Transcript: A Life in Politics

This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," August 24, 2005, that was edited for clarity.

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: My next guest is no stranger to Capitol Hill (search). He was the Senate Republican leader, but was forced out after making controversial remarks at a party celebrating Strom Thurmond's (search) 100th birthday. He has written about that difficult time in the book "Herding Cats: A Life in Politics."

Senator Trent Lott (search) joins us now.

Senator, a pleasure to have you with us.

SEN. TRENT LOTT, R-MISS.: Well, thank you very much. A pleasure to be with you.

VARNEY: I have read the book, surprise, surprise. You are a gentleman. You're a gentleman.


VARNEY: But, I got to tell you, let me throw this at you.

LOTT: All right.

VARNEY: It seems to me that the Republicans in the Senate and in the White House didn't want a gentleman leading the Republicans in the Senate. They wanted a street-fighting man, and they used your comments at Senator Thurmond's party as an excuse to force you out. How far from the truth am I?

LOTT: Well, that could be the truth, and I talk a little bit about that in the book.

But I could never actually pin the tail on the elephant, in this case, if you will. It was a series of events. Timing, I think, had a lot to do with it. But, you know, I have some questions and some disappointment about that experience.

VARNEY: Is Bill Frist (search) a street-fighting man?

LOTT: Well, you know, he's proven he can be tough. I don't want to — again, I want to...


VARNEY: Do you resent him?

LOTT: Not really, because I think he has got the toughest job in town and I want him to succeed.

VARNEY: As I said, I read your book. You describe a personal betrayal.

LOTT: Well, I was disappointed in that, obviously, and I say so, because I tried to be helpful to him and I thought we were close. And, you know, the timing of what he did, did cause some problems. But we have talked through that, and my attitude is, there's no use dwelling on how he got where he is or where I am. I laid out my view of what happened. Now let's move on. Let's see what we can do to help my constituency, his constituency and the country.

VARNEY: How about President Bush?

LOTT: Well, we were friends before all of that. And we still are. I talk to him.

VARNEY: You called him. But yet, he talked to you.

LOTT: Yes.

VARNEY: He called you right after you stepped down from the leadership.

LOTT: Yes.

VARNEY: And didn't you say, you didn't help when you could have — direct quote?

LOTT: Well, I did say that, because he called and was generally concerned about how Tricia and I were doing. We think an awful lot of the president and Laura. And they're good friends.

And, you know, I think he genuinely was worried about how we were taking all that, because it was a difficult, incredible experience. And you know, he said he was sorry about some of the rumors that emanated out of the White House, which I don't think came from him.

And I did say, well, those rumors did hurt. And you didn't help in the way you could have, you know? But I went on to say, but I understand what we're trying to do is more important than any one man, me, certainly, or even you, Mr. President. What we're trying to do is more for the cause of making America a better, safer, fairer place for everybody to live.

And, you know, I took one for the cause, and now let's go forward.

VARNEY: Any thoughts at all about returning to the leadership position?

LOTT: I must confess that idea crosses my mind.

Since I was a young child in one of the poorest states in the nation and around politics all my life, I was always taught to be an activist, to be involved, be engaged, be aggressive, don't be afraid of getting on the point, try to be a leader.

And so, wherever I have been, I have tried to make it a better place and to do a good job. So, if I'm going to be there, you know, I would probably want to be, you know, engaged as much as I can.

VARNEY: Sure. Sure.

LOTT: But I found this out, Stuart, over the past two years, since 2002 at least. You can be a leader. You can help shape legislation without having a title. Being in the Senate, just being a senator, you are a leader.

VARNEY: Do you think that you would have allowed the closure of the Pascagoula Naval Station in your home state, Mississippi, if you were still the Republican leader of the Senate?

LOTT: I think it's a mistake to close it.

VARNEY: But could you have stopped it?

LOTT: I might have had more of an opportunity.

You know, I had an amendment the last year that would have delayed this round of domestic base closures, the fifth round, by the way, in the last few years, until after we decided what we were going to do overseas, until we went through reformation, until we understood what we were going to need with domestic bases and what we were going to do with the families when we bring home units from Germany, for instance.

And I got within four votes. There were two absentees, both of whom were my votes, so, I was at 48.

If I had been majority leader, I would have probably been able to scrounge around and found a couple more votes.

VARNEY: Don't you miss the power? Don't you miss that clout?

LOTT: Well, you know, it is a powerful position. It's a difficult position, but that goes with the territory.

VARNEY: As we speak, Senator Feinstein is speaking on the issue of the nomination of judge John Roberts. It's unclear which way she's going to vote from her remarks. How do you think this nominating process is going to go? Sail through?

LOTT: I think that the Senate has finally tired of the way we have been behaving on the federal judges over the past four years. It's been really ugly.

What we have done to men, women and minorities that are well qualified is indefensible. I believe that it finally came to a crunch. We were about to have the so-called nuclear option to say that you can't filibuster judges. The gang of 14 sort of, you know, allowed us to dodge that bullet, if you want to say that.

I think that has changed the dynamics in the Senate. They will ask him a lot of tough questions. But I think he is going to get an overwhelming vote. I will be surprised if it's not well over 70. And I think it will be done in a reasonably short period of time. I hope so. He's a good man, well qualified. And I thought it was a great choice by the president.

VARNEY: And you, sir, are a gentleman, Senator Trent Lott.


VARNEY: "Herding Cats: A Life in Politics."

LOTT: Thank you, Stuart.

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