Well, if the thrust of Robert George’s position is that Trent Lott’s comments create political problems for Republicans, that’s fine. I didn’t and don’t pass judgment on Lott’s political viability. Maybe I’ll do that in a subsequent piece. Maybe not. But let’s not wrap political calculations in moral indignation, which, I think, fairly describes at least part of Robert’s piece. If I’m wrong, then I can’t tell what Robert is saying, or means to say, or the emphasis of his criticism.
Robert also contends that Clinton’s embrace of William Fulbright wasn’t as bad as Lott’s comments because, as I understand Robert’s point (perhaps wrongly), Clinton wasn’t embracing Fulbright’s racism but merely the man, whereas Lott was endorsing Strom Thurmond’s 1948 candidacy, and hence his racism.
But Clinton’s reported comments when, in 1993, he presented Fulbright with the President’s Medal of Freedom, disprove this. As I wrote in my piece, the Washington Post reported that on that occasion, Clinton “described [Fulbright] as a visionary humanitarian, a steadfast supporter of the values of education, and ‘my mentor.’” “… The American political system produced this remarkable man, and my state did, and I’m real proud of it.”
This is a fulsome endorsement of Fulbright — the man, his heart, and his soul. And at the time Fulbright was “mentor[ing]” Clinton, he was a rabid segregationist. Clinton didn’t parse words in his praise of Fulbright, and we needn’t do it for him in an attempt to enhance Lott’s offense.