Targeting Reid, Republicans Forget Bush Forced Lott Out
The preposterous Republican campaign to equate Harry Reid's off-the-record "dialect" comment with neo-Confederate Trent Lott's lavish public praise of Strom Thurmond has shifted into overdrive. But even as Michael Steele, Jon Kyl and other leading lights of the Party of Hate press Reid like Lott before him to surrender his Senate leadership post, they conveniently omit President George W' Bush's essential role in forcing Lott's resignation. Just as important, the GOP is silent as to why Bush, desperate to improve the Party's image with minority voters, threw Lott under the bus.
Just days after Lott's infamous rebel yell in support of the legendary racist Dixiecrat Thurmond, the New York Times detailed the skullduggery by the Bush White House and leading Republicans to oust the Mississippi Senator. In an article titled, "Bush Orchestrates an Ouster," the Times reported:
As President Bush was cheerily shaking the hands of thousands of guests at glittering White House Christmas parties this week, his advisers and influential Republicans were working overtime to jettison Trent Lott as the Senate Republican leader...
By the end of the week, as the White House watched its favorite, Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, step up to replace Mr. Lott of Mississippi, Washington's political professionals were left awed. They said Mr. Bush and his powerful political adviser, Karl Rove, had stumbled at times but had still managed to depose in eight short days the unanimously elected Senate leader of their own party.
The president, they said, had ruthlessly maneuvered to contain a stain on Republicans that was threatening his own agenda. And he did it without overtly appearing to be behind the effort.
Three days later, the Washington Post explained why. While "the white South is now a Republican bastion" thanks to the Republicans' notorious Southern Strategy," demographic change was working against the GOP. Bush and Rove were acutely aware of the growing problem:
"We have just about maxed out with white men," a key Republican strategist said. "When you look into the future, all you see is smaller numbers and more and more Hispanics. Look at Texas. Unless we do something, in a decade or so it's going to go the way of California," a former Republican stronghold that now tilts decisively Democratic. "We have to adapt to survive."
Republican pollster Bill McInturff laid out the implications, arguing "to be a majority party over the next generation, you have to be very responsive to what is happening demographically." Which explains why Bush and the GOP leadership got out the long knives for Trent Lott in December 2002:
The denunciation of Lott by conservative intellectuals, commentators and elected officials struck a harsh tone that rarely, if ever, was heard from comparable sources in previous decades. Ronald Reagan was not condemned in that manner for his 1980 endorsement of "states' rights" in Philadelphia, Miss., best known for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers by local members of the Ku Klux Klan. Nor was George H.W. Bush as sharply criticized for his 1988 ad featuring Horton, a black rapist and murderer who assaulted a white woman while on temporary release from a prison in Massachusetts, home to Bush's Democratic opponent, then-Gov. Michael S. Dukakis.
Castellanos, asked if he would use in 2004 an ad along the lines of his famous "white hands" commercial of 1990, said: "The world has changed. That was 100 years ago -- longer."
Sadly for the Republicans, their extremist makeover to date has been a disaster. Ken Mehlman's high profile RNC outreach effort to African-Americans was undermined by, among other things, his confusion of victim and villain in the James Byrd case. Worse still, in 2006 and again in 2008, the rampant anti-immigrant xenophobia sweeping the Republican Party erased the GOP's gains among Hispanic voters. As a host of Republican neo-Confederates like George Allen, Matt Blunt, Haley Barbour, Jim Demint, John Ashcroft and (more recently) Mike Huckabee show, the GOP is credible on issues of race and social justice in much the same way that bricks float.
In a final irony, Trent Lott, the "Pariah from Pascagoula" was rehabilitated by the Republicans in 2006. His new leadership post? Minority Whip.
You can't make this stuff up. But as they go after Harry Reid, it won't keep the Republicans from trying.