- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2002

Morality plays invariably exaggerate and leave out the textualizing details in order to provide the storyline with dramatic relief. Now, in the aftermath of the Trent Lott affair, all the players conservative commentators, Democratic and Republican Party spokesmen, lovers and haters of George Bush and Karl Rove are busy trying to convert those exaggerations into publicly perceived reality.
The Republican Party has either returned to the pure party of Lincoln or it is racist from bow to stern. (Lott defenders consider it craven for failing to circle the wagons.) Conservative commentators were either paladins of enlightenment or cynical propagandists for other issues. George Bush either honestly expressed his compassionate conservative principles or he had wanted to throw-over Lott and install Tennessee's Bill Frist all the time. Karl Rove either carefully monitored events or was the master puppeteer of the entire affair.
Nonetheless, the players are not morally indistinguishable. Trent Lott is no racist, but by his earlier words and deeds, his statement at the Thurmond party, his inept serial apologies, his threat to quit the Senate and undercut his opponents with their racial history, and his embrace of racial affirmative action programs, he became the author of his own demise. He forced the hand of Republicans and conservatives who believe in more complete integration in a color-blind society. Though some may have had mixed motives in ousting Sen. Lott, overwhelmingly the conservative commentators simply refused to be tarred with the segregationist brush. As the leader of the country and his party, had George Bush remained silent he would have been morally diminished.
Both the Republican and Democratic Parties (and most other political parties) attempt to gain votes by appeals to different groups of Americans. They appeal to farmers, seniors, whites, blacks, Hispanics, workers, college students, etc. In making such appeals to groups they risk inadvertently or intentionally playing one group against another. No party has yet mastered the art of purely positive messages. But when there is a flair-up in group politics over a racial issue, it is vital that it be promptly resolved.
In the Trent Lott affair, the Republican Party should be commended for dealing with it promptly, honestly and wisely. The Democratic Party should limit its sanctimony, given its continuing resort to playing the race card as an election strategy.

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