December 11, 2002

DANIEL DREZNER watched Nightline and penned a memo to Karl Rove that Karl Rove should actually read. Excerpt:

Did you see the Nightline episode on l'affaire Lott? I was impressed by all of the participants, and grateful that Julian Bond went out of his way to acknowledge that younger conservatives were particularly appalled by Lott's comment. Still, I kept thinking, "where are the f@&%ing senators?!!" Duck and cover is not a successful long-term strategy, and this problem is not going away. The bigger this issue gets, the more people are going to ask what the President thinks about it. Karl, it's time for some pre-emptive action on the home front -- give Trent the boot.

Senate Republicans are missing a golden opportunity here. If they act quickly and forthrightly to remove Lott from a leadership position, they not only eliminate this as a future campaign issue, but they actually look better than the Democrats. Removing Lott after Daschle tried to sanitize the situation sends a clear signal about which party has principles. The other option is to try to ride out the current hullabaloo, but that won't work. Newt Gingrich was a polarizing figure, but imagine what Trent Lott will look like after his quote is spliced into every campaign commercial and flyer in 2004. You really want this dogging the President on the campaign trail?

Good advice. I think a lot of the problem is that too many people in Washington are neutralized by the fact that they know Lott socially or professionally. Meanwhile the Midwest Conservative Journal says Lott's toast: "Trent Lott is in deep trouble. Even the Family Research Council has bailed out."

Duck-and-cover might work if all the people calling for his ouster were on the Left. But most of them are on the Right.