(Host) Vermont’s two U.S. Senators say that Majority Leader Trent Lott made the right decision when he decided to resign as Republican leader. Lott’s announcement came two weeks after he ignited a political firestorm over remarks that many interpreted as racist. Lott said the country would be better off if segregationist Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948.
Democrat Patrick Leahy says the controversy over Lott’s remarks served to shine a light on the injustices of the not-so-distant past.
(Leahy) “If there is any one good thing that comes out of all of this, is the fact that the discussion has gone on. It has reminded people of why these kind of remarks are hateful and why the politics that Strom Thurmond and others espoused at the time he was running for president are wrong, are unconstitutional and actually hurt the nation instead of strengthening it.”
(Host) Leahy says the White House was clearly trying to get Lott to step aside. But he says Republicans have also exploited racial intolerance for political gain.
(Leahy) “The White House in some ways wanted to have it both ways. They wanted President Bush to go to Bob Jones University and campaign. They were very supportive of the candidate in Louisiana whose supporters were trying to keep African-Americans from voting. They wanted to be able to do those things, but at the same time they wanted to distance themselves from Strom Thurmond and from Trent Lott’s remarks.”
(Host) Senator Jim Jeffords was traveling overseas and wasn’t available for an interview. In a prepared statement, Jeffords says he looks forward to working with Senator Bill Frist, the Tennessee Republican who is likely to be chosen as majority leader.