Politicians snooker us again with the Lott affair

By Harry Browne

If the Trent Lott fiasco were a movie or a play, it would be panned as an unrealistic farce.

But it has a purpose. It has allowed the politicians to once more divert attention from anything important – getting us to focus on irrelevancies.

After Lott said he wished Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948, the Democrats cried that he had, in effect, insulted all black people. Republican wimps called for him to step down, and the macho Republicans told us the criticism was unfair because Democrats are just as bad.

The truth is, however, that Trent Lott had nothing to apologize for. Rather than grovel, all he had to say was something like this:

I preferred Strom Thurmond to Harry Truman because Thurmond was for smaller government, lower taxes and respect for the Constitution – especially the 10th Amendment which limits the powers of the federal government.

Yes, Thurmond was a segregationist, and so was I, and so was Sen. Robert Byrd, and so were millions of other people in the North and South. Most of us have changed our minds about segregation since then. But it’s still true that Strom Thurmond would have been a better president than Harry Truman was.

Truman never met a government program he didn’t like. He imposed wage, price and credit controls; tried to take over the entire health-care industry; and expanded government in dozens of other ways. He confiscated the American steel industry and said he had a right to seize any industry he wanted.

He tried to draft striking railroad workers into the Army during peacetime, created the military-industrial complex, initiated the wasteful foreign-aid program, and posed as a communist-fighter while stopping the Senate from investigating the hundreds of security risks in his own administration.

He constantly lied to the American people – about Republicans, about the government, about almost anything. He was one of America’s very worst presidents.

Why should I apologize for preferring Strom Thurmond to a man like that? Maybe you should think before you open your mouth.

If someone misinterpreting my remark about Thurmond had his feelings hurt, it’s unfortunate. But, frankly, I don’t see how anyone of adult age could have taken my remark as a personal affront. I was comparing Strom Thurmond favorably to Harry Truman. Am I not allowed as an American citizen to prefer one politician over another?

Of course, Lott can’t honestly say much of that, because he isn’t for constitutional government. He has voted several times to expand government control over health care, and he’s voted hundreds of times to expand government in other ways.

But, then, I guess a politician doesn’t have to be honest in such a situation. After all, politicians routinely lie about their beliefs, their voting records and their opponents.

Three-card monte

What’s overlooked in all this is that the Lott fiasco diverts our attention once again from more important matters.

The government is out of control. It’s growing faster than at any time in recent decades. It’s intruding more deeply than ever into our personal lives. It’s risking our lives by bullying other countries.

But what’s the most important issue in the news? Trent Lott’s “insensitivity.”

When it isn’t a stupid issue like this, it’s a debate over the Confederate flag flying in South Carolina, or the posting of the Ten Commandments in a courtroom, or political correctness on college campuses. Anything but the most important issue of the day: getting government off our backs.

Today, government at all levels takes 48 percent of the national income, but let’s not talk about that. Let’s argue over whether Trent Lott is a racist.

Once again Republicans and Democrats have found a way to get our eyes off the biggest problem in America – finding a way to cut an all-powerful, inefficient, tyrannical government down to size. Just by getting us to talk about Trent Lott, the politicians have won another battle.

The Republicans dodge another bullet

There’s an additional silver lining in all this for the Republicans.

If Lott resigns and a Democrat takes his place, this might set the stage for another Republican to suffer an attack of “conscience” and switch parties – giving Democrats control of the Senate. And guess what! The Democrats can then take the blame for all the unconstitutional, big-government programs the Republicans are inflicting on us.