The men who would replace Lott

THE MEN most talked about as potential successors to Trent Lott as Senate majority leader are Don Nickles of Oklahoma, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Bill Frist of Tennessee, and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. The four cannot decide whether to throw the drowning man a life preserver or a cinder block.


Nickles holds the cinder block. He became the first Republican to say Lott might have to go. McConnell is the Coast Guard, warning Republicans that Lott might resign from the Senate altogether if he is forced to relinquish his post. A cagey Frist said little of anything. Santorum has spent the last two weeks trying to turn Lott into an altar boy.


“For six years, I’ve spent three days a week with him in a prayer group and know this man’s not head only but heart,” Santorum said. “And I know this man is not anything like what some are depicting him to be. This is a man of tremendous integrity, a deep faith, someone who believes all men are created equal, not just under the Constitution but more importantly in the eyes of our Creator, and his faith has grown in that commitment.”


If Santorum knows Lott’s head and heart so well and does not think there is something a little unbalanced about someone who praised Strom Thurmond’s segregationist presidential campaign a half-century later, then one might shudder if Santorum is Lott’s replacement. As Lott’s personal legacy sinks into the Mississippi of his segregationist past, the hydra of the conservatives is waiting for the water to calm before exploding once again to thrust its tentacles down the halls of Congress.


In my previous column I listed 40 years of actions and votes by Lott that showed his unrelenting attack on civil rights. A look at who might replace Lott suggests that the attack would not be over. Santorum has the most votes that are not in lockstep with Lott’s, but in recent years Santorum has hardened his views. The votes are compiled from both conservative and liberal political Web sites that track votes and news accounts. Nickles and McConnell were elected to the Senate in 1980 and 1984, respectively. Santorum and Frist were elected in 1994:


1981 – Nickles voted to end a filibuster against an antibusing amendment by Jesse Helms.


1982 – Nickles voted for Helms’s amendment to ban Justice Department lawsuits that require school busing of more than 5 miles or 15 minutes.


1982 – Nickles voted for extending Voting Rights Act. Lott, in the House, voted against.


1983 – Nickles voted against a holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. So did Lott in the House. Nickles said telephone calls from his constituents ran “10 to 1″ against the holiday. “I wanted to honor him but not shut down the government for a day,” Nickles said.


1983 – Nickles supported Helms’s attempt to preserve tax-exempt status for Bob Jones University, which then banned interracial dating. So did Lott.


1984 – Nickles voted against efforts to reverse the Supreme Court’s Grove City decision, which allowed federal funding for institutions even if they discriminate in a particular department. Lott voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1984.


1985 – Nickles and McConnell voted against tabling the Helms amendment to restrict federal courts from ordering school


1988 – Nickles and McConnell voted to uphold President Reagan’s veto of the the Civil Rights Restoration Act to reverse the Grove City decision. So did Lott.


1990 – Nickles and McConnell voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1990. So did Lott, now in the Senate.


1991 – Nickles and McConnell voted against the use of racial statistics in death penalty cases. So did Lott.


1993 – Nickles voted to extend to the Daughters of the Confederacy the design patent for the Confederate flag. So did Lott.


1994 – Nickles and McConnell voted to reject use of racial statistics to challenge the fairness of death penalty cases. So did Lott.


1994 – Nickles and McConnell voted to support an amendment by Helms to strip federal funding from the King holiday. So did Lott.


1995 – Nickles, McConnell, and Frist voted to eliminate affirmative action in federal contracting. Santorum voted against the measure. Lott voted to eliminate affirmative action.


1996 – All four voted against the Employment Nondiscrimination Act of 1996. So did Lott.


1997 – Nickles, McConnell, and Frist voted against affirmative action in funding businesses. Santorum voted for funding.


1998 – All four voted against affirmative action in federal contracting. So did Lott.


2000 – All four voted against expansion of hate crimes laws. So did Lott.


2001 – All four voted for John Ashcroft for attorney general, despite Ashcroft’s praise for the Confederacy and his honorary degree from Bob Jones University. So did Lott. 


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