Tripped Up By History

G.O.P. leader Trent Lott's remarks on race raise a storm and a hot question: Have Republicans really outgrown their past?

Trent Lott has long tried to have it both ways in the battle over civil rights, speaking in a code that signaled his support for segregationist groups but in words so vague that he could later deny that they meant anything at all. The Senator from Mississippi appeared as recently as the 1990s before a white-supremacist group, the Council of Conservative Citizens, telling its members that they stand for "the right principles and the right philosophy." When confronted over the remarks later, he denied any "firsthand" knowledge of the group's beliefs. For years, the tactic worked for Lott, who used it...

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