After 2000, McCain Learned to Work Levers of Power

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Senator John McCain was all but a sworn enemy of Senator Trent Lott, the former Republican leader.

Mr. Lott had quashed Mr. McCain’s most cherished legislative goals. And, worse, Mr. McCain believed that in the 2000 Republican primaries, Mr. Lott had spread rumors about his colleague’s mental stability on behalf of his rival for the nomination, George W. Bush.

But when Mr. Bush turned on Mr. Lott in 2002, helping to push him out of the leadership over a racially insensitive remark, Mr. McCain saw a shared grievance and found an opportunity. He leapt to Mr. Lott’s defense, urging Republicans to stick by him.

“He said, ‘I know how you are feeling; you have been treated unfairly,’ ” Mr. Lott recalled. “I am a grateful guy, and I will never forget it.” A legendary dealmaker with a deep store of chits, Mr. Lott became a valuable ally to his former foe, backing him in public debates and less visible Senate intrigues.
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James W Loewen - 7/23/2008

"[R]acially insensitive remark" indeed! Talking about Mississippi's support for the Dixiecrat ticket in 1948, Lott said,
"When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either." The reader is left to infer what "all these problems" referred to, but surely, given the context of Lott's remarks and Thurmond's position, such items as black voting and legal racial intermarriage come to mind.
Lott's comment came as no surprise to those who kept track of his career. He never pushed for a positive step in race relations, not once. McCain's defense of Lott is not defensible.