With the exception of some stories in smaller dailies and a few mentions yesterday on the Sunday political shows, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s comment regarding the 1948 presidential election has been largely ignored this weekend. Josh Marshall wonders why Lott has not come forward with even a disingenuous apology or statement of support for the current state of civil rights in America. The answer is this: The press is not hounding him for anything more than the 2-sentence flack he issued a few days ago. It’s silly to explain yourself when almost no one is asking you to explain anything.
Some right-wingers, emboldened by this silence, are now making noises about Sen. Robert Byrd’s racist past. Go for it! He deserves condemnation for statements such as those quoted here. Let this be the beginning of a movement to stamp out all racist attitudes in the halls of Congress. Of course, no such thing will ever happen if American journalists look the other way. Our news media should stomp on every racist bug it detects–without mercy, without bias, without partisan intent.
UPDATE (1:10 p.m.): According to this article in the Chicago Tribune, Lott issued this statement on Sunday: “My comments were not an endorsement of [Thurmond’s] positions of over 50 years ago, but of the man and his life.”
Here’s why that’s poppycock. First, let’s review his statement:
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 followed our lead, we wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years, either.
The first clause is an emphatic introduction to the assertion that Mississippi voted for Strom Thurmond in 1948. This rhetorical maneuver specifically highlights the ethos of Mississippi voters collectively. In other words, the emphasis has the effect of an ad populum argument–the state spoke as one. Further, the use of the plural personal pronoun in the ending clause of that sentence reinforces Lott’s connection with this state and the voters. He continues using the plural personal pronoun in the second sentence thus reinforcing his connection to the state and its electoral decision. They are proud to have voted for Thurmond in 1948. The third sentence is an if-then argument that claims if the rest of the country had voted for Thurmond, then we wouldn’t have had certain unnamed problems–a pathetic appeal meant to degrade the present in favor of a golden past that might have been. The plural personal pronoun in this clause expands the “we” of the second sentence to include all Americans. It is not necessary for Lott to name the problems because the Dixiecrat revolution was based on promoting segregation. Without that issue there would have been little reason for that faction to have split from the Democrats. So, a specific endorsement of Thurmond in 1948 is a specific endorsement of the Dixiecrat’s segregationist platform. The two may not be separated.
This was no slip of the tongue.
UPDATE (3:40 p.m.): Here’s more from &c.
UPDATE (3:50 p.m.): Here’s a link to the C-SPAN video.