? The war on radical Islam? Maybe. Probably, in fact. But I bet more than a few biographers will be puzzling over a philosophical inversion that I've been trying to get my brain around lately. Call it the 'other' Bush doctrine.
You see, when it comes to knowledge and information, the actions of Bush administration personnel have been pretty consistent. Chalk it up to a penchant for secrecy — or maybe an obsession with security — but no matter what the question, their impulse always seems to be the same: makeprivatematterspublic. Andmakepublicmattersprivate.
What explains that? Not ideology — it's hard to build that case when hard-line conservatives like Bob Barr (R-Ga.) are joining the American Civil Liberties Union. I think the issue is temperament: what we're seeing is simply a manifestation of the way the president thinks. To use his own words:
I do not need to explain why I say things — that's the interesting thing about being the President. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they say something, but I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation.
Get that? We explain. He doesn't. After all, he's the President.
Paralysis by Analysis The Democratic Leadership Council did a great job today of debunking the Bush administration's latest cant about climate change — namely, that it'd be nice to do something about it, if only our scientists could discover just what it is. Calling for research sounds well intentioned, of course — but scientists have spent the last few years in a meticulous government-organized research program whose results are already available. Do we really need to recapitulate a process begun in 1988?
The Bushies' concern for scientific exactitude is hard to accept at face value. The White House doesn't mind skipping right past research when it comes to national forests, where the Bush administration wants to get rid of requirements that forest management plans include environmental impact statements. And whatever your opinion about national missile defense, the program really hasn't worked well in tests — not without a little unscientific goosing of the numbers.
So why the need for yet more study here? Ideology, of course. Mention something conservatives like, such as national missile defense, and Bush can't wait to hurry up — but for everything else, the mantra is hurry up and wait.
Have You Driven a Ford Lately? This isn't polite, but I can't help but comment on the appointment of yet another warhorse from the Ford years to an important post in the first 21st-century administration. While any former chairman of the New York Stock Exchange has to be considered basically qualified to run the SEC, you have to wonder what Bush's penchant for reaching back to old salts from the 1970s tells us about him. Does he really think the Ford years were the last word on how to run an effective administration? Or that no policy innovations worth considering have been dreamt up since then? Or does he just not care?
Ahem— On the matter of Lott, writer Joe Conason has some words for the Democrats:
But Lott's conduct is a moral offense as well as a political issue. Which Democrat believes in the party's professed principles of equality? Which Democrat has an iota of the courage demonstrated by Harry Truman and Hubert Humphrey in 1948? Which Democrat will be the first to demand an apology from Trent Lott on the floor of the Senate -- and if he declines, as he will, which Democrat will dare to propose a resolution of censure?
That's the Democrat who should be running for president. The others should hide their faces because they're cowards.
How Do You Say 'Peloton' in Southern? I just learned that Georgia is about to get its own pit stop on the international cycling circuit: the Tour de Georgia, scheduled to make its debut on April 22. Sweet.
Putting the Revolution in Pinstripes Yale undergraduate Chesa Boudin learned a key lesson from the days of the Weathermen: if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. His parents — who were Weathermen — are sitting out the revolution in maximum security, but Boudin has mapped out a different route for himself — one that passes directly through a Rhodes scholarship.
Mr. Boudin, who has spoken widely about being the child of inmates and has led antiwar efforts at Yale, plans to study international development at Oxford, expanding on his experiences in Guatemala and Chile. Last week he won the Marshall scholarship, a similar award financing study in Britain, but he plans to accept the Rhodes instead. "As a child, I relished my personal freedom and tried to compensate for my parents' imprisonment," he wrote in his application. "Now, I see prisons around the world: urban misery in Bolivia, homelessness in Santiago and illiteracy in Guatemala."
[ . . . ]
"We have a different name for the war we're fighting now — now we call it the war on terrorism, then they called it the war on communism," Mr. Boudin said. "My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world. I'm dedicated to the same thing."
My, my, my. Give this guy credit: he's smart enough to know that the best way to change the system is from the inside.
Sprechen sie 'Ing'-lish? The New York Times: "I Seeing the News Today, Oh Boy." Reporters butchering the syntax today, as cable networks accelerating the news cycle:
Strangely, broadcasters don't seem to realize how bizarre the new style sounds. Fox newscaster Shepherd Smith calls it "people speak" and explains, "It's about how would I tell this story if I were telling it to a friend on a street corner." But that must be a pretty exotic intersection, if Mr. Smith's buddies are saying things like "My car in the shop. The brakes needing relining."
A Lott to Answer For This man is supposed to be the next majority leader of the Senate?
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.
The Blues Can Make You Smile While I was listening to the Sunday blues show on Z-93 this morning on the way back from church, a Leadbelly song came on that practically made me bust a gut from laughing so hard:
Titanic was comin 'round the curve,
When she ran in to a big iceberg
Cryin', "Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well,"
(didn't see it!)
Titanic was sinkin' down,
Had lifeboats all around
Cryin', "Fare thee, Titanic, fare the well."
As the DJ said: "I think I like that version better than the one with Leonardo DiCaprio."