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Oh man Theres a

Oh man! There's a quote from Frank Luntz tonight on Hardball that's so choice it's almost beyond belief. We're going to be waiting with bated breath for the transcript to pop up on Nexis.

Basically, Luntz said that the "problems" Lott was talking about, which voting for Strom Thurmond would have avoided, were Bill Clinton's moral and sexual lapses. If ever there was a statement so ridiculous that the speaker deserved to be laughed out of three dimensional space, buddy, this is it.

Meanwhile, Chris Matthews is actually pretty good on the Trent Lott stuff, talking about the Dixiecrats and their exodus into the Republican party. The guy was up there speaking truth to power. Or at least to Bill Bennett. Same difference, basically.

You can pretty much

You can pretty much tell Trent Lott is toast when he tells Black Entertainment Television that he "absolutely" supports affirmative action.

One of the subtexts of the intra-Republican fight going on right now is that congressional Republicans are already looking to push an agenda that is, let's say, racially edgy. They don't want to hit that fight with Lott's baggage in tow.

Ed Kilgore is the Policy Director of the Democratic Leadership Council -- in other words, not exactly like a proxy for Al Sharpton or anything. And today he told me this ...

The angle some people may be missing about conservatives and Lott is that they are eager to pursue a number of things--a scaleback of affirmative action policies, private school vouchers, appointment of conservative judges with backgrounds more questionable than Lott's--that will create some concerns that the GOP is not exactly the reborn Party of Lincoln that appeared on TV screens at the 2000 convention. Given this agenda, conservatives don't want the task complicated by a Senate Leader (whom they don't like anyway) whose very name will conjure up racial dissension for the foreseeable future. For one thing, they're afraid the Bush White House will put the kibosh on controversial conservative initiatives if Lott has carry the water. So don't be fooled into thinking that GOP conservatives will drop an anvil on Lott strictly because they are horrified by his words.
I think that's exactly right. If Lott now tries to remake himself as a born-again civil rights man, that just makes him doubly useless to the fire-eaters in his caucus. Certainly not all Republican Senators see it in this light. I doubt Linc Chafee or McCain or Olympia Snowe look at it this way. But then that's why it's the conservatives in the caucus who are pushing hardest to dump him.

Also be sure to read this New Dem Daily (I'm sure written by Ed) on what the Lott scandal really means.

I was wrong I

I was wrong! I was wrong! There really is a voter fraud scandal in South Dakota -- the scandal surrounding the increasingly suspicious affidavits used by the state and national Republican parties to help prove their charges of voter fraud.

As we noted yesterday, South Dakota's Republican Attorney General Mark Barnett said that two of the three affidavits that alleged anything illegal turned out to be "either perjury or forgery." The signer of the third affidavit could not be located.

Now it turns out, according to an article by David Kranz in today's Argus Leader, that those affidavits were "pre-worded" by Republican lawyers involved in the RNC's voter fraud investigation.

The chairwoman of the Tripp County Republicans apparently just went through the reservations with pre-written 'I was in on voter fraud' affidavits to see if she could get anyone to sign. Here's the key passage ...

Kim Vanneman, of Winner, said in an interview Monday that she traveled through the Rosebud reservation, including the town of Mission, asking people if they had any evidence of wrongdoing on Election Day, particularly of Democrats paying people to vote.

“I just went through the document, read it, asked them if it was correct, and if they wanted to sign it,” said Vanneman, a notary public who verified the statements.

Vanneman said she does not know the source of the original allegations, but word on the streets of Mission was that Democrats were paying $10 to those who would vote.

“I didn’t do the investigating,” she said. “Somebody else did that. They (the affidavits) came through work of different attorneys.”

For some reason, no one else involved in the Republican-backed investigation seems to have any idea where the affidavits came from either.

Other Republican lawyers involved in the effort -- including the previously mentioned John Lauck -- either don't know or won't say who was responsible for drawing up the "pre-worded" affidavits. They're referring all questions to the Republican National Committee.

I think we may have a scandal on our hands after all.

Department of Curious Omissions

Department of Curious Omissions: Last Friday in National Review Byron York wrote yet another article on purported "massive" South Dakota voter fraud scandal ("The South Dakota Vote Scandal: How High Does It Go?"). The article strongly implies that the State's Attorney General Mark Barnett is covering up evidence of Democratic voter fraud abuses. Never once in the article does York identify Barnett as the Republican State Attorney General. (He ran for the Republican gubernatorial nomination earlier this year.)

How high does the Democratic voter fraud scandal go? Apparently all the way up into the Republican party. Now that's massive!

Back during the South

Back during the South Dakota Senate campaign we devoted lots of space to trumped-up Republican charges that Democrats had turned the state's Indian reservations into hotbeds of voter fraud. At some point I want to devote a long post to all the ins and outs of what happened in the voter fraud pseudo-scandal. But for now it's enough to remember that Republicans made a series of wild-eyed allegations of 'massive voter fraud.' Those charges were then amplified by a number of local reporters who turned out to be working in embarrassingly close coordination -- in one case, cohabiting -- with the Republican operatives who ginned up the accusations in the first place.

The whole thing was a rather shameless attempt to stymie efforts to get more people to exercise their legitimate right to vote -- and stir up politically-helpful racial animosity too. The 'massive fraud' charges eventually collapsed under the weight of their own ridiculousness, though this didn't stop Republican candidate John Thune and the RNC from a series of scurrilous ads and mailings accusing Democrat Tim Johnson of having a hand in the fraudulent voting.

On election day Johnson beat Thune by a minuscule margin of 524 votes. The Thune campaign grumbled about voter fraud. But in the absence of any evidence, Thune took the high road and conceded the race.

But there turned out to be an interesting division of labor: While Thune was taking the high road, his Republican operatives -- working for the RNC -- fanned out across the state's Indian reservations collecting affidavits purporting to prove widespread voter fraud -- enough to have cost Thune the election.

These affidavits were turned over to the State Attorney General Mark Barnett and, helpfully, to Byron York of the National Review and a number of other conservative news outlets. York's piece, which was based on the 50 RNC-collected affidavits, made the cover of the current issue of the National Review with the headline "South Dakota's Invalid Senator: How the Democrats Stole a Senate Seat."

As you might expect, the charges got lots of play in DC, reviving the claims of voter fraud. But if you were reading the South Dakota press you'd see that the state's Republican Attorney General, Mark Barnett, found the affidavits a good deal less impressive than York did. On December 10th he told the Rapid City Journal ...

Realistically, many of the things set out in those affidavits are not crimes. They are what I would call local election-board management problems. A fair number could be read as complaints about how effective the Democratic get-out-the-vote effort was. They had people watching, then jumping on the phone to one of their drivers.
Barnett didn't think any of the allegations would have changed the result of the election. But he said he would open investigations into "two or three affidavits out of 50" which included allegations of vote buying.

A few days later Barnett came back with the results of his investigation, recounted here in December 13th AP story ...

Barnett dismissed allegations in three affidavits, purportedly from people who were offered rides to the polling place in a Johnson van and offered $10 to vote. One of the people could not be located, and the others said they did not vote and were not offered money to vote. One said his signature had been forged on his affidavit, and the other said she signed hers because a friend told her to.

"These affidavits are either perjury or forgery, or call them what you will. They are just flat false," Barnett said.

So Republican attempts to substantiate their own charges of fraud and forgery end with RNC operatives caught filing perjurious or forged affidavits to prove their phony case. At least, so says South Dakota's Republican Attorney General.

Trent Lotts career is

Trent Lott's career is currently swirling down the drain in part because he has a long-standing association with a white supremacist group called the Council of Conservative Citizens and because he gave a 1984 interview to a crypto-racist magazine called the Southern Partisan. Attorney General John Ashcroft is going on Larry King Live tomorrow night. Ashcroft also has at least some connection with the very same group and he gave an interview to the same magazine only four years ago.

Is Larry going to ask him about it? If not, why not? Should Ashcroft get a pass for some of the same stuff that's ending Lott's career?

His Larryness has his own website. And down in the lower lefthand corner there's a link where you can send an email suggesting a question for a guest ...

Poor word choice of

Poor word choice of the day watch. Senator Richard Shelby on CNN's Late Edition: we should not "lynch" Senator Lott.

This graf from an

This graf from an excellent and telling article in Sunday's Washington Post certainly has the smell of death about it.

In an indication of White House wariness about getting squarely behind Lott, sources said Lott sought statements of support last week from national security adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell but was rebuffed. Both are African American. Some White House officials said it was clumsy of Lott to ask.
Grasping for straws. Not finding many straws.


It's Lonely In The Minority

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