[A-List] US state: damage limitation
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Fri Dec 13 03:45:14 MST 2002
Bush condemns race row senator
Julian Borger in Washington
Friday December 13, 2002
The political future of the Republican leader in the Senate, Trent Lott, was
in doubt yesterday after President Bush condemned as "offensive" and "wrong"
his remarks last week expressing nostalgia for racial segregation.
Mr Bush broke his silence on the affair in an impassioned speech to a
largely black audience in Philadelphia.
Mr Bush acknowledged that the Mississippi senator had apologised, but
stopped short of accepting it, noting instead that Mr Lott's remarks did not
"reflect the spirit of our country".
It was a clear sign that the president now considers him a burden on a party
Mr Bush is trying to make more inclusive.
Mr Lott's trouble began at a birthday party last week to mark the 100th
birthday of the Senate's relic from the days of southern apartheid, Strom
Thurmond. He recalled the 1948 elections, during which Mr Thurmond broke
with the Democratic party and ran for president on a ferociously
segregationist ticket. Senator Thurmond has since disowned that stance, but
Senator Lott, apparently, had not.
"I want to say this about my state," Mr Lott said. "When Strom Thurmond ran
for president, we voted for him. 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."
Mr Lott was struggling to limit the damage to his authority yesterday, a
month after he won back control of the Senate in mid-term elections.
He made repeated remorseful television appearances, telling one interviewer:
"Look, you put your foot in your mouth, you're getting carried away at a
ceremony honouring a guy like this, you go too far. Those words were
insensitive, and I shouldn't have said them."
But the Mississippi Republican's problems mounted when reporters dug up
earlier examples of his sympathies for segregation.
"Any suggestion that a segregated past was acceptable or positive is
offensive and it is wrong," the president told a cheering Philadelphia crowd
"Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country,"
he went on. "He has apologised and rightly so. Every day our nation was
segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals."
The rest of the Republican hierarchy in Washington has maintained a cautious
silence and Mr Lott's repeated flirtations with the American far right have
He gave an almost identical endorsement of Mr Thurmond's 1948 racist
presidential campaign in 1980. In 1981 he backed the Bob Jones university in
South Carolina for banning inter-racial dating.
In the early 1990s he voiced approval for a white supremacist group called
the Council of Conservative Citizens, the successor to the White Citizens
Councils, a group affiliated to the Ku Klux Klan during the civil rights
More information about the A-List