Two Leaders' Ties to Bias Group Embarrass GOP

By Stanley Crouch
New York Daily News
From: News and Views | Opinion |
Wednesday, December 23, 1998

I was in Washington earlier this week and found the mood there one of disdain for the mess of the moment. Yet things are far from terrible for the President.

Sure, he has been made the target of an impeachment beating that he will probably feel until the day he dies. But it seems to me that when the last blow is struck, Mr. Bill, like Muhammad Ali in Zaire, will remain standing and the opposition will be on the canvas.

The Republican Party has made itself into the George Foreman of old, the fighter who started out with so much muscle but ended up losing the battle with Ali in Zaire. The GOP has thrown one incredibly strong punch after another. All of them have created pain, but they also are reducing the strength of the party itself, which is losing one leader after another.

I say this because there is more going on than we see on the top of the news. There is a second-string story that should rise to the top of the discussion. If the media do their job seriously, the next to go will be Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia.

Lott and Barr have had – or now have – connections with the Council of Conservative Citizens, the contemporary version of the White Citizens Councils of the civil rights era.

Lott has praised the CCC for its philosophy, has been chosen its man of the year and has published a column in its publication, sharing one issue with a man who wrote that interracial marriage is an assault on white civilization. Barr was the CCC's keynote speaker in June. You can check it out on the Internet, thanks to the digging of the media watchdog, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

Recently, through a representative, Lott repudiated the CCC, but if we are to accept the Republican concept of apology as it has played out over these last wild and sordid months, we can only say, "Too little, too late."

This is going to become a progressively serious issue for the GOP because Lott and Barr can give the party the worst kind of image. An organization like the CCC holds views that are a challenge to everything our democracy stands for.

In our country, being a extremist of the right doesn't not automatically mean that a man or woman lies down with people like, say, David Duke, the airbrushed klansman. But that is a line the Republican Party has to make clear to itself � and clarify for the public.

There is a good precedent. When Duke looked as though he might win his race for governor of Louisiana, the GOP financed his opposition, understandably fearing what a klansman elected as a Republican would do to its national image.

Lott and Barr present a remarkable problem. After all their recent sanctimonious talk about the rule of law, honesty and respect for the American people, we find that these men have been quite comfortable with people who have both slept on sheets and worn them.

That raises a question of exactly what a party is willing to accept in its leaders. Right now, it is accepting Barr, who has been selected as one of the team that will make the case against the President in the Senate.

But if Republican officials are constantly asked what they think of Lott and Barr's associating with the kind of people who have supported segregation, anti-Semitism and terrorist actions such as beatings, bombings and lynchings, they won't have much of a choice but to act against them.

Well, that's not exactly true. They could continue to flail away as George Foreman did in Zaire, reducing themselves to losers.

© Copyright 1998 Daily News, L.P.