Last week, with Senate Republicans finally pushing back against the staged shenanigans of the Democrats — shutting down the Senate for four hours to debate what amounted to nothing behind closed doors and a continued drumbeat of “Bush lied” statements — Lott claimed that serious, possibly criminal leaks of highly classified information about CIA “black sites” for al Qaeda prisoners that appeared in both the Washington Post and reports by the left-wing organization Human Rights Watch might have come out of a Republican Senate policy luncheon.
Lott’s statement made front page the next day, despite the fact that it was a blatant lie. Sen. John McCain said no discussion of “black sites” was made at the staff-attended policy lunch, and an AmSpecBlog timeline further undercut Lott’s tale. But why do it?
Lott, according to sources both in his office and in offices of some moderate Republican Senators, is attempting to raise his visibility in order to make a run for his Senate leadership post a year from now. While Senate Republican deputy majority leader Mitch McConnell is favored to take the Majority Leader slot when Sen. Bill Frist retires, Lott continues to have designs on the job.
McConnell, a solid conservative, who gets along well with the Bush White House and is a tireless fundraiser and campaigner for his team in the Senate, is considered to be a friend of Lott’s. “That would never stop Trent if he thought he could get his job back,” says the staffer of a Republican who also considers Lott a friend. “Everyone knows he wants to get his old job back just to embarrass the White House and Senator Frist.”
Lott has been using his friendship with McConnell and the third member of the GOP Senate leadership, Rick Santorum, as well as his chairmanship of the Rules Committee to take an increasingly vocal role in the P.R. battles of the Senate. Lott has been front and center on the Supreme Court battles, the Iraq war and other challenges the Bush White House has been dealing with. He has taken a decidedly negative perspective on almost all of them, siding against the White House.
Lott, according to insiders, is looking to build support and allegiances going into next year with moderates in the caucus, using that block of votes to peal off conservatives support from McConnell when the time comes. “If he is nothing else, he is a vote counter and a vote getter,” says another Senate Republican staffer. “He earned his rep for doing that in the House and that is what got him the leadership post in the Senate. He’s a bitter man right now, and that is what is fueling this ugliness.”p> PAYBACK TIME br> Senator