Free Trent Lott!

Acoss Washington, Democrats are trembling at the awful possibility that Chester Trent Lott may get so pissed off at the prevailing torrent of abuse that he will actually resign the majority leadership, thus fulfilling the dearest wish of White House supreme Karl Rove and opening the way for the ascent of Rove’s chosen candidate for Senate Republican leadership: the odious Senator Sawbones from Tennessee, Dr Bill Frist. M.D.

Initial Democratic expressions of shock and dismay when Lott uttered his infamous remarks at Strom Thurmond’s birthday bash were of course muted. They were hoping to keep them in reserve to wound Lott and the rest of the Party of Lincoln when it would do the most good. After all, who better to have as Republican leader (in Democratic eyes) than an avowed racist — especially as Mary Landrieu’s victory has reminded the Dem that black voters in the south can be quite useful, after all. But Karl Rove understands this just as well or better than the likes of Daschle. Hence his campaign to send Lott packing, an event which would lead to his speedy replacement by Frist, who will ushur all legislation demanded by business through Congress with less fuss than the old clenched-haired segregationist.

Why Frist rather than Lott? The answer is obvious. While Lott is engaged in inoffensive pursuits such as eliciting naval pork for Mississippi shipyards, Frist stalks the halls of congress looking for someone having a heart attack, or at least a touch of indigeestion, so that he can rush over and administer CPR while his press aide summons the fawning hacks to hear the Senator’s modest disclaimers of cedit. His score of lives “saved” in this manner stands at three. While serving as an ardent toady of business, especialy the health care and pharmaceutical cartels, Frist projects a “caring” image, accepted without demur by all except his former interns at the Vanderbilt Medical Center in Tennessee, where he pursued the big bucks as a heart/lung transplant surgeon. “He was a complete asshole,” recalls one. “Arrogant and unhelpful.” Frist has subsequently let it be known that as a transplant honcho he “saw” indigent patients. “The equivocation is telling,” says the former intern, himself now a distinguished practitioner. “As far as we could see the only indigent patients Frist ‘saw’ were the ones he passed on the street on his way to operate on rich Saudis at the medical center.”

If any further particulars are required to convict him, we need only say that he has been attractiing the toadying attentions of Bono. The message is clear: Free Trent! So desperate is he to make amends he will probably sponsor a giant statue of Malcolm X on the mall.

ANDREW COCKBURN is the co-author of Out of the Ashes: the Resurrection of Saddam Hussein. He can be reached at


Andrew Cockburn is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine.  An Irishman, he has covered national security topics in this country for many years.  In addition to publishing numerous books, he co-produced the 1997 feature film The Peacemaker and the 2009 documentary on the financial crisis American Casino. His latest book is  The Spoils of War: Power, Profit and the American War Machine. (Verso.)