President Bush's efforts to attract blacks to the Republican Party suffered a big setback last week when Senate Republican leader Trent Lott made a seemingly pro-segregationist remark.
What makes his remark particularly galling is that the Mississippi senator has a history of statements and actions that identify himself with causes not friendly to civil rights.
At last week's birthday celebration for 100-year-old Sen. Strom Thurmond, Lott said Mississippians were proud to have voted for Thurmond, the Dixiecrat candidate in 1948. ''If the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either,'' Lott said.
After much criticism over the remark, Lott issued a halfhearted apology, saying he used a ''poor choice of words.'' But his explanation hasn't satisfied many people in his own party.
His defenders consider Lott's statement to be a slip of the tongue. But how can they explain a similar statement about Thurmond he made at a political rally 22 years ago? He was quoted as saying, ''You know, if we elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in today.'' And how can Lott's 1999 appearance at a meeting of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group known for its racist views, be explained?
It's becoming more and more evident that Lott's views on race relations are out of the mainstream. Republicans should find a new Senate leader if they want to succeed in making their party more diverse. Lott is a relic from another time.
-- Carlsbad (N.M.) Current Argus
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