December 30, 2002
Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.
A BUZZFLASH INTERVIEW
BuzzFlash.com conducted this interview with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., (D-Illinois) shortly before Trent Lott resigned as majority leader elect. We were deeply impressed with a speech the Congressman gave on December 14 (See: http://www.jessejacksonjr.org/query/creadpr.cgi?id=%22006434%22), in which he compared the Monica Lewinsky "scandal" to the Trent Lott "scandal."
In particular, we were intrigued with the Congressman's discussion of how racial code words used by slave owners, before and after the Civil War, have now become part of the Republican Party's "Southern Strategy." "State's rights" is the most well-known excuse used by the South for the Civil War. But there are many more, including "tax and spend liberals."
We encourage you to read Congressman Jackson's speech. In the meantime, here is the BuzzFlash interview with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.
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BUZZFLASH: You recently made a speech entitled “Trent Lott is the Republican Party’s Monica Lewinsky.” What did you mean by that?
CONGRESSMAN JESSE L. JACKSON, JR.: Even after the Monica Lewinsky scandal emerged, it did not, even then rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors. Trent Lott specifically wanted a political trial in the Senate which he could hang around the neck of Democrats, both in the House and in the Senate, because Republicans were suggesting that this moral behavior was the inevitable result of the Democratic Party’s values as a natural result of its liberalism. Those values [Clinton's] do not represent the Democratic Party. The difference here, however, is those were Bill Clinton’s personal values. The issue here, with Trent Lott, is one of public moral values.
We know Trent Lott’s record. We know his relationship and statements that he made about Jefferson Davis. We know his relationship to the Council of Conservative Citizens. We know his support of Senator Strom Thurmond. We know his pattern of voting against affirmative action, his pattern of racial exclusion, and his support against African Americans joining fraternities. We know of his history. And President Bush said [until recently] that he still wanted him to be the leader. Speaker Hastert said that he still wanted him to be the leader. Tom DeLay stated that he still wanted him to be the leader of the Senate. That makes Trent Lott the public moral failure of the Republican Party. And this issue is going to have legs for a very long time. It’s going to make it very, very difficult for the Republicans to advance a broad-based agenda that is inclusive of all of the American people. It will affect almost every aspect of their administration, and it’s a real opportunity for Democrats.
BUZZFLASH: You say Trent Lott is the Republican Party’s Monica Lewinsky. We love a passage in your speech that deals with the code words that the Republican Party uses – not just Trent Lott, but the Republican Party – in which they veil party politics regarding race-based positions that are now being signified in code words. You, for instance, bring up, of course, "states’ rights." You bring up the origin of the phrase “tax and spend liberals.” And you do this in reaction to when Senator Lott was pressed about what he meant in his regret over Thurmond not being elected President; he said something like, "Oh, it had nothing to do with segregation. I just thought that Strom Thurmond was for a strong defense and fiscal conservatism. I just wanted to show my support for states' rights over an intrusive federal government."
But of course, he was talking about the federal government sending troops in to Mississippi to ensure that Trent Lott's college would be integrated. In short, he was talking, as in post Civil War Days, about the right of Southern states to continue with segregation -- as a states' rights issue.
JACKSON: I found that Senator Lott's response -- his so-called apology -- was worse than his initial statement describing Senator Thurmond. Because before the Civil War, the Democratic slave masters used to hold anti-black conventions. And these anti-black conventions were assemblies of racists who talked about not freeing the slaves. And these are well-documented. At the conclusion of the Civil War, they were no longer able to hold these racist conventions. Now the Democratic slave holders who had been Confederates then started holding so-called "taxpayer conventions." They didn’t like the Republican Party as far as Lincoln’s approach to raising their taxes to pay for the education bill for the freed blacks. And so their response to this was that instead of holding anti-Black conventions, they started holding "taxpayer conventions," and anti-tax conventions. And they referred to themselves during this period as "fiscal conservatives" who didn’t want their money spent on education and housing for the freed slaves. Later, they used the term “tax and spend liberals” to label people who supported the education of Blacks.
And so when Trent Lott says he’s a "fiscal conservative," what he’s telling you is he doesn’t want to spend any of the federal government’s money on the education, welfare and housing of all of the American people. But he also tells you that he wants to be strong on defense. Well, he’s for billions and billions of dollars in defense spending for the military budget. He believes in $40 billion for homeland security. I mean, it’s only when it comes to education, health care for all, and housing for all does he become so "fiscally conservative." And so his explanation of his Strom Thurmond statement, his apology, is even worse than his original statement.
BUZZFLASH: Probably the most frequently used Republican code word is "states’ rights," which is a mantra under any Republican administration. Trent Lott also said, “Well, I was just objecting, when I was a student, to federal troops coming into the University of Mississippi to enforce an order to integrate the campus.” Strom Thurmond says, “I was just running on a states’ rights platform.” But somehow all that seems to be states’ rights in relation to discrimination and segregation and subjugation.
JACKSON: There was no such word as "racism" until 1936. Whether it was Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington or Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, none of them had ever used the word racism to describe the experience of Blacks in America. The word didn't exist until, much later, the 1930's. Racism was used to describe the plight of Jews under Hitler's Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Fascist Italy. African Americans then adopted the word to describe their own situation.
The history of African-Americans is still, even in 2002, dominated by the idea of states’ rights versus the Union. And it has always been strengthening the Union and the Union’s cause that has provided the greatest security and welfare to Blacks, in particular in the period after which slaves were freed.
And so if Mr. Lott says, “I’m just objecting to federal troops coming into Mississippi,” he’s really saying, "I’m just objecting to federal troops coming into Mississippi because federal troops have not been in Mississippi since Grant and Sherman led their march to the sea from Mississippi to stop us from expanding slavery into the Western states. What they’re saying is that education should be a local issue and not one where we try to grant equality for all Americans through the federal government for all Americans.
After all, in the State of Mississippi, the primary source of educating people comes through catfish and cotton. What Washington State does is to tax the Boeing Corporation and the Microsoft Corporation and the billionaires who live in that state. And today, that means that the State of Washington has a laptop on the desk of every child. But the most powerful Senator in America [formerly], Senator Trent Lott represents the State of Mississippi and makes the case for states’ rights, represents a state that is at the bottom of all fifty states in providing basic education for all its people because of his adherence to the politics of states’ rights and the philosophy of states’ rights. Even his powerful position in the United States Senate keeps him from delivering quality education to his home state as it continues to lag behind, long after the Civil War.
BUZZFLASH: It’s been BuzzFlash’s contention -- since we started the website in 2000 -- that the Republican Party has, with its Southern Strategy, been pursuing a wink-and-a-nod approach to the white male who has never accepted civil rights and emancipation. And the wink-and-the-nod use of code words and code gestures.
JACKSON: In my new book, A More Perfect Union, I lay out all of this history. And I’m offering a way out of this history of states' rights vs. the Union for all Americans. What I advanced in A More Perfect Union is the idea that we need new rights added to the United States Constitution to keep our nation from ever slipping back into a states’ rights philosophy when it comes to our basic human rights, like education, like health care, like equality for women, like the right to vote, like a clean, safe and sustainable environment. And for a year and a half, that book has been on the desk of every major newspaper in America, every major anchorperson in America from ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN. All across this country, they have had that book. And I’m the only member of Congress who has a written a book, after five years of research, where no major daily has ever reviewed my book.
BUZZFLASH: Why do you think the book is being ignored?
JACKSON: Because they don’t take race and racial issues very seriously. And had they read my book, it would have showed them, a year and a half ago. I’ve got four pages of the book dedicated to statements made by Trent Lott.
BUZZFLASH: Do you subscribe to the theory that President Bush has pursued a path of quote-unquote compassionate conservatism to give the image of caring about minorities from the photo opportunities and so forth, while basically, as far as his governmental policies and regulatory agency policies, adopting the Southern Neo-Confederacy goals.
JACKSON: Yes, I subscribe to that.
BUZZFLASH: Is Trent Lott’s crime in some ways that he took his white sheet out of the closet, whereas the "no-no" of the Neo-Confederacy movement is nowadays you have to keep the white sheet and hood locked up in the closet. If you’re gonna wear it, just wear it in your house or at the country club. But never bring it out in public.
JACKSON: His crime – it’s not right whether it’s in public, and it’s not right whether it’s in private. His crime – that he is the most powerful Senator in the United States, and that he’s supposed to be speaking for all Americans. He’s not the only one in the United States Senate, and he’s not the only member of Congress who is doing the exact same thing. And now it’s been exposed to the American people, and clearly does not reflect their values.
BUZZFLASH: Reading your speech, we were astonished that Trent Lott actually used a quotation of your father's to try to get himself out of his own mess. Isn't that cruelly ironic?
JACKSON: Yes, he used a one-time statement Reverend Jackson made in 1984 and tried to suggest that his situation is equivocal to what Reverend Jackson was apologizing for. But Reverend Jackson did it one time. He doesn’t have a history and a pattern of repeating offensive statements. But Lott has a history and a pattern of repeating offensive statements. He’s unrepentant in his approach to these racial issues and racial sensitivities.
BUZZFLASH: We contend from very early on, within a day or two, Karl Rove was working the right-wing columnists to get Lott out of there. And clearly the White House, which normally stays loyal and one of their key traits is loyalty, like a crime syndicate family or something – was clearly behind the scenes working to undercut Lott. What is the White House so scared of?
JACKSON: Their own exposure.
BUZZFLASH: Exposure of what?
JACKSON: President Bush, when he was a candidate, went to South Carolina. It’s all detailed in my book. He went to Bob Jones University, the very university that Senator Lott is being criticized for having written a tax-exempt support letter for. Now George Bush went to that campus. And he didn't use any overt racial terms. He just said that our values are conservative. We are conservative. We believe in conservatism. He mentioned the word “conservative” at one point in time in his speech seven times in less than two minutes. He mentioned the word conservative seven times in less than two minutes, and everyone understood that to be a not-so-subtle racial appeal to conservatives at Bob Jones University. Everyone knew exactly what candidate Bush was doing.
BUZZFLASH: So he was speaking in code again?
JACKSON: Of course he was. And many of us called him out on it. When they asked the question about the Confederate flag flying over the capitol in South Carolina, George Bush said let the people – that’s the decision for the "good people of South Carolina" to decide what to do with their flag. He didn’t want to get involved in that. That’s an issue for the people of South Carolina. That was a not-so-subtle code way of saying that he believes in states’ rights, and that he doesn’t believe the federal government and its star-spangled banner and stars and stripes is a unifier in the South. In the South, that Confederate flag is doing the unifying. George Bush has said that while he was governor of Texas, the Confederate flag hung in the Texas capitol. It's all racial code images and code words.
So the mask is being pulled off of the perception of compassionate conservatism for what it truly is – a program without substance, without a legislative agenda, without Constitutional validation. A PR campaign to hide the not-so-subtle elements of race that have dominated this administration.
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BuzzFlash Note: We will be offering Congressman Jackson's book, "A More Perfect Union," as a premium in the near future.
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