Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 19, 2010

WHEN TRENT LOTT IS THE VOICE OF REASON.... As much of the Republican Party is prepared to keep moving to the far-right, we talked over the weekend about whether the GOP still has any grown-ups left to temper the demands of extremists. As it happens, there are Republicans willing to argue that the Tea Party crowd and its allies on the Hill are over the top, but they tend to be those who no longer worry about re-election.

Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), now a D.C. lobbyist, warned that a robust bloc of rabble-rousers spells further Senate dysfunction. "We don't need a lot of Jim DeMint disciples," Lott said in an interview. "As soon as they get here, we need to co-opt them."

But Lott said he's not expecting a tea-party sweep. "I still have faith in the visceral judgment of the American people," he said.

This apparently isn't going over well in right-wing circles.

The Club for Growth waded into the debate over the Tea Party on Monday, knocking former Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) for comments he made disparaging anti-establishment candidates. [...]

"To paraphrase the former Leader himself, if recent Senates had had more Jim DeMints and fewer Trent Lotts making economic policy, 'we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years,'" he said.

While this back and forth is of some interest in its own right, the point that I take away from this is that Trent Lott -- yes, Trent Lott -- has suddenly become a voice of reason in Republican Party politics in 2010. That's not a sentence I ever expected to type.

I'm reminded of a study Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson did some years back, comparing congressional Republicans of different eras. They found that Republican lawmakers in 2003 were 73% more conservative than the median GOP member of the early '70s.

Seven years later, Trent Lott is getting slammed by right-wing leaders for being too moderate.

Something to remember the next time the David Broders of the world insist the political process would be much better off if Democrats simply worked in good faith with Republicans to find moderate solutions to national problems. The last three GOP Senate Majority Leaders -- Dole, Frist, and Lott -- have all been deemed wholly unacceptable to the Republican base, and the base is calling the shots.

Steve Benen 4:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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I'm reminded of a study Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson did some years back, comparing congressional Republicans of different eras. They found that Republican lawmakers in 2003 were 73% more conservative than the median GOP member of the early '70s.

Your numbers aren't trustworthy. People who study things already have a liberal bias.

Posted by: Myke K on July 19, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Do you think David Broder could explain what the Overton Window is? Do you think he knows it? Do you think he's ever even heard the term?

That's a serious question, not snark.

Posted by: Opie Curious on July 19, 2010 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

"To paraphrase the former Leader himself, if recent Senates had had more Jim DeMints and fewer Trent Lotts making economic policy, 'we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years,'" he said."

I read both articles, and I still don't understand how this statement logically follows.

Posted by: dms on July 19, 2010 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

Uhmmmm Benen, did you miss the way they morphed Lott's quote about Strom Thurmand that got him in trouble and that statement about having more Demints in office. Seems like they were trying to sneak a dog whistle in.

Posted by: Sgwhiteinfla on July 19, 2010 at 4:45 PM | PERMALINK

None of this matters. Voter turnout, that's the only thing that matters. If people stay home the tea baggers win the day. If its a healthy turnout the tea baggers lose.

Posted by: SaintZak on July 19, 2010 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

So The Club For Growth decided this was just the right time to reference the Tea Party and famous racist comments in the same sentence? Geniuses.

Posted by: August J. Pollak on July 19, 2010 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Lotts remarks remind me of the complaints that Hank Rearden's wife had about the new groups which had taken over the country after she had helped destroy the old ones. Paraphrased, the old group were well mannered and soft spoken, these people are thugs.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on July 19, 2010 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

Lobbyists are now the voice of reason? You are sounding quite desperate Mr. Benen...

Posted by: Gucci Gulch on July 19, 2010 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

"Uhmmmm Benen, did you miss the way they morphed Lott's quote about Strom Thurmand that got him in trouble and that statement about having more Demints in office. Seems like they were trying to sneak a dog whistle in."

Benen also missed the fact that Byrd was is a certain organization. But just for votes.

Posted by: Billy C. on July 19, 2010 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

But the "Club for Growth", aka the "have mores" that formed George W. Bush base, is really the power in the Republican Party. To be sure, they and their allies are working behind the scenes to fund the Tea Party circus.

Marginal tax rate cuts at the top for the rich, no taxes on capital gains or dividends, no "death tax" -- that's the objective. All the talk about deficit and the debt, just fluff.

Posted by: KevinMc on July 19, 2010 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

"But the "Club for Growth", aka the "have mores" that formed George W. Bush base, is really the power in the Republican Party."

And Goldman Sachs and pals are the power behind the Dems. What's new?

Posted by: Lloyd B. on July 19, 2010 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

"...and the base is calling the shots." Steve Benen.

Which is why I'm not worried at all about 2012 and up in the air about 2010. No thinking independent voter will vote for a Teabagger; and it's the "thinking" independents that vote in off-year elections. If they vote at all.
Even the trolls are just 'phoning it in; viz: Billy C and Lloyd B trying to connect Sen. Byrd to positions he repudiated forty years ago or Goldman Sachs to the Democrats (hint: follow this year's political contributions).

Posted by: Doug on July 19, 2010 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "...and the base is calling the shots."

No.

The ruthless, rapacious, reactionary corporate oligarchs who pay bought-and-paid-for stooges like Rush Limbaugh to spoon-feed Madison Avenue-scripted pseudo-ideological drivel to "the base" are calling the shots.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on July 19, 2010 at 6:02 PM | PERMALINK

"Goldman Sachs to the Democrats (hint: follow this year's political contributions)."


2008 Good! 2010, Bad!

Posted by: GS Rulz! on July 19, 2010 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Firebaggers at large. Sigh.

Posted by: Jane's Mistake on July 19, 2010 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Right wingers. Ugh. David VItter continuing in government. Trent Lott considered moderate. Republican lawmakers.
Obstructionist right wingers and the base.

Sally Kalson, columnist for the Post Gazette, once wrote of an ill-fated election:

The short list:
The botched, unnecessary war In Irag. Torture memos and Abu Grahib. Warrentless wiretaps. Extraordinary rendition.Ruination of American prestige abroad. Exploiting fear for political gain. The bungled response to Hurricane Katrina. The war on science. Politicizing the Justice Department. Top officials leaking classified information to punish political enemies. Health care disparities run rampant. Indifference to the plight of cities, and mass transit, and the environment. The unfunded strictures of No Child Left Behind. Abstinence-only sex non-education. A Supreme Court that thinks it's just fine to have paid Lilly Leadbetter substantially less than her male counterparts for 20 years.
It's all an infamous record, Sally says.

Doesn't the thought of Republicans taking over the two houses of Congress just make you sick?

Posted by: Out East on July 19, 2010 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

The problem is that most people who support the GOP don't really care how conservative their candidates are. They just dislike liberals and will vote for anybody on the GOP ticket no matter what their actual positions are because they're always going to be better than the Democratic candidate. That's the problem with a two-party system....you can win simply by running against the other party and being the lesser of two evils.

After all, I bet that there are thousands, if not millions, of people who are unemployed right now but are still going to vote GOP in November even though doing so is clearly against their own economic self-interest.

Posted by: mfw13 on July 20, 2010 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

When President Kennedy stood at the Berlin Wall he said: "There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world.... Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us."

Something similar could be said about the Republican Party today, the abandonment or mass evacuation of the GOP center, and the contention by right wing conservatives that whatever the problem with Republicans, Democrats have their extremists too.

That may be so, but I can count on one hand the number of Democrats who have abandoned the party in alarm and disgust for the other side, or given the party a public rebuke after tasting first hand the radicalism of the party's new far right populist base, as Senator Bennett did when he then called his own GOP the party of slogans and talking points, not ideas.

Posted by: Ted Frier on July 20, 2010 at 6:36 AM | PERMALINK

Benen also missed the fact that Byrd was is a certain organization. But just for votes.

How long will the wingers flog this dead horse? Robert Byrd, who is now dead, was in KKK 68 years ago.

Unlike many of the old Southern segs, he renounced his days in the Klan and apologized, saying it was the biggest mistake of his life. The unrepentant old racists, like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, just joined the Republican Party where they were welcomed.

Posted by: Pug on July 20, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

How long will the wingers flog this dead horse? Robert Byrd, who is now dead, was in KKK 68 years ago.

Unlike many of the old Southern segs, he renounced his days in the Klan and apologized, saying it was the biggest mistake of his life. The unrepentant old racists, like Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, just joined the Republican Party where they were welcomed.

I don't believe you. Fox never said nothing about that part. Where are you getting this information?

Posted by: Billy C on July 20, 2010 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Bill C

The internet is a wonderful thing. Here is a transcript from the O'Reilly Factor that took just a second's search, where it clearly shows Fox News is not letting Byrd off for his past KKK affiliations even in death -- and in fact using it to once again stoke right wing resentments over "liberal double standards" over racism.

O'REILLY: And joining us now from North Carolina, Fox News analyst Bernie Goldberg, purveyor of BernardGoldberg.com.

So when you heard that sound bite from Mr. Clinton, you thought what?

BERNIE GOLDBERG, FOX NEWS ANALYST: Well, first I thought the obvious: You don't use a funeral to unload on the dearly departed. (If you are Fox News you wait until the next day!) So I understand why Bill Clinton, you know, did what he did to some extent. But he went way, way, way too far.

First of all, you heard the sound bite just then. Bill Clinton says, "Well, he was just a country boy from West Virginia, trying to get elected," as if -- as if, what, that somehow justifies joining the Klan? Even in the 1940s, Bill, decent people didn't join the Ku Klux Klan. (Glad to see Goldberg wasn't "unloading on the dearly departed"!)

And by the way, Robert Byrd wasn't just a regular bigot in the Ku Klux Klan. He was a special bigot. He was a klegal (ph), which means he recruited the other morons who joined the Ku Klux Klan. And imagine if today, today some politician felt that he had to bad-mouth or bash black people in order to get elected. Do you think Bill Clinton would be so cavalier, or anybody else for that matter, as to say, "Well, come on, he's just a country boy who's trying to get elected"? Of course not.

And then the second thing Clinton said is that Robert Byrd spent the rest of his life making it up. That's not even true. In 1964, Robert Byrd not only voted against the Civil Rights Act, but he filibustered for 14 hours. One year later in 1965, he voted against the Voting Rights Act.

Now, in fairness, later on in life, Robert Byrd championed making Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. We'll give him that. But this leads to one of two possibilities. Either he had a genuine change of heart, which is possible, or he is simply made another political calculation. Just as he joined the Klan for political reasons, maybe he realized that being a bigot wasn't going to work anymore. I'm not saying that you use the funeral to bad-mouth the guy, but Bill Clinton, ever the statesman, could have compromised and just said a little bit less.

O'REILLY: Now, we are a nation that believes in forgiveness and redemption. I don't think the media would have been so kind had Robert Byrd been a Republican.

GOLDBERG: Exactly.

Posted by: Ted Frier on July 20, 2010 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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