Monday, December 23, 2002

The Real Trent Lott Issue. Bob Herbert is keeping the issue behind the Trent Lott issue alive. Now that Trent Lott has resigned from his leadership position, the media is expected to drop the story. And, for the most part, they have. I mean, by the final days, it had reached a fever pitch. Once Bill Frist is elected majority leader (sometime today, apparently), that should complete the downward trend in the stories treatment in the press, and it will go away. Unless Bob Herbert gets his way.

In his latest column in the New York Times, Herbert argues that Lott was just one example of many of the Republican's race problem. He mentioned others last week, which I also blogged about. [Clearly, Bob Herbert and I both think this is a pretty damn important issue.] He's mentioned still more this morning. Unfortunately, he lets the big one get away.

He says: "Bill Frist is supposed to be the new, more moderate, more tolerant face of the G.O.P. But he's more mask than face." Intriguing. How so? No answer, I'm afraid. As soon as Herbert dangles this little nugget in front of our salivating mouths (charges of Republican racism always produce that sort of Pavlovian response from brainwashed, intellectually-stunted socialists like me), he moves on to someone else. He's clearly more interested in the man replacing Frist than in the man replacing Lott.

And for good reason. Whatever Bill Frist is hiding under his mask, it can't be as bad as hanging a Confederate flag in his window. But this line isn't ever going to take off in the Press. I mean, this is a guy named Senator Allen from Virginia. Unless it's Wody Allen, the press isn't going to care. And yes, he's in the same leadership position that Frist just came from, which is Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But who cares about that? Unfortunately, no one. But it's actually a very relevant job as far as this particular issue is concerned.

In fact, the press should be scrupulously checking into both Allen and Frist. As Democrats have been saying since before Lott resigned, this was never about Lott, or his comments, per se. It was really about the Republican Party pandering to the White Supremacist vote (or the Confederate Separatist vote, or the State's Rights vote, or whatever they want to call themselves). The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is in charge of fundraising, and gets a lot of the credit when the party does well nationally. Even before the Lott scandal, Frist was being praised for giving Republicans the Senate back. Classic Republican racebaiting techniques could come in handy, in some race, in some states. The press should look very carefully at states like Georgia and South Carolina, and find out if Frist was involved at all in those racially charged elections.

Salon has a different article about the post-Lott era, and it takes a very different approach. Bill Frist is being portrayed in the press as a young, moderate Republican. By Senate standards, he is young. He is not moderate. This article gives you the low down. Basically, if Frist is any improvement over Lott in terms of extremist vs. moderate, it is a marginal improvement at best. His voting record on civil rights is as bad as Lott's (which was, if you recall, significantly worse than Strom Thurmond's). The National Organization of Women says it's actually worse. He is an anti-abortion hard-liner, according to the article (although I've heard from other sources a lot of doubt on this point).

Unfortunately, neither Herbert's column not the Goldberg article get to the heart of the matter, which is whether or not Bill Frist is tainted by the same racially-charged, divisive, code-word politicking that Trant Lott exposed. Herbert talks about the pro-Confederate leanings of Frist's replacement, George Allen, while Goldberg debunks the Frist-as-moderate conventional wisdom. Both of them overlook the real issue.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Christmas Sneer. Ok, confession time. I hate Christmas. I hate it. I really, really, really hate it. I never been quite able to fully explain why, but there you go.

It doesn't have much to do with being an atheist, believe it or not. I am an atheist, I'm agnostic on the question of whether Jesus ever existed at all, but I know he wasn't born on December 25th. I'm also willing to bet my immortal soul (which I also don't believe in) that he wasn't the son of God. I hope I'm not offending anybody here, but hey, that's what I believe. I don't have any problem with Christians. Most of my friends and family are Christians, and they're all good people. I don't look down on them, or mock them, the why some (usually young, rebellious) atheists do. In fact, the Duke and I were just talking about this yesterday. If religion, whether Christianity or whatever, adds something valuable to your life, then I'm happy for you. When I was a Christian, until about the age of 14, I was filled with loads of existential angst about dying and the afterlife, and all that stuff. As soon as I discovered that I didn't actually believe in all that, I felt a tremendous feeling of relief. So, atheism works very well for me. And that's really all there is to it.

I could sit here and make all sorts of philosophical arguments supporting my atheism, but that isn't the point. As I said, atheism doesn't really have much to do with my hatred of Christmas. Basically, I hate imposed traditions. Christmas isn't my holiday, and it wouldn't be even if I were a Christian. It comes with all sorts of obligations attached to it. You have to do certain things on Christmas, whether you want to or not. There are certain relatives you must visit, and certain foods you must eat. There are certain things you must say to certain people. It's all very formal, and I've always hated formality. Honestly, it's a very immature attitude, but what can I say? My two favorite Christmas traditions are going over my friend Short Bus's house on Christmas Eve to eat, drink, and be merry, and then seeing a movie on Christmas Day once all of the familial obligations are dispensed with. [Since this latter tradition began, I've seen As Good as it Gets, Elizabeth, Any Given Sunday, Cast Away, and Vanilla Sky. This year will be Catch Me If You Can.] These traditions are both mine, in the sense that they are things that I decided that I wanted to do for my own enjoyment. The other traditions are imposed, and pre-date my very existence. It's a very selfish attitude, I know, but these cultural and familial traditions strike me as arbitrary and without inherent value, while my personal traditions I find very valuable indeed.

This attitude doesn't stop at Christmas. I basically hate every holiday. Yes, there isn't a single, major national holiday that I don't hate. And right after Christmas I have to endure what may be my least favorite holiday of all: New Year's Eve. This year I'll be in New Brunswick with the Short Bus and his fiancee. I'm dreading that. It's going to be awful. That certainly isn't the Short Bus's fault, because he totally knows how to throw a kick-ass party, and I don't doubt that this will be a kick-ass party. But it'll be a night of painfully making small talk with various old acquanitances who are in varying stages of inebriation. I won't be drunk, because I rarely get drunk, and because I will want to leave, in my car, at the very moment I feel I have performed the full range of duties politeness demands. I'll probably be out the door by 1:00am. Still, that's next week's issue to deal with.

I still have to do my fucking shopping.