Jim Geraghty revives a disagreement we had last November regarding Trent Lott. In a crtique of a post I had written about several Republican selections for leadership positions, Geraghty argued that Tent Lott’s selection for Senate Minority Whip was a mistake because Lott’s infamous praise of Strom Thurmond’s racist 1948 candidacy would constantly be thrown back at him and the party. In response, I disagreed with that prediction (the one about the Thurmond remark), and added that Geraghty had failed to weigh the possible advantage of having a skilled backroom operator (as Lott reputedly is) in the Senate leadership. I also noted that Geraghty had misconstrued my comments about the selection of Mel Martinez for Republican party chair. My post did not say that Lott and Martinez were good selections; only that portions of Geraghty’s analysis were weak.
The same is true of Geraghty’s latest shot at what I wrote last November. Recently, Lott has embarrassed himself and the Senate leadership by attacking talk radio, and through some of his arguments regarding immigration reform. These statements constitute strong evidence that Geraghty was right to believe Lott was a bad choice for Minority Whip. But they don’t support his claim that Lott’s comments about Thurmond would come back to haunt the party, nor am I aware of any evidence that they have done so. It appears I was correct in believing that they would not.
My other point was that, in evaluating Lott’s selection (or anyone else’s), one should consider not just the potential negatives but also the potential positives, such as Lott’s reputed back-room skill. This proposition seems difficult to dispute. Moreover, though I don’t know how the credit should be allocated, the McConnell-Lott team does appear to have done an effective job so far in maneuvering against the Democrats. Unfortunately, whatever maneuvering Lott is doing in the immigration debate is on behalf of the wrong side, and this, along with some of his comments, probably trumps whatever positive contribution he has made and will make.
Geraghty deserves credit for concluding in advance that Lott was a bad selection. Had I argued that Lott was a good selection, I’d confess error. After all, anyone can make a mistake. Geraghty wrote a book arguing, in the words of the publisher, that because Americans will continue to trust the GOP as the only party committed to taking the fight against terrorism to the enemy, “American voters will cast their ballots for the Republicans in 2006 and 2008.”
JOHN adds: In general, it’s hard to think of a less productive line of argument than “Mr. X was once wrong about something.” Of course, an entire book represents a whole ‘nother category.
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