The Folly of Trent Lott

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Hi, I'm Bill O'Reilly.  Thanks for watching us tonight.

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The folly of Trent Lott.  That is the subject of this evening's Talking Points Memo .

It is unfair and foolish to call any person a racist unless that person says flat out they believe in racial superiority.  David Duke and Louis Farrakhan are two Americans who have done that.

In the case of Senator Trent Lott, nobody knows what is in the man's heart.  We can only have an opinion.  Today former CNN president Tom Johnson says he witnessed Mr. Lott as a student at the University of Mississippi try to deny fraternity admission of black students.  Time magazine is reporting this.

But to be fair, college students do foolish things all the time.  Senator Lott could be a very different person now.

However, the truth is that Lott is being perceived as insensitive to African-Americans, and that perception is going to hurt the Republican Party, which needs to attract not only blacks but other minorities into its orbit.

Because the partisan pressure on Lott is so intense, you would think he'd be explaining himself much more passionately, because his remarks have clearly hurt his party.  But Senator Lott has not done that.  He took a long time to apologize, and then avoided most of the media, hiding out and phoning Larry King, which is like calling your mom.

I mean, with all due respect, how many minds are you going to change tossing it around with Larry?

"Talking Points" continues to be stunned at how powerful politicians never seem to learn that if you make a mistake, say you're sorry, and explain what you really meant and who you really are.  We all make mistakes.  We all say dumb things.  Most Americans will forgive miscues if they are explained.

How hard is that to understand?  By making himself unavailable, Senator Lott just hurts himself more, and, of course, his party.

Today President Bush said he is standing behind Mr. Lott and doesn't want him stepping down as leader of the Senate.  That's no surprise.  Politics dictates that stance.  If the controversy continues, things may change, but right now the strategy is, do the rope-a-dope and hope people lose interest.

But I think Senator Lott has been branded, and Democrats will continue to pound him and the Republican Party as being insensitive to black Americans.  It does not good to excuse Mr. Lott by saying others, like Senator Robert Byrd, have done worse.  That's true, but it's irrelevant.

Powerful people must take responsibility for what they say and do, period.  Excuses walk.  Stand-up people gain respect.  What say you, Senator Lott?

And that's The Memo.

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Time now for "The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day..."

Watch out when you go to a self-service gas station.  If you don't believe me, ask 58-year-old Robert Clewis.  He was pumping gas in the back of his pickup -- watch this -- when flames sparked, and he caught on fire.  He's rolling around.  Look at that.

Luckily, some folks -- this guy tamped him down.  Look at that.  Some other guy ran over to help out.  This is in San Antonio, Texas.  Clewis, unbelievably, did not suffer any serious injuries from that.  His truck did.

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