Trent Lott on Principles & Values
Republican Jr Senator (MS)
"We had 9-11, the anthrax attack, impeachment of Clinton," Lott said. "But we managed to cut taxes, balance the budget, raise military pay."
Lott said Congress has become a mean and "dour" place, and it's affecting policy. "They don't have any fun," Lott said. "During my time in leadership I actually enjoyed it and had fun. They don't even smile any more. I had the Singing Senators quartet, and we started 'Seersucker Thursdays' so everyone would for one day look like a Southern politician," Lott said. "That's why I wore a kilt in the Senate one time--I had the worst looking legs in the Senate."
The ragtag army of press representatives had been there ever since the remarks I'd made about Sen. Strom Thurmond at an affair celebrating his 100th birthday.
The pundits had transformed those forty words into a racial furor ten days earlier. My innocent and thoughtless remark was treated by most of the media as a hanging offense.
The phones had rarely been still. During this morning alone, I'd taken calls of support from three key Republican senators; they all pledged to back whatever decision I made. There also were calls from other GOP senators, terrified that the spreading political brushfire might engulf the Senate as a whole.
After all my editing, the statement came down to one sentence: "In the interest of pursuing the best possible agenda for the future of our country, I will not seek to remain as majority leader of the US Senate for the 108th Congress effective Jan. 6, 2003."
Occasionally the pelicans dive into the Gulf, then soar from the surface with their catch.
What Morris proposed was a highly unusual alliance between the president of the US and the majority leader of the opposing party, with himself serving as clandestine intermediary. It may have been unique in the history of American politics.
Morris wanted me to forge a working relationship with Bill Clinton to enact a series of landmark bills. Morris embraced my suggestions for major welfare reform, a balanced budget act, that would include Medicare cuts, and immigration reform.
After thinking it over, I agreed to Dick's unorthodox suggestion [even though it would hurt the GOP's presidential chances in 1996]. Why, you might ask? I've always had a great enthusiasm for making law--and I believe that was why my constituents sent me to the Senate in the first place.
An openly skeptical Republican leadership postponed the impeachment debate when the bombing started. Trent Lott publicly disputed the President's judgment. "Both the timing and the policy are subject to question," he said of the military action. Lott backpedaled when his statement was interpreted as in indication that partisan politics came before national security in this Congress.
The House leadership was determined to force a vote on impeachment in the lame duck session, before the Republican majority was reduced to 11 members in January, On Dec. 18, as bombs fell on Iraq, the impeachment debate began again.
Morris's specialty was identifying the swing voters who see-sawed between the two parties. His advice was sometimes off-the-wall; you had to sift through it to extract the useful insights and ideas. And he had the people skills of a porcupine. Nonetheless, I thought Morris's analysis might be instructive, if we could involve him carefully and quietly. With his skeptical views about politics & people, Morris served as a counterweight to the ever optimistic Bill Clinton.
By 1991, Morris had picked up more Republican candidates, and nobody in the Democratic power structure liked or trusted him
The idea had been germinating well before Nixon offered his advice. Gingrich had spent four years seeing his fellow Republicans in the House react instead of act. Newt reached out first to Rep. Vin Weber of Minnesota. Together they recruited Robert Walker of PA, Judd Gregg of NH, Dan Coats of IN, Connie Mack of FL, Joe Barton of TX, and Dan Lundgren and Duncan Hunter of CA. The group met weekly and planned.
"Trent Lott was the godfather," Gingrich recalls. "He hosted a weekly luncheon. Dic Cheney came. I was the senior planner. I didn't have any thoughts about being in the leadership. I thought it would be 5 or 6 years before that would happen and, when it did, Cheney or Lott would be the Republican leader and I'd be the senior planner."
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