Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

He’s Really Sorry This Time

Under pressure from all sides, Lott offered a second apology yesterday, calling his previous words "terrible," and for the first time suggesting a repudiation of segregation by saying "I don’t accept those policies of the past at all." Aside from the fact that this still seems weak--it fails to make the case--one has the feeling that this is too little, too late. The Republican and Democratic villagers had torches and pitchforks, and under this duress he offers a more acceptable statement. Jack Kemp put forth perhaps the strongest Republican rebuke of Lott to date, calling his statements "’inexplicable, indefensible and inexcusable.’ Kemp warned that until Lott does more to repudiate them, the party will suffer long-term damage."

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Lott’s most recent comments seem to be a marginal improvement over his first two apologies, but they are, as you say too little too late and still very, very, weak. I have yet to read anything in which Lott expressly says that segregation by law is and was wrong and condems segregation by law as a moral evil. He always refers to legal segregation as "policies of the past" -- a vague euphemism that does not even acknowledge what was so offensive about his remark. Lott knows full well why people rightly took offense at his remark. I believe Lott did imply that segregation was a "discarded" policy of the past -- but that is simply a historical fact not an actual condemnation of the policy. (In fact, Lott’s original remark at the birthday party implicitly acknowledged that fact, too, with words of regret and nostalgia for what might have been in 1948.) Shouldn’t Lott have the decency to speak specifically and candidly to the substance of what made his remark offensive in an apology?

Kudos to Jack Kemp for speaking out on the issue. I only wish some prominent Republican elected official would have the courage to say the same thing. It is well and good that conservative commentators have called Lott on the carpet, but what does it say about the Party of Lincoln when its elected officials refuse to do the same? Politicians should be held accountable not only for their words but also for their silences in the face of undeniablly offensive conduct.

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