Interesting points about the Sen. Trent Lott debacle. Joshua Marshall has been doing a good job about staying on top of the whole controversy. It’s curious how the story slowly developed from Saturday into the modest maelstrom that it is today.

I think Lott was wrong to make the comments regarding retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond’s 1948 presidential run. Lott said ” I want to say this about my state: When Strom Thurmond ran for president we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had of followed our lead we wouldn’t of had all these problems over all these years, either.”

Of course, some Lott defenders (namely Kevin L. Martin, government and political affairs director of the African American Republican Leadership Council) said he was trying to be humorous. Lott’s comments were about as humorous as dressing up in blackface.

It has come out (thanks in large part to Marshall’s reporting) that Lott has made such comments in the past — also signing on to a case where Bob Jones University fought the IRS’ revoking their tax-exempt status because of discriminatory policies. It’s true Lott has tried to apologize in the past couple of days, but I still haven’t seen him say racial discrimination and segregation is wrong.

How big is this story? I don’t know for sure. I think it shouldn’t be a distraction to other larger stories — namely the Bush administration’s handling of the environment, the economy and the “war on terrorism.” It’s discontenting — more than 35 years after the Civil Rights Act was passed many politicians still wink and nod toward the racism of the past. It happens in both parties, but it appears the GOP came up the big winner in last month’s elections. The Georgia flag flap is a good example where many want to keep the Confederate symbol on the state flag and were willing to dump Gov. Barnes to do it.

Still, I think it’s appropriate that this story damage the Republican Party in some way. I’m still disgusted at how the Republicans over-hyped the political tinges at the memorial service of Sen. Paul Wellstone. If they can manipulate the service into poltical capital, I think Lott should be gently braised for these comments.