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Gordon Smith and the Resurrection of Trent Lott

December 28, 2006

Back in November, BlueOregon highlighted the key role played by Oregon's Gordon Smith in restoring Trent Lott to the Republican leadership in the Senate. Now, the December 18th issue of the New Republic offers the rich backstory on Smith's indispensable help in resurrecting the disgraced Lott at the expense of the milquetoast Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander:

"But then, Oregon Senator Gordon Smith rose to give a nominating speech for Lott. Smith's address was deeply emotional: He described Lott's honorable character and talked about the possibility of redemption. He even quoted from Mark Antony's funeral oration in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. The room fell silent; Lott wept. When the doors opened, Lott had been elected minority whip by a single vote."

With his own political future at stake in 2008, Smith may yet come to regret hitching his wagon to the neo-Confederate Lott. Lott, after all, lost his Senate Majority Leadership post in 2002 for his praise of Dixiecrat and staunch segregationist Strom Thurmond. "I want to say this about my state: when Strom Thurmond ran for President, we voted for him," Lott boasted. "We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either."

Lott has been very clear in myriad other ways that "the old times there are not forgotten." Lott was a speaker in 1992 at an event of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a successor to the White Citizens' Councils of Jim Crow days. Among its offerings in seething racial hatred is a "Wanted" poster of Abraham Lincoln. Lott has also offered his rebel yell in the virulently neo-Confederate Southern Partisan, where in 1984 he called the Civil War "the war of aggression."

After his recent rhetorical gymnastics on the chaos in Iraq, Smith's embrace of a red state crusader like Lott won't endear him to the moderate voters of an increasingly blue Oregon. As Marc Antony lamented in that same funeral oration, "the evil that men do lives after them." Not, perhaps, for Trent Lott. But for Gordon Smith, the jury is still out.

Note: This post orginally appeared on December 27, 2006 on BlueOregon, where I am an occasional contributor.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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