From the South, a professional Republican operative we know has been reading Trent Lott’s tea leaves, and writes:
“The more it appears Lott won’t do the right thing and step down, and the more he seems to be picking up supporters among his colleagues — the more I have to come face to face with the possible horrible reality of him emerging victorious from that Jan. 6 meeting, and remaining Senate majority leader. It fills me with almost the same amount of pain and revulsion I felt, as a Catholic, throughout Bernard Law’s being allowed to remain Boston’s cardinal.
“And there are similarities now between the respective dreads: to discover Law’s malfeasance was a horrible blow but nothing compared to the full-blown despair upon seeing him propped up and defended from the Pope on down the hierarchy, alas with indications that many, many others were guilty of similar sins, while still others merely seemed to put careerism or clubby cronyism over principle.
“Likewise, while right now Lott’s problem has well passed becoming a Republican problem, if he were to step aside gracefully hindsight could still afford to see it as a Lott problem that Republicans dealt with properly. On the other hand, should his colleagues vote to keep him, it necessarily becomes a problem for the entire party. It will mean that everything BUT principle and moral leadership has triumphed among Republicans, and that the party is now fully on the record — not just winking at but — condoning racism in their ranks.
“I am a conservative Republican, in fact make my living as one, but if such a situation comes to pass, the disappointment and embarrassment will make it incredibly difficult for me to remain ‘proudly’ Republican.
“Which makes me wonder if Senate GOPers have really absorbed just how significant is the question facing them at present. Bill Kristol today demands they stop being coy and come out and declare themselves. But before that (lest one by one by one they come out for Lott), I’d ask these Senators some other questions: If Trent remains, what does the world look like come January 7th? More pointedly, do you envision a time when the President can again appear in the same room with the Senate majority leader? (I can’t.) Can you then justify electing a leader who subsequently becomes for the president his party’s own Yasser Arafat, with whom he will never meet nor shake hands? Will you put the President in that horrible position?
“Forget about the passing of a conservative agenda — can the party or the conservative movement themselves hold together and withstand that strain?
“So, in the end, if Lott is incapable of doing the right thing, who will? And if the answer is, not nearly enough to make him go, then what? My sense is: GOP despair, dividedness, destruction, self-inflicted death. Of course, I may be overstating things. But what if I’m not?”