- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott has inadvertently provided ammunition to those who would perpetuate the blood libel against conservatism in general and the Republican Party's Southern-based expansion in particular that it is tainted by bigotry. The conservative movement has spent more than a half-century driving out even the hint of racial or religious bigotry (some day, perhaps, the left will attempt the same thing for its precincts). To that end, we reject Mr. Lott's statement last week that if Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948, America "wouldn't have had all these problems over the years."

Mr. Thurmond, like all the Southern Democrats in the Senate in 1948, was a segregationist in those days now receding swiftly into ancient history. He long ago abandoned those sentiments.

To his credit, Mr. Lott has apologized for his over-the-top tribute to Mr. Thurmond and tried to make it clear that he was misunderstood that he was not endorsing Mr. Thurmond's platform. Rather, he says, it was a light-hearted comment on an emotional occasion celebrating Strom's 100th birthday. Like most Americans and most Southerners we don't see anything light-hearted about Jim Crow and segregation.

Mr. Lott will not be the last public speaker to think he was forming reasonable words that, when spoken, turned out to be indefensible, as Tom Daschle noted after a conversation with a chastened Trent Lott. But indefensible they are. They have offended people of all races. They will be exploited by Democratic Party partisans to deepen the racial divide that still exists. The words are an embarrassment to Trent Lott's many friends.

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