Today’s Washington Times offers two entirely different perspectives about the Trent Lott affair. Paul Greenberg regrets that Lott is suffering from “acute conspiracy syndrome.” He’s referring to Lott’s claim that he was the victim of a Great Left-Wing Conspiracy, and not just against him but also against his state, his political philosophy, and his faith. Greenberg has no difficulty dispatching these claims. He notes, for example, that no one outdid the conservatives in denouncing Lott’s comments, inasmuch as “the Jim Crow system he seemed to be defending was a profound violation of the two pillars of American conservatism,” the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
Paul Craig Roberts, on the other hand, finds that Lott’s fall is a defeat for the Constitution, specifically the First Amendment. He sees Lott as the victim of the political correctness movement or, as he puts, “thought control.” Roberts’ analysis is at least as off-base as Lott’s. Roberts’ analogies notwithstanding, Lott has not been prosecuted for a hate crime or persecuted by a university for exercising free speech. The First Amendment protects Lott’s right to say whatever he wants to about Strom Thurmond. But when his statements appear to condone segregationist views, those who hate segregation act properly when they repudiate Lott on this issue. And Lott’s fellow Republican Senators acted properly when they chose not to be led by someone who seemed to condone segregationist thinking. The decision to replace Lott is no more an affront to the First Amendment than the decision not to make Lincoln Chafee a Senate leader due to his liberal views.
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