Once the press latches onto someone with much to explain away, if not hide, you might as well forget it. It’s kind of like the government: slow to act, hard to get focused, letting much slip through the cracks (look at the conviction rates for violent crime – you will probably get away with it, at least the first few times), look how much the IRS doesn’t collect each year.
BUT, once the government latches on to you, forget it, it will hold on with the tenacity of a snapping turtle. Same with the press: once they start sniffing around, they are going to find something, and in the case of unreconstructed Confederate bigot Trent Lott, there is plenty to find. The tool doesn’t even bother to speak in the coded language of racism, he just blurts it out as if Bull Connor were still Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham.
AP has more today:
- Senate Republican leader Trent Lott tried to help Bob Jones University keep its federal tax-exempt status despite the school’s policy prohibiting interracial dating two decades before his recent comments stirred a race controversy.
“Racial discrimination does not always violate public policy,” Lott, then a congressman from Mississippi, wrote in a 1981 friend of the court brief that unsuccessfully urged the U.S. Supreme Court to stop the Internal Revenue Service from stripping the university’s tax exemption.
Really, Senator Aryan Nation?
Meanwhile Lott is still stomping on the fire that threatens to engulf him:
- Making the rounds on television news shows, Lott said Wednesday his comments were a “mistake of the head and not of the heart” and added “the words were terrible and I regret that.”
You regret getting caught.
No Republican senators have called for his ouster, but:
- the four Republican appointees to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a joint statement deploring Lott’s comments as a “particularly shameful remark coming from a leader of the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln, and the party that supported all of these essential steps forward far more vigorously than did the Democratic Party, which at the time was the home of Congressional southerners committed to white supremacy.”
It doesn’t get much plainer than that.
If you somehow think race is no longer relevant, consider the actions yesterday of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, typically a straight party line conservative:
- The question for the Supreme Court in an argument today was whether a state may make it a crime to burn a cross without at the same time trampling on the protection that the First Amendment gives to symbolic expression. The case, concerning a 50-year-old Virginia law, raised tricky questions of First Amendment doctrine, and it was not clear how the court was inclined to decide it until Justice Clarence Thomas spoke.
A burning cross is indeed highly symbolic, Justice Thomas said, but only of something that deserves no constitutional protection: the “reign of terror” visited on black communities by the Ku Klux Klan for nearly 100 years before Virginia passed the law, which the Virginia Supreme Court declared unconstitutional a year ago.
A burning cross is “unlike any symbol in our society,” Justice Thomas said.
“There’s no other purpose to the cross, no communication, no particular message,” he continued. “It was intended to cause fear and to terrorize a population.”
During the brief minute or two that Justice Thomas spoke, about halfway through the hourlong argument session, the other justices gave him rapt attention. Afterward, the court’s mood appeared to have changed. While the justices had earlier appeared somewhat doubtful of the Virginia statute’s constitutionality, they now seemed quite convinced that they could uphold it as consistent with the First Amendment. [NY Times]
If race was no longer a factor then there would be no reason to see cross-burning as a “symbol…unlike any other in our society” and deserving of no constitutional protection, nor would Thomas, who is black, have responded with the fervor he mustered, nor would he have been given the “rapt attention” he was afforded by the other judges. Race still counts specifically because important, influential people still think the way Lott does.