Sunday, December 22, 2002

Now that l'affaire Lott is over and done with, a quick thought on the aftermath: Earlier in the week, Lott had threatened that if he couldn't be majority leader, he might just quit the Senate entirely, and take his little red wagon back to Pascagoula. In the wake of his resignation from the leadership, but not from the Senate, a lot of people are speculating what might have been offered to Lott to keep him from acting on his threats, in terms of chairmanships and other perks. But, as many noted at the time Lott issued the threats, giving Lott any committee chairmanship would involve unseating some other highly placed Republican. Hardly collegial.

But also hardly the only form of payoff which Lott might accept. Of the many pork-enriched pols in the soi-disant "party of small government", Lott is among the most gluttonous. And he brags about it at home. A few more defense contracts, and some factories from politically connected businesses, could easily be enough to keep him around at the dinner table.

Stepping back a bit, it's still not entirely clear why exactly, why now, Trent Lott's shopworn praise for the Dixiecrats was suddenly a major political issue. I've actually heard two stories being bruited about: one, that bloggers were keeping the story alive, and the other that Karl Rove was stirring the pot, in part to remove an embarrassment, but also to give the post to someone less inclined to compromise with the Democrats. They could both be right --- if you don't see the attraction of dealing with Frist instead of Lott, consider this New York Times profile:

If those colleagues had wanted a senator who wanted the job, they would have chosen Don Nickles of Oklahoma, who has ached to be leader for years. If they had wanted an "old bull," a caretaker who might have guided them past the racial shoals on which Trent Lott foundered, they might have picked Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico or Ted Stevens of Alaska.

Instead they picked a 50-year-old man who is not, at first glance, an obvious replacement for the veteran Mr. Lott. He is so closely identified with the White House that some members fret about becoming a rubber stamp. He lacks the broad legislative and parliamentary experience that can be useful in fending off the inevitable thrusts from the Democrats.

In short, a guy who might well be inclined to take direction from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Which isn't the whole story, of course; we can add Frist's successful political fund drives, and Republican discontent with Lott, who has been frequently knocked as too eager to compromise with the Democrats. (Squaring that with Dubya's conciliatory campaign rhetoric is left as an exercise for the reader).

So, how can we tell the country was dancing to the pulsing, packet-switched beat of the mighty Casio, or the wheezing blast of Karl Rove's Wurlitzer? In part, by seeing what comes next; in particular, whether left blogistan is capable of drawing similar attention to other stories, including the heinous racial record of other prominent Republicans (Ashcroft's praise for the Confederates, and his description of a school desegregation plan as "an outrage against human decency", among other things; Dubya's campaign appearances at Bob Jones university, etc., etc.). Or whether Atrios's playing up of the inhumane INS roundups helps get them fixed.

Early returns offer some encouragement. It's interesting to note that the INS is acting differently than it usually does when caught doing something outrageous; the ordinarily shameless INS bureaucrats are actually acting embarrassed. But, other hypotheses still cannot be excluded. So, I say in the name of science: let's turn up the heat.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home