The Washington Post reports that the White House is hedging its bets on the Trent Lott situation, refraining from giving Lott its unequivocal support and waiting to see what develops. Apparently Lott approached both Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice for support, but was rebuffed. An unnamed Administration official is quoted as saying, “No one thinks the press conference was successful.” Another official says, “People were looking for absolute and total contrition, and I don’t think they saw that.” Publicly, however, Administration spokesmen, most notably Ari Fleischer, have continued defending Lott.
It seems perverse to suggest that Lott has failed to grovel enough. His next (and I hope final) exercise in self-abasement will come on Black Entertainment Television tomorrow night. The bottom line, I think, is that Lott is finished, although so far it appears that no one has come forward to challenge him. My guess is the end will come some time right around Christmas, to minimize public attention, and will be precipitated by the President’s putting out the word that he would welcome Lott’s replacement by either Don Nickles or Mitch McConnell.
This may be more a hope than a prediction, however. Among other imponderables, the Post reports that Lott’s allies are suggesting that if removed from the leadership he would resign from the Senate, leaving his seat to be filled by Mississippi’s Democratic governor. To me, this sounds too spiteful to be credible, but who knows?
Interestingly, the Post reports that Lincoln Chafee, the Republicans’ weakest linc (heh heh) in the Senate, has refrained from pounding on Lott “because he worries that potential successors might be more conservative.” Well, that’s what we’re hoping for.
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