Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 2002 / 12 Teves, 5763

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Lott, Clinton, and the problem of the career politician | It seems clear to just about every Republican other than Trent Lott that the senator should step down as Senate majority leader. It is clear to those of us in talk radio; it is clear to The Wall Street Journal editorial page; it is clear to the editors of The Weekly Standard; it is clear to black conservative thinkers such as John McWhorter.

Why is it not clear to Sen. Lott?

The answer is as unfortunate as it is obvious. Sen. Lott is a career politician, and most career politicians have one overriding goal -- political power. This is normal and not necessarily injurious; some career politicians do great good. But when a politician puts his career interests ahead of his party's interests (let alone ahead of his country's), it is injurious.

Take the case of President Bill Clinton. Had Mr. Clinton put the interests of his party (let alone his country) ahead of his own, he would have resigned the presidency. Al Gore would then have become president, and in all likelihood Mr. Gore, campaigning as an incumbent president and without the ethically troubled legacy of his predecessor, would have been elected president in 2000.

If Sen. Lott put his party's interests above his own, he, too, would resign -- and with far less cost to his career. He would still be a senator, just not majority leader.

The issue is not whether Trent Lott, the man, can be forgiven for his awful comments. He can be forgiven. The issue is whether Trent Lott can be an effective Republican leader. The answer is so obvious that only Sen. Lott's preoccupation with Sen. Lott's political career can explain his remaining as majority leader.

In case it is not clear why he should resign, let one more Republican make the case:

For a senator to say in 2002 that he is proud of his state for being one of only four states to have voted in 1948 for a man whose entire presidential campaign was rooted in racism is simply unacceptable.

Yes, all public officials make verbal gaffes, and when they properly apologize, and if their gaffe is inconsistent with their general behavior, they must surely be forgiven. Had Sen. Lott immediately and properly apologized, he might well have earned the nation's forgiveness. But his initial apologies were meaningless.

What should Sen. Lott have said and done?

In the hope that it will help anyone, public or private, who wishes to be forgiven for a sin, here are two guidelines taken from the "laws of penitence" as codified by the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides.

The first thing a penitent must do is acknowledge precisely what he did and precisely describe it to the injured party. It is entirely insufficient to tell a business partner from whom you have stolen, "I'm sorry for any thing I did that might have hurt you." You must say, "I stole $10,000 from you while you trusted me as your business partner."

Second, a penitent must offer restitution. Therefore, Sen. Lott should have said something like this: "My fellow Americans, I owe all of you -- especially black Americans, my state of Mississippi, and the Republican Party -- an apology. I said something awful. Though I did not mean it in this way, I said that I am proud that my state of Mississippi supported a third party in 1948 whose appeal was entirely rooted in racism. The truth is that I am not proud of this. My state was wrong in 1948, and while I am very proud of what Mississippi is today, I am not proud of that part of its past. Those remarks hurt black America, insulted Mississippi, and have given my party, which loathes racism, a bad name. In order to demonstrate how strongly I repudiate these comments and sentiments, I am willing to relinquish my role as Senate majority leader, if my party should so decide. It is far more important to me to undo any damage these remarks made to my country and to my party than to remain in this position."

Unfortunately, Sen. Lott did not say these things, but chose to place his political interests over his party's and his country's. For those who ache to see the Republican Party make inroads into black hearts and minds, this choice may turn out as devastating to his party as the choice made by another career politician, Bill Clinton, was to his.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. He the author of, most recently, "Happiness is a Serious Problem". Click here to visit his website and here to comment on this column.


12/10/02: The healthiest and longest living generation of humans since the 900-year-olds of Genesis are being scared silly
12/04/02: Morally neutral reporting is dishonest reporting
11/26/02: Understand Nigeria and you understand the Islamic threat
11/19/02: James Bond meets his most fanatical foe yet -- anti-smokers
11/12/02: Conservatives need to be more compassionate on divorce
11/05/02: Of course, the great majority of Muslims are peaceful -- so what?
10/29/02: Nice guys finish first: Thoughts on the World Series
10/24/02: A Jew defends evangelical Christians
10/16/02: Bigot laureate well represents New Jersey
10/11/02: Why the Creator must always be higher than the Angels
10/02/02: Loudmouth "stars" are remaining surprisingly quiet about Israel
09/25/02: Bob Greene is a good man
09/11/02: 9-11 made America better
09/04/02: What I learned at the Minneapolis Metrodome about liberals and homosexuality
08/28/02: Teach our college co-eds about Islam --- but teach them the truth
08/14/02: How the nuclear family became "controversial"
08/07/02: Every generation is tested by great evil
07/31/02: Those who curse the Jews and those who bless them . . .
07/24/02: Children should talk to strangers
07/17/02: Why my son's best friend is black
07/11/02: Why Hesham Hadayet may be scarier than al Qaeda
07/03/02: "Pro-Israel lobby" is not why America supports Israel
06/26/02: Why does the Left support the "Palestinians"?
06/19/02: The commencement address I would give
06/12/02: Why do adult children live with their parents? Because they actually like them
06/05/02: The stripper and the Christian school: Thoughts on what a Christian school should do when a parent is a stripper and on who the biggest sinner here is
05/31/02: Don't worry, New York, you are safe from a terrorist threat
05/15/02: A proud member of the world's two most hated peoples
05/10/02: What Israelis are saying
05/06/02: Thank Heaven for moral violence
04/29/02: Give back the Nobel Peace Prize: A letter to Elie Wiesel
04/22/02: Why so many students cheat
04/12/02: Is it 1938 again for the Jews?
04/05/02: It's the values, stupid
01/31/02: Smoke and lose your son
10/30/01: Why Arab/Muslim anti-Semites are worse than the Nazis

© 2002, Creators Syndicate