A Lott To Learn from Gore

Al Gore took one for the team and, make no mistake, one for himself. Trent Lott should be taking notes.

In the case of Gore, the former vice president could see that he was not generating the kind of genuine enthusiasm or book sales a candidate — even one with a presidential popular vote majority in 2000 — would need to unseat an incumbent president with impressive poll numbers. Moreover, Gore would also need to overcome the duplicity of Democratic Party Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Gore, however, rightfully gets credit for doing the right thing.

By opting out now, he gives other candidates more time and exposure to make their cases to the Party and to the voters. More importantly, he doesn’t prolong the possibility that a Gore nomination would inspire a retrospective grudge match with President Bush. A Gore-Bush replay would inevitably focus America on the recent rancorous past — and not the future. That’s a skewed priority that this country — beset with a tenuous economy and a worrisome war on terrorism — can ill afford.

Of course, Gore’s decision is self-serving. Right now the tea leaves don’t look good for any Democratic challenger in 2004. The Dems’ next best shot is in ’08. That’s when the electorate — possibly poised for another presidential pendulum swing — may be looking nostalgically at the Clinton-Gore economic record.

So, good move, Al. You’re still viable in the “never say never” election year of 2008. Plus you get Party plaudits for stepping down early when your sheer name recognition had you topping any ’04 Democratic wannabe field. You also got a “Saturday Night Live” gig you might not have been offered had you announced your no-run plans a couple weeks earlier.

Now it’s on to being a statesman and a reasoned, yet outspoken, voice of the loyal opposition who still has at least another campaign in him. Just don’t revisit the class warfare strategy. Look decisive, not divisive.

On balance, well done, Al. Your Party thanks you — and you did yourself a favor. How’s that for a two-fer?

As for Lott, the Senate Majority Leader To Be (Again) should do everyone — except the Democratic Party — a favor and resign. Preferably yesterday. Senator, at least look like you’re taking one for the team. In reality, of course, you’re merely pre-empting the embarrassingly inevitable: being voted out like a “Survivor” loser.

By staying on — for however long — you have become the Democrats’ favorite high profile Republican, a virtual mole. For as long as you hang tough, the Party is precluded from expanding its influence and appeal among black Americans. You cast shadows of disingenuousness and racism on Republican stands ranging from welfare reform to the minimum wage. By your groveling in sucking up to blacks, you are no longer credible — to any constituency — on racially sensitive issues such as affirmative action. Now you’re FOR it?

And one more thing. Enough of the Dixiecrap and enough of the apologizing.

Unless you want to apologize for not resigning yet and then apologize for taking so long before you finally do it. In which case, apology accepted.

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