The resignation of Trent Lott as majority leader in the U.S. Senate was timely and necessary.
If Lott had been a great leader, perhaps his party would have gone to the mat for him against those who were practicing the politics of personal destruction. But Lott has been an ineffective leader and there are other senators well suited to replace him.
Lott has let Tom Daschle lead him around by the nose. Lott also swapped federal judgeships for Democratic approval of Bradley Smith to the Federal Election Commission. As one critic put it, Lott "ended up trading 16 lifetime appointments to the federal bench for one term-limited bureaucrat."
Lott is no fiscal conservative. He got $500 million to build a warship in his state that the Pentagon doesn't want. He supported a $100 million authorization for the federal Overseas Private Investment Corp. to co-own foreign projects with politically connected shipyards in Mississippi.
Removing himself snatches the issue away from those who were making political hay about Lott's clumsy remarks at a birthday party for centenarian Strom Thurmond.
To their credit, a few Democrats resisted the temptation. Florida Sen. Bob Graham said at a recent press conference, "I, personally, do not think that Trent Lott is a racist."
For the GOP, the only advantage to waiting for Jan. 6, when the Senate was to name a majority leader, would have been to give Republicans the opportunity to formally show that they repudiate the remarks he made -- or at least the inference made from them.
Democrats would prefer that Lott resign from the Senate entirely -- in January, when a Democratic governor would name his replacement and give the Democrats more leverage.
Lott has not been the kind of leader the Republicans need in the Senate and would have been even less effective under constant attack for the next two years.
The GOP should name a new majority leader who better represents the conservative views of the Senate majority.
--Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Dec. 21
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