Lott's remarks demand quick resolution

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Politicians say lots of things to lots of people lots of times. Sometimes, it seems, they forget some people are listening.

Case in point is Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi, who has made headlines recently, not for his agenda as the majority leader when Republicans resume control of the U.S. Senate, but instead for some remarks he made at a birthday party.

Granted, it was a party for Sen. Strom Thurmond. And he wasn't just saying happy birthday to the 100-year-old senator from South Carolina.

During his remarks, Lott said he supported Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential campaign. He didn't put it in those terms, and probably didn't mean it in that way, but that's the way a lot of people took it. He has repeatedly apologized since.

But he can't take back what he said. Now members of his own party are questioning his ability to keep the top Senate post. Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma has called for new leadership elections. The White House yesterday increased pressure, calling his remarks "offensive and repugnant."

Yesterday, Senate Republicans said they would meet about the issue on Jan. 6. As one senator put it yesterday, Republicans "must either confirm their confidence in Sen. Trent Lott's leadership or select a new leader. In the interest of the Republican Party, the president's agenda and the nation, this issue must be resolved quickly."

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