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A Life in Politics,
by Sen. Trent Lott
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
Poor Trent Lott. His whole life, he kept his nose clean; built a solid reputation; and methodically worked his way up to the leadership of the U.S. Senate. This book should have highlighted his career at its culmination. But instead, his memoir had to be spent justifying a silly remark at a birthday party. You really have to feel sorry for a guy who did the right thing for forty years of public service, but will be remembered for forty words.
Alas, Sen. Lott recognizes that reality. The first chapter of the book focuses entirely on "the forty words," as does the memoir's final two chapters and epilogue. Did he say something so terrible that he should have been forced to resign as Senate Majority Leader, and eventually resign from the Senate? You can decide; here are the forty words, from chapter 17, which is entitled "Forty Words":
Lott stayed in the Senate. Evidently the voters of Mississippi forgave Lott, because he easily won re-election in 2006, right after he wrote this book. We pundits might forgive him for his birthday remarks, but we will never forgive his ignominious end of his Senate tenure: Lott resigned in December 2007 so that he could become a lobbyist under rules which changed in January 2008. His early resignation forced a special election. Lott opened his lobbying business three weeks after resigning. His memoir does not mention that he might be planning to resign. I consider Lott's final resignation -- thumbing his nose at democracy and at his constituents of Mississippi in order to personally cash in on his connections -- to be Lott's truly unforgivable mistake.
Lott's memoir about his career SHOULD have been about more than how it ended. Lott reveals in this book how he served as the key for Bill Clinton's "triangulation" policy. Triangulation, as invented by political strategist Dick Morris, meant that Clinton worked with Senate Republicans to negotiate in advance what Clinton considered reasonable compromises on welfare reform and other issues. The Senate Republicans, led by Trent Lott, would then push through the legislation, which Clinton would immediately sign, and both sides would take credit for bipartisan success. Most pundits credit the legislative successes of triangulation as the key to Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election. Lott recognized that likely outcome, but considered the important legislative successes to be sufficient justification.
Lott's long career has numerous interesting anecdotes about his political colleagues, which we explore in our excerpts below. And of course we explore Lott's justification for his Forty Words, and his numerous explanations of how he's not a racist and never has been.
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, December 2008
A Life in Politics,
by Sen. Trent Lott.