Many think Lott should step down

December 16, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

TRI-STATE - Some Tri-State area residents feel U.S. Sen. Trent Lott made a simple gaffe earlier this month in remarks that could be taken as an endorsement of segregation.

Others feel the Mississippi Republican, who is scheduled to become Senate majority leader next month, is a racist at heart and should not be the Senate's chief spokesman.

Others think he should resign from the Senate altogether.

Calls for Lott to step down followed his remarks made during the 100th birthday celebration of Dixiecrat Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., who favored segregation. Lott said the country would be better off if Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948.


Tim Daniels, 41, of Waynesboro, Pa., said Lott shouldn't be stripped of his power for making an error in judgment.

"People are human. He's apologized and what more can he do," Daniels said in between running errands Saturday at the Wayne Heights Mall.

"I think all of us at one time say something that comes out wrong. Afterwards, you stop to think about it," said Milton Nicks, 59, of Fairfield, Pa. "Because some of us don't keep our mouth shut at the right time doesn't mean he is not fit for the job."

But Becky Hoffman, 21, of Waynesboro, said it's difficult for Lott to take back his words.

"I don't think if someone is racist they should be put in a high position like that. If they're going to be in a position like that they need to be open-minded," she said.

"It's like hitting two birds with one stone," said Toby Raphael of Shepherdstown, W.Va. He was referring to Lott and Cardinal John Law of the Boston Archdiocese, who resigned last week in the wake of the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

"Two blights on our society would be removed if Lott resigns, too," Raphael said. "They are both people living in the past and they have to go."

Marge Kiersz, 54, of Waynesboro, said she thinks Lott should keep his Senate seat but step down as Senate leader.

"A leader you expect to be more thoughtful off the cuff or on the record," Kiersz said.

Shirley Day, 69, of Hagerstown said she "definitely thinks Lott should be allowed to serve as majority leader.

"This is a tempest in a teapot," she said. "He was making remarks about a birthday celebration. He was trying to be nice."

Lott has made several public apologies, including a long statement at a press conference Friday, where he asked the country to forgive him.

"I'm still trying to think about this," said Paul Welch, 44, of Shepherdstown. "I'm not sure (the apology) is going to cut it."

Robert Watson, 57, of Kearneysville, W.Va., thinks Lott should leave the Senate.

"I think the man more or less said what's in his heart," Watson said. "You don't make a statement like that unless you mean it."

For some, the incident highlights what is wrong with politics today.

"Obviously, stupidity doesn't make someone unfit for office or a good many of them wouldn't be in office," said Dru Cairns, 46, who was working in her Waynesboro card shop Saturday.

Phil Muritz, 57, of Smithsburg thinks Lott should be censored.

"He shouldn't have said what he said," Muritz said.

Sally Artz, 72, of Hagerstown thinks Lott should be able to stay in the Senate but he should not be its leader.

"He said those things before," Artz said.

"He's holding opinions that are not conducive with serving as majority leader, especially in these times," said Marilyn Wood, 62, of Hagerstown.

Jack Koll, 71, of Hagerstown said, "There's no question that it was the stupidest thing he could have done. It's not bad that he said it. It's that he didn't have enough smarts not to have said it."

"What he said was unfortunate and he realizes that," said Richard Sullivan, 43, of Hagerstown.

Morris Roberts, 69, of Beaver Creek, thinks the criticism against Lott "is the Democratic party making a big deal out of it. But it would be the other way around if he was a Democrat. Then the Republicans would be doing it."

Cory Eyler, 49, of Hagerstown has similar feelings.

"I've thought about it and I think a lot of it is being blown out of proportion," Eyler said.

C.L. Ensminger, 58, of Greencastle, Pa., said he thinks Lott was wrong.

"But he apologized and I can accept that," Ensminger said.

Roger Ethier, 60, of Shepherdstown, said Lott was expressing his opinion.

"I don't agree with it, but he's got a right to express it," Ethier said.

Cindy Cook, 45, of Shepherdstown thinks Lott has to go.

"When you're a public figure you should try to represent everybody," Cook said. "You have a responsibility to think before you open your mouth."

Staff writer Laura Ernde contributed to this story.

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