- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 16, 2001

Trent Lott must go

For all his famous humanity, Abraham Lincoln was a coldly calculating commander in chief. Old Abe ruthlessly purged the ranks of the Union Army of generals (John Pope, Ambrose Burnside, Joseph Hooker) who lost battles and replaced them with leaders (William Tecumseh Sherman, Philip H. Sheridan, Ulysses S. Grant) who won them. The result? Total victory.

Jefferson Davis did the reverse. He lost battles with inept officers (the tragic John Bell Hood), apolitical officers (Robert E. Lee) and insubordinate officers (J.E.B. Stuart) but kept them in command because they were personal and political allies. Tactical geniuses (James Longstreet) who won battles were ostracized, as their views were deemed out of step with Richmond. The result? Total defeat.

The Senate Republicans would do well to emulate Lincoln instead of continuing to mimic Jefferson Davis. It is time either for Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott to remove himself or for him to be removed from a Republican leadership position.

Mr. Lott is by all accounts a kind and generous man. He is polite and well-mannered, the embodiment of the classic Southern gentleman. He also is a disaster for the Republican Party.

While majority leader, Mr. Lott turned a 55-45 Republican majority into a 49-50-1 minority in six short years. In the private sector, people who lose this much market share are not rewarded they are purged and replaced with winners.

While majority leader, Mr. Lott was incapable of mustering the moral and political support to remove a corrupt president from office. Braver men (and women) in the House put their political futures on the line to do their constitutional duty, and several suffered for it at the polls. Mr. Lott, more interested in consensus, could find no such courage.

While majority leader, Mr. Lott was unable to stifle maverick Sen. John McCain´s attacks on free speech in the name of campaign finance reform. The McCain-Feingold bill remains a serious threat to the First Amendment.

While majority leader, Mr. Lott refused to contend the validity of the election upset of then-Sen. John Ashcroft by a deceased opponent, Mel Carnahan. The country gained an honest attorney general, but it cost the Senate another Republican seat. Had Mr. Ashcroft successfully contended the election, Mr. Jeffords´ defection would have had no impact.

While majority leader, Mr. Lott allowed the minority party to bluff and bluster its way into a farcical power-sharing agreement. The Senate was never truly split 50-50. A Republican vice president tilted the balance to 51-50 in any tie. Again, in the name of consensus and to avoid confrontation, Mr. Lott caved in and laid the groundwork for today´s 49-50-1 Senate makeup.

Finally, while majority leader, Mr. Lott let an internal spat over one man´s pique get blown out of proportion and spin out of control to the point where the hard-won battles over the past seven years in the Senate have been overturned. It is the majority leader´s job to know his troops and keep them in line. Apparently, Mr. Jeffords´ defection caught Mr. Lott completely unawares.

It is interesting to note that Mr. Lott finds his (and his party´s) newfound minority status "liberating." Interesting. Anyone who finds defeat liberating does not have the mind-set to lead others to victory. New blood and new leadership is required. Like many of the generals Lincoln purged, Mr. Lott indeed can soldier on and perform many essential tasks. His days in a leadership position, however, surely must come to an end.

The Republicans´ choices are simple: Abraham Lincoln´s example or Jefferson Davis´. Victory or defeat.


GENE McCLUSKEY

Ashburn, Va.

Attacks on personal injury cases taken too far

When people cast stones at injured plaintiffs, they are directly attacking the countrys legal system and the rights and protections everyone in this nation expects and enjoys. They are assaulting every citizen who serves on a jury.

Meanwhile, commentators such as Commentary columnist Paul Campos often look the other way when companies knowingly harm consumers ("Sending logic up in smoke," June 12).

Documents used in the Richard Boeken case in California against Philip Morris revealed industry deception about cigarettes, addictiveness and the health effects of smoking. If the Boeken case had been about a defective product such as a hand tool, a drug or a baby stroller and company documents had revealed a similar pattern of international deceit, the closure of the case would have initiated a product recall.

When a tobacco company loses a case, the defective and hazardous product remains on the market, where its sales continue to benefit the manufacturer.

While almost every headline-grabbing large jury verdict is reduced by the trial judge, on appeal or in a post-verdict settlement, it is clear that the California verdict in the case against Big Tobacco expressed the jury´s outrage at the industry´s misconduct.

I would remind those who attack our legal system and those who attack the decisions of our neighbors who serve on juries and hear all the facts that legal rights exist for everyone regardless of status, wealth or political persuasion. As Justice Richard B. Sanders, a Republican judge on the Washington State Supreme Court has written, "hen we start compromising the legal rights of our 'less worthy´ neighbors, there may be no end until finally our own rights are swept away as well."


FREDERICK M. BARON

President

Association of Trial Lawyers of America

Dallas

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