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The GOP's solution to resolving the Trent Lott controversy

By David T. Pyne
web posted December 16, 2002

I have finally come up with the perfect solution to resolving the Lott debacle. It is that Senator Trent Lott Resigns as Majority Leader under behind-the-scenes pressure from the White House and endorses his current deputy, Don Nickles who would then be elected Majority Leader in a landslide. Concurrently, Lott makes an agreement with Nickles that he is to be appointed to replace John McCain as Chairman of the Commerce Committee, which is the committee where he has the greatest amount of seniority. It would also accomplish three longtime conservative goals in one single move. Firstly, it would punish McCain for his near incessant sniping and attacks on the GOP and President Bush and leave him without a full committee chairmanship for the first time in years. Secondly, it would result in the removal of Lott for his increasing accommodation of the Daschle Democrats. Thirdly, it would result in the appointment of a real conservative as Senate Majority Leader -- Don Nickles!

Lott speaks to reporters in Pascagoula, Mississippi on December 13
Lott speaks to reporters in Pascagoula, Mississippi on December 13

Senator Lott did a good job as Senate Majority Leader during his first two and a half years in that position. However, beginning in January 1999, Lott began to capitulate to the Clinton Democrats on several key issues. Most egregiously, Lott failed in his leadership by rigging the Clinton impeachment trial vote in our disgraced former President's favor by refusing to permit additional witness or evidence to be presented which would have likely resulted in his conviction and removal from office. Now, Lott's betrayals of conservatives are finally beginning to catch up with him. The pressure is finally building for Lott to go. The Republican Party cannot allow the critical momentum gained by its victory in the preceding election to be lost.

Senator Lott simply has to go. He is a historical anomaly. Lott should have been forced out of the GOP Senate leadership following the crushing five-seat Republican Senate loss in the 2000 election. Since that time, Lott sabotaged the slender GOP Senate majority in early 2001 by appeasing Tom Daschle by surrendering most of the Republican's majority rights to control the Senate. In his latest accommodation of Tom Daschle, Lott refused to take back the Senate Majority for the Republicans last month even after senator-elect Jim Talent's election was certified by Missouri. Does anyone really believe that the Daschle Democrats would have hesitated for one moment to reclaim their majority?

CBS news is now reporting that influential Republicans-some of them inside the Bush White House-are now urging the President to work behind the scenes to get Trent Lott to step down as Majority Leader of the United States Senate. Other reports state that Republicans on Capitol Hill are doing the same. That is exactly the course of action that I have been advocating from the beginning. Rather than call for Lott's resignation, Bush did the prudent thing and made sure that his remarks fell just short of that. The President needs to pressure Lott from behind the scenes to allow him to save face. If he were to publicly call for Lott's resignation, it would make the Senator look worse than he deserves. Senator Lott is no racist, but his image is shot and it is time for him to go. He needs to be eased out and promised the plum Commerce Committee chairmanship as a consolation prize.

The only potential downside to pressuring Senator Lott to resign as incoming Senate Majority Leader is that Senate Republicans might end up with someone even more moderate and more inclined to collaborate with the Democrats like Bill Frist or Mitch McConnell as their leader. If that were to happen, then a Lott resignation as Senate Majority Leader would end up being a net loss for conservatives. Given the long reported list of verbal gaffes by Lott during his career, it was only a matter of time for this all to catch up with him. Verbal gaffes certainly don't disqualify him to be a Senator. Major verbal gaffes like this last one do, however, disqualify him to be the Republican Majority Leader of the Senate.

Don Nickles

The reason that GOP leaders have not come forward yet to challenge Lott is likely due to fear--plain and simple. Lott is a powerful man and reportedly fairly vindictive in putting down potential challenges to his leadership. A few months ago, Senator Nickles had announced he would challenge Lott if the GOP won the majority back, but Lott got him to back down. The fact that Nickles has been the only Senator to publicly entertain a challenge to Lott during the past two years makes him all the more logical choice to serve succeed him. Lott is damaged goods as far as leading the GOP in the Senate and it is time to replace him with a new face. Don Nickles (R-OH) has done a stupendous job serving the past six and a half years as Assistant Republican Leader and would be the logical choice. While incoming Senate Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Kyl would be an even better choice for Senate Majority Leader, he is new to the leadership and conservatives need to unite behind the candidacy of a single unity candidate -- Don Nickles.

Unfortunately, if Lott is permitted to remain in his post, Lott will, in all likelihood, become the Newt Gingrich political albatross of the Republican Party that will be used by the Democrats to successfully mobilize their base and help them win back both houses of Congress in 2004. If he is not replaced, the Republicans will be paralyzed in the Senate and their hold on power made even more tenuous and temporary, a fact which Republicans are beginning to realize. I believe in doing what is best for the Republican Party and removing Trent Lott from the Senate GOP leadership is clearly what is best for the GOP at this time.

David T. Pyne, Esq. currently serves as Executive Vice President of the Virginia Republican Assembly. He was recently interviewed on Howard Phillips' Conservative Roundtable TV program. © 2002 David T. Pyne

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