Watch out for the spatter. As speculation flies in the wake of an announcement by Senator Trent Lott (R-MS) that he will retire at year’s end, we can only wonder what exactly hit which fan.
Trish and I have decided it’s time for us to do something else. We went to First Baptist Church recently in Jackson. I must say, we were up there and we went to First Baptist Jackson and the pastor there, Stan Buckley, just happened to preach on Ecclesiastes 3:1.
“There’s a time for everything and everything — a special time for everything under heaven”: I believe that’s the paraphrase, but he just seemed to be speaking to me and to us.
While the prominent and controversial Republican invoked Biblical wisdom in his press release, early scuttlebutt suggests—as it almost always will—something a little less noble. Big Head DC suggests that Lott’s departure comes in the face of a potentially “huge” sex scandal.
… Hustler’s Larry Flynt may have played a role in the sudden and unexpected announcement of the resignation of Sen. Trent Lott this morning. Flynt was already involved earlier this year in uncovering Sen. David Vitter’s involvement with the so-called DC Madam escort service. He has said he would reveal more “huge” tawdry politico sex scandals by year’s end.
Some are speculating that a sex scandal is involved in the odd Trent development, although the unofficial spin is that the exit of the Republican Senate Minority Whip may be linked to a new post-Senate career lobbying law that takes effect at the end of the year. He is believed to be in good health.
Neither libido nor greed make for a dignified departure. Over at WashingtonPost.com, Paul Kane offers some less-scandalous analysis:
Lott said that he was going to move into the private sector after 35 years in Congress, but denied that he was getting out before a new two-year “cooling-off” restriction takes effect on Jan. 1. The restriction bars lawmakers from taking lobbying jobs for two years after they leave public service. Lott also denied that health issues were the cause. “Let me make it clear: There are no problems, I feel fine,” he said ….
…. While the seat is likely to remain in GOP hands because of Mississippi’s conservative tilt, Lott’s resignation is a highly symbolic blow to Republicans who have already seen a handful of veteran incumbents announce their retirements rather than seek re-election next year. Several of the retirees are former committee chairmen leaving in part because they are unlikely to reclaim their gavels any time soon, but none possess the inside knowledge of the chamber and its parliamentary procedures like Lott.
Lott acknowledged that this year, filled with somewhat intractable fights over Iraq war policy and most domestic issues, has been “awfully tough”. And GOP aides said Lott grew tired of the political infighting in the Senate as Republicans have been forced into a position of merely blocking a Democratic agenda.
It has been a long run for Senator Lott, whose troubles in 2002 following his praise of former Sen. Strom Thurmond’s failed segregationist presidential bid may well have been a harbinger of the GOP’s coming meltdown. At a celebration for Helms’ retirement, Lott explained that had Thurmond been elected president, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems over the years”. While spokesman Ron Bonjean attempted to play down the remarks, saying that Lott intended only to “pay tribute to a remarkable man”, and thatit was wrong to “read anything more into these comments”, the appeal went nearly unheard as the national press picked up a Mississippi newspaper report about similar words spoken at a 1980 campaign event in support of Ronald Reagan.
In the wake of the 2002 scandal, Lott lost his Senate leadership position, and Sen. Bill Frist rose to take his place. And while issues of civil rights, a failed domestic agenda, a difficult domestic economy, and stagnant-at-best wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dogged the Republican party, it may well have been Frist’s histrionics in the Schiavo controversy that finally began the GOP’s irreversible slide toward midterm defeat in November, 2006.
So it isn’t hard to accept that Lott is exhausted. After all, as Congressional Democrats seem to take every opportunity to hurt their party’s chances in the 2008 election, Republicans seem unable to capitalize. While the Democrats have never fully recovered from their Clintonian meltdown, the GOP seems to have utterly failed to learn anything by watching their counterparts’ implosion. In fact, if it is possible at all, the GOP’s decline seems to have taken an uglier tone as all its factions fall into disarray. The neocon concession to certain liberal budgetary concerns leaves the economic conservatives confused and alienated while the desperate play for tax cuts has only escorted the economy into a growing sense of chaos. Social conservatives find themselves in dire straits as their untenable political ambitions stretch to the limits. If their position was not precarious enough before, arguing for institutional gender discrimination, against potentially lifesaving medical research, and, of late, for the right for professionals to withhold medical treatment from patients for assertions of conscience, the widespread accusations of sexual misconduct against conservative politicians and civic leaders will only drive GOP social policy deeper into crisis.
If, as some suggest, Lott faces a major sex scandal of his own, could we blame the Senator for deciding to not have this fight? Certainly, he could not hope to forestall a hit by Larry Flynt, but perhaps he can minimize the impact. If Lott is on his way out, or already out the door as Flynt starts spilling details, the party can at least call it old news and remove the scandal from GOP offices to the retiring Senator’s front lawn.
Time alone will bring us the details, and in the sordid world of Washington politics, it is doubtful that we will get through this period without hearing at least some of the naughty bits. The party of sharks is in disarray, and an old man who has served his country for thirty-five years in Congress is not prepared for another feeding frenzy. At a time when Republicans struggle between factional principles and the need for electoral appeal, the passing of another old-school, frat-boy conservative may well serve the GOP’s future. The last five years have cast Lott as a powerful symbol of so many things amiss about the Republican Party, and it may well be that, regardless of the reasons, his resignation from the U.S. Senate will be seen as at least a small step toward repairing the damage of these Bush years.