Trent Lott's hypocritical accusers.

Politics and policy.
Dec. 13 2002 7:45 PM

The Lot of Them

Trent Lott's hypocritical accusers.

(Continued from Page 1)

Finally, there are Lott's appearances before the CCC in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He says he was just being nice. "It was one of those events that you have almost every two years," Lott told radio host Sean Hannity Wednesday. "You have them all over the state. You don't usually ask who's sponsoring this thing." Friday, Lott gave a similar account of his praise for Thurmond. "I was trying to make [him] happy," said Lott. "It was just an effort to encourage an elderly gentleman to feel good."

I believe Lott on all counts. He forgot about the civil rights movement. He was habitually oblivious to it. In his mature years, he's been driven not by racism but by a preoccupation with the sovereignty of states, neighborhoods, and private institutions. He spoke kindly to the CCC and praised Thurmond's 1948 campaign because he wanted to be nice, even if that meant overlooking bigotry. In short, he's guilty of all the sins that, in his view, add up to an alibi. And he's far from alone.

How many conservatives who denounced Lott this week appreciate the civil rights movement? How many have made careers out of deriding feminism, as though the women's movement achieved nothing? How many worship Ronald Reagan, who helped defeat the Equal Rights Amendment? How many defend Helms, who in 1990 defeated a black opponent by complaining in an ad that whites were losing jobs to blacks because of quotas? How many speak congenially to people who support them for what they know are ugly reasons? How many worry about the overlap between the positions of segregationists and the positions of people such as themselves, who defend the rights of states, neighborhoods, and private institutions? How many refuse to see that you can't be nice to racists without being callous to the people they despise?

If politeness to bigots, comfort with principles congenial to them, and amnesia about struggles for equal rights are now crimes worthy of ending people's careers, then let the inquisition begin. Lott's accusers will be sorry they started it.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Television

See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

  News & Politics
Damned Spot
Sept. 30 2014 9:00 AM Now Stare. Don’t Stop. The perfect political wife’s loving gaze in campaign ads.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 10:44 AM Bull---- Market America is overlooking a plentiful renewable resource: animal manure.
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 30 2014 10:10 AM A Lovable Murderer and Heroic Villain: The Story of Australia's Most Iconic Outlaw
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 10:59 AM “For People, Food Is Heaven” Boer Deng on the story behind her piece “How to Order Chinese Food.”
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 10:48 AM One of Last Year’s Best Animated Shorts Is Finally Online for Free
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:36 AM Almost Humane What sci-fi can teach us about our treatment of prisoners of war.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.