Denial clouds Lott’s judgement

Throughout high school and some of elementary, I justified my existence by flying and flipping through the air.

By the time I was 18 my gymnastics career was over, but for a few years I continued to train as though an Olympic medal might be around the corner despite my modest skills. I was aware that I would never be in any serious competition again, but I didn’t know anything else.

Training was intense, year-round and occupied most of my free time for a decade. Some of us are reluctant to hang up what for all practical purposes amounts to a lifetime’s efforts. I finally got the message when a girlfriend began ribbing me and suggested I actually liked wearing a leotard.

Most of us have to do it sooner or later. Whether it is letting go of high school athletic glory days, accepting that she has indeed fallen out of love with you or selling off the family business when retirement is at hand, it’s never easy. We have to let go.

However, some of us linger until it is embarrassingly obvious, and until we realize we’re doing more harm than good by persisting.

Last Tuesday, Sen. Trent Lott announced his intent to linger by running for a fourth term.

Lott has enjoyed four decades of strong influence in our federal government, particularly as the Senate GOP leader. To the delight of conservatives nationwide, he functioned as a thorn in Clinton’s side throughout the ’90s.

He also takes credit for bringing us Nissan and its mother lode of jobs. Because of him, this state has enjoyed a disproportionate amount of influence in the affairs of our country, and for that Mississippi can take pride in some of Lott’s achievements.

However, in 2002 his glowing track record came to a screeching halt. True to his Council of Conservative Citizens ties, he foolishly suggested that it would be a better world had Strom Thurman been elected and the institutions of white supremacy preserved.

He was forced to step down from Senate leadership and has been abandoned by both the legislative GOP and the White House since then.

He has even gone so far as to suggest in his book, “Herding Cats,” that his apprentice and successor, Bill Frist, betrayed him.

Most importantly, his participation with influential committees has become laughably meager for someone with his seniority.

In short, Trent Lott is a has-been.

Why, then, is he choosing to perpetuate our state’s compromised representation rather than gracefully stepping aside and allowing someone else to take a swing at it?

Lott’s response to this question is that Mississippi needs him most in the wake of Katrina. I think there’s a little more to it than that.

Bush, Barbour and Lott have engaged in frequent bouts of back-slapping after each relief package was passed (never mind the reality of the recovery process). The chumminess has emboldened Lott to humor the possibility that he’s back in the fold.

He believes Senate leadership is again within grasp. He is trying to realize that vision in which he and Bush are swinging on his newly rebuilt porch, sipping sweet tea and discussing the nuances of their power. There have also been gossipy whisperings of his delight when the embattled Frist was forced to step down, and that Lott is motivated by revenge to seek leadership again.

Most importantly, Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman got on his knees and begged Lott to run again, upon rumors of Lott’s retirement, lest he risk losing the seat to a Democrat.

It is not a very significant risk for our state, but why sweat it if reality hasn’t yet caught up with Lott’s reputation? In other words, the GOP’s majority is more important than the quality of Mississippi’s representation.

Since his fall from grace, Lott has not been entirely in lock-step with the White House.

He has suggested Donald Rumsfeld resign, and he battled the president in vain over military base closures.

I don’t believe the GOP would allow Lott to ascend to leadership again, or even to influential positions within committees; there is no shortage of kowtowing younger senators groomed for such positions.

The combination of his embarrassing past remarks, his recent opposition to the White House, his age, and most importantly, rumors of his animosity toward some of his peers, do not bode well for his future on the hill.

Lott is acting like the estranged ex-boyfriend.

He is certain that the GOP still loves him, so he calls frequently, leaves messages, coincidentally shows up at the same places and makes everyone nervous.

At the moment it appears that the GOP has a need for him, so they are teasing him along with hope of a renewed relationship.

Whether for revenge, with delusions of leadership, as preservation of the party’s majority or like a washed-up gymnast who doesn’t know anything else, Lott is no longer acting in the best interest of our state.

Lott’s capacity to represent Mississippi will continue to diminish, and we need fresh representation.