The Better Rhetor

Saturday, December 21, 2002
You Can Judge a Blog by the Company It Keeps

We have just been given a very warm welcome by the folks at Politics, Law, and Autism. PLA is one of the most important sites on the web, in our view, and we think you ought to visit today.

Farewell Trent:
The Problem Wasn't That We Hardly Knew Ye

Indeed, the problem was precisely the opposite: We knew ye all too well. As Frank Rich makes clear, Republicans, Democrats, and the major media have known for years about Trent Lott's racist leanings and have been content to wink at or otherwise ignore them. Lott's connections to the White Supremist organization, the so-called Council of Concerned Citizens, his bigoted statements in the past, his execrable record on issues affecting minorities generally—none of these were exactly a secret. In the end, Lott basically had to don a white hood and cloak before his peers in politics and the media finally spoke out.

If the outcome of the Trent Lott affair is that Republicans get away with using the his resignation as an occasion to market themselves as a "new" party of racial tolerance, then Lott may as well have remained in his post for all the good his departure will do. If, on the other hand, his demise becomes an occasion for the Democrats and major media to revisit the Republican record on race generally, then his resignation matters.

Such a discussion might begin by revisiting such Republican race baiting practices as John Ashcroft's interview with the "neo-Confederate" journal Southern Partisan (thanks to Josh Marshall for that link: see his excellent Document Collection), George Bush's campaign visit to the openly bigoted Bob Jones University, and the Republican record of racial intimidation in elections nation-wide, as with the disenfranchisement of African-American voters in Florida 2000.

Goodbye and good riddance Trent Lott, Jesse Helms, and Strom Thurmond, to name three. The nation will be better off without you. But leave behind, if you will, your long, shameful histories on matters of race. They can serve as a starting point for the broader and necessary discussion of racist practices in contemporary Republican politics.

Friday, December 20, 2002
Guess Why I'm Repugnant!

For another sterling example of how Republicans take responsibility for their actions, take a ride with the suddenly reticent Conrad Burns. Just click here!

(Sometimes they make it too easy.)

What About the Rest of the Trolls and Orcs?

Before we get all weepy about how virtuous the Republicans have been about canning Lott, whom many hard right wingers disliked anyway, let's not forget
this and this, and this.

Let's try to keep in mind, before it's swept down the media history hole, that John Ashcroft also gave an interview to the racist Southern Partisan Journal, praising their neo-Confederate agenda, that candidate George Bush made the faithful homage to Bob Jones University, and that Republicans tried to suppress the black vote in Florida 2000, and more recently in Arkansas and Louisiana. So can we expect the right-wingers to leave off congratulating themselves long enough to denounce and renounce John Ashcroft and the "repugnant" (his word, not mine; see here) Conrad Burns?

Some things are harder than others to imagine. Let us watch carefully how things proceed from here.

He May Have Lied About the Cigar Thing, but . . .

CNN: Do you have a comment on
Senator Lott?

Clinton: No, other than....I think that
-- obviously -- I don't agree with him.

But I think there is something a bit
hypocritical about the way
Republicans are jumping all over him.
I think what they really are upset
about is he made public their

The whole Republican apparatus
supported campaigns in Georgia and
South Carolina on the Confederate
flag. There is no action coming out of
the Justice Department against all
those people, Republicans, who
suppressed black voters in the South,
in Arkansas and Louisiana, and lots
of other places. Telephone operations
telling people in Florida they didn't
have to vote on Election Day, that
they could vote on Saturday but not if
they had parking tickets. I mean, this
is their policy.

So I think the way that the
Republicans treated Senator Lott is a
pretty hypocritical since right now,
their policy is in my view inimical to
everything this country stands for.
They tried to suppress black voting,
they ran on the Conferederate flag in
Georgia and South Carolina and from
top to bottom Republicans supported
them. So I don't see what they're
jumping on Trent Lott about.

I think the Democrats can say we
disagree with what he said and we
don't think its right but that's the
Republican policy. How do you think
they got a majority in the South

CNN: So he should step down as
majority leader?

Clinton: I think that's up to them. But
I think that they can't say it with a
straight face. How can they jump all
over him when they're out there
repressing and trying to run black
voters away from polls and to run on
the Confederate flag in Georgia and
South Carolina. Look at their whole
record. The others, how can they
attack him? He just embarrassed
them by saying in Washington what
they do on the back roads every day.

From the invaluable Josh Marshall.

Thursday, December 19, 2002
His Real Name is Chester

For ANOTHER 50 things you didn't know about Trent Lott, click here

Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Trent Lott as Human Carnival Ride

On top of everything else, now this nugget from Newsweek (sorry, don't know how to link yet. But you can go to:

It was just a quick stop, at a store on a campaign trip through the Northeast more than a dozen years ago.

Trent Lott, then a Mississippi congressman about to make his move for the Senate, was visiting a state for a Republican candidate.

When Lott walked in, he asked: "Why aren't there any black people here?" a source who has spent time with him in unguarded moments tells Newsweek. Nervously, someone explained that this was not the most diverse of regions.

"Not even behind the counter?" Lott said. Warming to his punch line, Lott added: "We'd be happy to send you up some if you need any" -- and then chuckled.

Asked about the incident last week, Lott told Newsweek: "I can't imagine when I would have done that. I don't believe I did that. I deny that I did that, but you know I can't deny every word or that I may have been in the area." If anything "close to that was uttered, that would have been totally out of order," Lott said.


Parsing that, it goes something like this:

I can't imagine I did that.
I don't believe I did that.
I deny that I did that.
I can't deny everything I've done, possibly including that (so I may have done that).
If I did anything like that, that would have been wrong.

The Ferris Wheel and Crazy Plane rides should spin so much!

Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Are You Feeling Safer Yet?

Througout the last election, President Bush talked incessantly about how important it was to elect people who would help the president pass the Homeland Security Bill. This bill was vital, Mr. Bush argued, for guarding the safety of ordinary Americans.

Well, now the president has the bill he wanted. It was passed in the aftermath of the election and signed into law. Here are a few of the bill's provisions for keeping the homeland secure:

o Protection for drug companies such as Eli Lilly that manufactured and sold the mercury-based vaccines that may have caused autism in children. This provision in the bill would protect the homeland by wiping out pending litigation against those companies even before all the scientific evidence has been evaluated.

If you are unsure what autistic children have to do with homeland security, don't expect the Republican Party leadership to explain. This particular rider is so repulsive and shameful that no one will admit actually sneaking it into the bill. That's right: The person or persons who sponsored this rider won't stand up and be accountable for their actions. What is no mystery, however, is the relationship of the pharmaceutical industry to the Republican Party: the drug industry is a major GOP donor.

o Protection for companies that avoid paying U.S. taxes by opening an office in a tax haven overseas, such as Bermuda. This provision protects the homeland by allowing the U.S. government to reward tax-dodging corporations with lucrative defense contracts. Tyco International, for example, avoids paying $400 million a year in U.S. taxes by setting up a phony headquarters offshore but was awarded $206 million in government contracts. According to Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, the taxes owed by Tyco could have paid for 400 explosive detection systems at airports around the country.

If you do not see the relationship between legalized tax fraud and homeland security, you might ask former Sen. Bob Dole, who was paid by Tyco to lobby Congress for the company's right to dodge its taxes. USA Today reported that Tyco spent hundreds of thousands of dollars lobbying against a federal contract ban on companies that avoid paying taxes by opening an office overseas. Their efforts paid off.

o Establishment of a university-based homeland security research center. This particular rider protects the homeland by listing 15 detailed criteria that must be met before a university can be awarded the research center. All of these criteria, coincidentally, are met by Texas A & M University, which, again coincidentally, is located in the district of Republican Whip Tom DeLay.

There are other, equally offensive provisions. Indeed, the sell-out to special interests was so egregious that Republican leadership had to promise some of its own members to reconsider these riders in a year's time.

So let's take stock. We will be more secure if the homeland is protected against autistic children and their families, if big companies with deep pockets can continue to land government contracts even as they avoid paying taxes, and if powerful Republicans can direct resources to their districts without the benefit of an open bidding process. And we will be more secure if all these things are done in the legislative dead of night, without the bother of debate or public accountability.

When Republicans gained control of the House and Senate after the last mid-term elections, they boasted that, finally, they would get to do things their way. I guess this is how they do it.

Do you feel safer as a result?

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