Lott backpedals as Democrats benefit

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 11, 2002

That roar you heard coming from the direction of Washington on Wednesday? It was likely the rush of once and future Democratic presidential candidates looking for the nearest microphone to denounce Sen. Trent Lott’s comments about retiring colleague Strom Thurmond.

Lott’s comments &045; which apparently echoed those he made about 22 years ago &045; implied the nation would be better off if everyone had voted as Mississippi did when Thurmond ran for president on a segregationist ticket.

Lott, who’s been backpedaling on his comments since they came to light in the mainstream media earlier this week, surely said the wrong thing.

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Make no mistake: His comments were inappropriate and embarrassing, and yet again Mississippi has been cast in the light of its racist past.

Did he mean them to be racist? We hope not, but only Trent Lott knows for sure.

The senator needs to apologize for what he said (he has, albeit a bit late) and watch what he says in the future. We suspect it will take quite a while for him to extract the foot from his mouth &045; say, until the 2004 presidential election. It remains to be seen what happens to his political career.

But what about the rest of us?

Lott’s comments could be used in two ways: to open a meaningful dialogue on the still-raw race war that neither the South nor America as a whole has been able to escape &045; or as a political tool from which other candidates can benefit but not really learn.

The rush to vilify Lott &045; and not his words &045; tells us few people are ready for that meaningful conversation about race.

Instead, we’ll watch as politicians and pundits fall over themselves to make judgments &045; and make gains with the voters.