Q&A: Written shortly before Lott actually resigned as SML, Peggy Noonan has an insightful question and answer session on Lott. Here’s a sample:
I believe that Trent Lott spoke at the Thurmond birthday party in racial code words. And a man who does that should not, half a century into the modern movements for civil rights, be allowed to continue as the face of a major political party in politics.
Q: But come on–Democrat Robert Byrd went on Fox and actually said some people are “white niggers,” and he’s still in the Senate. Jesse Jackson called New York “Hymietown,” and they still call him a leader. Mike Wallace made fun of Mexicans and blacks and he’s still on “60 Minutes.” Mr. Lott’s getting a raw deal.
A: If you compare him with others maybe he is, but why compare him with others? Trent Lott is the majority leader of the Senate. That’s big. Jesse Jackson is a freelance fraud, he’s not a leader, he’s not a holder of high office in a great democracy. Bobby Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia, who was once a member of the KKK (Tip O’Neill is said to have had a private nickname for him, “Sheets”), is not a leader either; he’s a weird throwback. And Mike Wallace doesn’t represent the United States; he represents Mike Wallace’s ambition.
Q: But isn’t there a double standard here? Democrats get slapped on the wrist for using racial and religious epithets, but Republicans lose their jobs over it. It’s not fair.
A: Maybe it isn’t fair, but think of it this way: The history of the Republican Party on race is mixed. Yes, that’s true of the Democrats too, but Democrats are perceived today as sympathetic to the movements for freedom that have marked the past century, and Republicans are not. This has some implications. It means Republicans have to go out of our way to show that our hearts are in the right place. But there’s another thing that is even more important. If we are tougher on ourselves, maybe that’s good. Why shouldn’t we be tougher on ourselves?
If the Democrats all too often treat race as if it were a card to be played in a game, and if the Republicans in contrast attempt to struggle through the issue and be serious and go out of their way to expunge the last vestiges of the old racial ways, isn’t that something we should be proud of? History is watching. It will know what we did. What will history think if it sees a new seriousness on race from the Republican Party? I think it will say: Good. And I think that matters.
Read the whole thing.