The Old Guard Goes After Bill

By Stanley Crouch
New York Daily News
From: News and Views | Opinion |
Sunday, January 10, 1999

When I watched the impeachment proceedings in the Senate last week, it struck me that what people have been saying for the last few years is true: The South has risen again. This time as Republicans.

Strom Thurmond, at 96 years old, sat there with a gavel, the fact that he ran for President in 1948 on a white supremacist ticket just so much ancient history. Who should care that he was one of the most ardent segregationists during the civil rights era when Martin Luther King walked the Earth? Who should care that he left the Democratic Party because under President Lyndon Johnson it had become far too liberal for him?

Then there was Trent Lott, Senate majority leader as well as – until a few days or so ago – bosom buddy, booster and columnist for the pro-white group the Council of Conservative Citizens.

Under Henry Hyde, the bad-luck number of 13 impeachment managers was made up mostly of Southerners, standing there to state the case against the President for the people of the United States. One of them, Georgia Rep. Bob Barr, was the keynote speaker for the Council of Conservative Citizens in June. Caught like Lott, Barr hastily stood up and repudiated the organization.

But somehow Lott's and Barr's connections to an organization defined by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "a reincarnation of the racist White Citizens Council" of the 1950s and 1960s isn't as important as President Clinton's lying about an extramarital affair. Their conduct doesn't bring shame on the office of majority leader, nor does it tar the Judiciary Committee upon which Barr serves. If, as a friend observed, they had brought in some hookers to entertain the men at the CCC meetings attended by Lott and Barr, then the media would be interested.

Apparently, as far as Republicans are concerned, serving in high positions during the impeachment of a President transcends all that. Don't worry about a thing.

So what should we expect of these men? What we have seen all along: more proof that a gentleman's agreement has been arrived at in the world of bigots that makes it possible to infiltrate the opposition, which is the federal government. "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" has been expanded to include: "Then bend 'em your way."

Mr. Bill, out of Arkansas, has already proven himself to be a traitor against the cause of "the gallant South," the worst part of which was, as Billie Holiday observed, "the bulging eyes and the twisted mouth."

Former college cheerleader Lott was at the University of Mississippi in 1961 when the campus exploded in violence because James Meredith was there to integrate the student body. One can be sure Lott stood tall in defending Meredith's Afro-American presence. But just to be sure, it would be interesting to ask him what he did during those riotous days, especially since he, in 1984, referred to the Civil War as "the war of aggression."

This whole thing makes me wonder how things would have played out if Mr. Bill were Jewish. By that I mean that the question of religion as opposed to race would have resulted in serious questions. There would be plenty of media fire if it were proved that Lott and Barr were connected to an anti-Semitic organization or had given a keynote address last summer in a place where blatantly anti-Semitic material was on sale and in full view of those attending. Lott would be forced to step down, and Barr would be kicked out of the group of impeachment managers.

Perhaps the reason we haven't heard from the Congressional Black Caucus or Jesse Jackson on all this is that they supported Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March. Uh oh.

The first impeachment resulted from President Andrew Johnson's fighting in favor of the South against Congress, which supported the rights of Negroes in the wake of the Civil War. In the wake of the civil rights movement, the terms are reversed. Mr. Bill may be on the griddle as much because he is supportive of black Americans as anything else.

© Copyright 1999 Daily News, L.P.