Another day, another apology. The one thing Trenty Lott has going for him is that he’s hardly the only sorry act out there. There are, for instance, the many liberals and Democrats who can’t decide whether they want to hang him from a tall oak tree or to let him stay on as Senate leader on the condition he appear at official functions dressed only in white sheets.
But it took an esteemed product of white liberal privilege, Bob Herbert, to really capture what’s at stake. As he put it in his New York Times column, “Mr. Lott is not the only culprit here. The Republican Party has become a haven for white racist attitudes and anti-black policies.” Herbert is one of those who wants Lott to “stay” as “the Senate Republican leader.” As he explained for the ages: “Keep him in plain sight. His presence is instructive. As long as we keep in mind that it isn’t only him.” In his next offering Herbert will name David Duke to chair the Republican National Committee.
The tragedy is that Lott’s deviant utterings have turned attention from the campaign to feminize Augusta National. For naught, it would seem, did Treasury secretary designate John Snow resign from the exclusive golf club in order to improve his confirmation chances. There was suspicion that faced with the prospect of earning a government salary Mr. Snow would no longer be able to afford August’s steep green fees. But now it appears there was more to this profile in cowardice than first suspected. Mr. Snow is guilty of activity even more reprehensible than sex discrimination — age discrimination. In abandoning his Augusta colleagues, he was traducing on the reputation of a membership most of which is in its seventies, eighties and nineties. One would think Strom Thurmond would feel right at home here if asked to join, but think again. Who’d be there for him to squeeze? As one of his lackeys might say, if Augusta had accepted women, it wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in today.
Another big event was obscured by the Lott lather, at least in the U.S. In Venezuela, fortunately, an engaged citizenry did its part to show solidarity with James Earl Carter on the day he grabbed the 2002 Nobel peace prize. In Caracas, as we observed via satellite, long gas lines formed outside the few filling stations still selling petrol to local drivers. The essential Carter remains an inspiration and a disgrace. Although old enough at 78 to join Augusta National in his home state, he refuses to become one of the boys. Unlike the religious right in his region, he knows what’s what in the world. In Oslo, he spelled it out, decrying “Israel’s inability to live in peace with its neighbors.” Now imagine if Trent Lott had said that. Just imagine. Let’s put in understandable terms. Israel is small country of a few million surrounded by neighbors who not only refuse to accept its existence but outnumber it by something like ten-to-one hundred or more to one and make it a point of cultural pride to promise themselves that sooner or later they’ll suceed in erasing the “Zionist entity” from the face of the earth. And Carter is blaming Israel for trying to get itself lynched?
Still, one can understand why the U.N. remains so close to Carter’s admittedly impure heart. Controversy continued to rage whether it was relevant for the Washington Post to have reported that one of Hans Blix’s crack inspection team is a leading light of the “sadomasochism/leather/fetish community,” and particularly adept with knives and ropes. The Post‘s ombudsman slapped the paper around for “yield[ing] to the titillation factor” in whipping the story out.
Now that we have Hollywood’s attention, we can express admiration for that community’s significant contribution to bureaucratic theory. It used to that there was only a small and efficient Hollywood 10. But because the U.S. government and F.B.I. failed to dismantle this bureau, it continued its work and naturally expanded in size. Now one hundred of its artists have signed a treasonous missive intended to sabotage the hard foreign policy work of the United States President. A sure sign of its permanence and growing strength is that this time around young reds like Ethan Hawke, Matt Damon and Uma Thurman joined with graybeards Martin Sheen, Jessica Lange and Mike Farrell as signatories. The miracle is that their activity isn’t government funded — or at least U.S. government funded.
By the way, just to reassure Times columnist Bob Herbert that his work is not in vain, that he is a man of vision, that we didn’t take anything he wrote personally, we’re happy to buck him up with this week’s EOW prize. Now let’s all rush to our TV sets. Word is, Trent Lott is about to speak. And when he speaks, strange things happen. And not only to him.