Here's how a political apology is supposed to work:

You deliver it, the issue goes away and everyone moves on.

By that standard, Trent Lott's semi-expression of regret for his comments about Strom Thurmond was an abject failure.

When it comes to apologizing, Lott is no John DiIulio, who went on about his "bozo-brained mistake" in criticizing the White House.

Maybe Lott needs to go on Jay Leno, as Hugh Grant did after being caught with a hooker.

For one thing, Lott issued three different statements before finally using the A-word Monday. His office originally tried to blow it off as a non-story.

More important, the majority leader's tone -- "poor choice of words" and all that -- doesn't go to the heart of why many people were upset about his seeming embrace of Thurmond's 1948 segregationist candidacy for president. He talked about the "discarded" policies of segregation, like a reference to the old horse-and-buggy days, without repudiating them. How about "morally reprehensible"?

This doesn't mean the senator from Mississippi harbors secret segregationist desires. But it does suggest that he doesn't quite get the self-inflicted damage here.

You know you're in trouble when even your base is piling on. "Plainly America would not have been well served by the triumph of the segregationist Dixiecrats at a moment when the civil rights movement was coming into its own," says the Wall Street Journal editorial page. "Such a reading gives short shrift not only to the black struggle for equality, but also to the history of both Mr. Thurmond and the GOP. Mr. Lott played right into the hands of opponents who are eager to paint the Republican Party's Southern ascendancy as nothing more than old-fashioned bigotry."

By now Lott probably wishes that Thurmond had only turned 99.

Apologies are an important part of the political ritual. A deftly delivered one can turn a negative into a positive, with the critics admiring you for being big enough to see the error of your ways. Soon you're said to have "grown" in office. But Lott has been somewhat tone deaf on this issue, which is why the pundits are still kicking him around.

Paul Krugman gives him a swift one in the New York Times:

"Is it possible that a major modern political figure has sympathy for such views? After all, the Bush administration includes figures like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice; some of Mr. Lott's best friends. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. Yet during the 1990's he was extensively involved with the Council of Conservative Citizens -- a descendant of the White Citizens Council -- telling them at one point that they 'stand for the right principles and the right philosophy.'

"When this came to light in 1998, Mr. Lott declared himself ignorant of the group's aims. Was he also ignorant of the aims of the 1948 Thurmond campaign? Or was he just, in the excitement of the moment, blurting out his real views?

"At first the 'liberal media,' which went into a frenzy over political statements at Paul Wellstone's funeral, largely ignored this story. To take the most spectacular demonstration of priorities, last week CNN's 'Inside Politics' found time to cover Matt Drudge's unconfirmed (and untrue) allegations about the price of John Kerry's haircuts. 'Just two days after moving closer to a presidential race, John Kerry already is in denial mode,' intoned the host. But when the program interviewed Mr. Lott the day after the Thurmond event, his apparent nostalgia for segregation never came up.

"Now Mr. Lott has apologized for a 'poor choice of words.' But choice of words had nothing to do with it. What he did, quite clearly, was offer a retroactive endorsement of a frankly racist campaign."

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/10/opinion/10KRUG.html

Josh Marshall starts with Lott's own words:

"'A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embrace the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.' .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. That's the apology Senator Trent Lott issued in the face of the mounting controversy -- some of it blog-borne -- over his endorsement of Strom Thurmond's segregationist presidential platform from 1948.

"In such a situation one doesn't want to appear to be flogging a dead horse even after the guy has a apologized. And to me this issue transcends partisanship so I especially would not want to appear to be doing that. But frankly this strikes me as a pretty feeble apology. He won't say what 'policies' he's talking about. He won't say they're wrong, just that they were 'discarded'.

"It's probably too much to ask for him to get down on his knees and confess his sins. But given Lott's history of flirtation with neo-segregationist politics and the seriousness of the original statement, something a bit more explicit and specific was and is in order.

"Really, why so grudging? Why so hard to say that he knows, like everyone else knows, that segregation was wrong? It's like getting blood from a stone."

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/

The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes also has little sympathy:

"Lott's original comments were, in fact, a direct endorsement of Thurmond's positions 50 years ago. That's what made them so stunning. Read them again: '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 followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.'

"What, to raise just one of the dozens of possible questions, were the 'problems' we would have avoided by electing a segregationist in 1948? And to raise another, why would Mississippians, years after even Thurmond has seemingly repudiated his repugnant views, still be 'proud' of that vote? Lott hasn't answered those questions or any others. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. The contrition, though late, helps."

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/006jbepy.asp

Andrew Sullivan finds himself with strange bedfellows:

"So now we have Gore, Sharpton and Jesse Jackson piling on. For once, I think they're right. Meanwhile, Lott gives a weird non-apology apology. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"Everyone deserves a break for a 'poor choice of words' but it wasn't the words that really offended. It was the plain meaning of the words. What other words would have sufficed? Notice also the adjective Lott now uses to refer to segregation: 'discarded policies.' Not immoral. Not wrong. Not abhorrent. Merely 'discarded.' And notice too the weasel politician way of not apologizing: only 'some' were offended; and it's only those to whom Lott feels obliged to apologize. And of course, his position as the Republican spokesman in the Senate remains unchallenged by his fellow partisans. It's at times like this that I realize why I'm not a Republican. I could never be in a party that included someone like Trent Lott."

http://www.andrewsullivan.com

InstaPundit Glenn Reynolds sees the possibility of a backlash:

"Lott has apologized, though I'm not sure this will end the matter. On the other hand, Jesse Jackson (whose record in this area isn't very clean: remember 'Hymietown' and his mock-surprise at a black journalists' meeting that so many black people could read and write?) is still on the attack, and he's joined by professional race-baiter Al Sharpton. That's pretty sure to drain the anti-Lott forces of moral authority in short order."

http://64.247.33.250/

USA Today has the African-American fallout:

"Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott's apology failed to quell a growing furor Tuesday over his statement that the country would be better off if Strom Thurmond had won the presidency in 1948 as a segregationist candidate.

"Members of the Congressional Black Caucus questioned whether he should run the Senate when Republicans assume control next month. Some warned that Democrats would anger blacks if they dismissed Lott's remarks as a poor choice of words. And the NAACP called on Lott to step down as Senate Republican leader."

Guess it's now a bona fide story.

"The dispute has not posed an immediate threat to Lott's leadership job. But some Senate Republicans acknowledged privately that his words had caused Republicans embarrassment and would embolden Democrats to oppose GOP initiatives. They also could undermine President Bush's efforts to attract the votes of blacks, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

"The Black Caucus, made up entirely of House Democrats, is considering a statement condemning Lott's words. NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, a former Democratic congressman, called Lott's statement 'the kind of callous, calculated, hateful bigotry that has no place in the halls of Congress.'"

http://usatoday.com/news/washington/2002-12-10-black-caucus-lott-usat_x.htm

The Black Caucus seems more negative in this New York Times piece:

"Senator Trent Lott's remarks at the 100th birthday party for Senator Strom Thurmond continued to haunt him today as the Congressional Black Caucus rejected his apology.

"'His remarks require minimally a much larger apology,' said Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas. 'We are not finished,' said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson, also a Texas Democrat.

"Mr. Lott's remarks, uttered last Thursday and little noticed for a day or so, concerned the 1948 presidential campaign of Mr. Thurmond, who ran as a 'Dixiecrat' on a pro-segregation policy."

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/12/10/politics/10CND-LOTT.html

"Little noticed for a day or so"? The New York Times didn't notice them for five days, until Tuesday's paper.

Boston Phoenix's Dan Kennedy questions Lott's link to "the Council of Conservative Citizens, a notorious white-supremacist group.

"In fact, the CCofC's website -- festooned with a Confederate flag -- was full of praise for Lott even before Lott's surprising endorsement of segregation (surprising in the sense that he said it out loud). The site was last updated on Friday, before Lott's racist words had hit the fan. But there's a big smiling photo of him, labeled 'A LOTT of Courage! Sen. Trent Lott calls for the Army to PROTECT U.S. Borders against the Illegal Alien Invasion.' That, in turn, leads you to the transcript of a radio interview Lott recently gave to the Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly in which he did, indeed, suggest the use of troops to keep illegal immigrants out, and to a resolution that the council recently passed in support of Lott. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"Now, it's only fair to note that Lott claims the CCofC's love for him is unrequited. But it's equally fair to point out that Lott seems not to be telling the truth. Consider, for example, this, published in the New Republic in January 1999, when Lott's racist associations briefly became an issue:

"'According to a number of CofCC members, .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. Mississippi Senator Trent Lott is a dues-paying member of the group, which is particularly strong in his home state. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. The Citizens Informer [the CCofC newsletter] occasionally carries Lott's freely distributed newspaper column. Moreover, despite Lott's claim that he had 'no firsthand knowledge' of the CofCC, [Thomas Edsall, of the Washington Post] reported on December 16 that Lott addressed the group in 1992, telling the audience members that they 'stand for the right principles and the right philosophy.'"

http://www.bostonphoenix.com/medialog/index.asp

Okay, one more: Salon's Joe Conason praising one Democrat and slamming the rest:

"Al Gore proved his moral courage. He didn't hesitate to say that he opposed Trent Lott's racist speech, that Lott had to withdraw those remarks, and that if Lott failed to do so, the Senate should censure the Republican leader. Having endured so many venomous attacks from a press that is openly biased against him and would surely relish another chance to sting him, Gore spoke out fearlessly. (It is also a triumph for him over his tormentors in the press. With some honorable exceptions, they waited too long to speak up against Lott's nostalgia for the barbarism of his political forebears.)

"I wish Gore's former colleagues in the Senate had displayed equal bravery. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. The silence on both sides of the aisle was appalling -- if not quite as bad as Tom Daschle's decision to break it by making excuses for Lott."

http://salon.com/politics/conason/2002/12/10/bush/index.html

On to the economic front, being against budget deficits can be dangerous for an aspiring Bush appointee, according to the Los Angeles Times:

"A leading Wall Street figure who was poised to become a senior economic advisor to President Bush found himself the target of fierce lobbying Tuesday by conservative activists who charge that he is insufficiently enthusiastic about tax cuts to serve in the post.

"For a second day, the activists managed to delay the White House's appointment of former Goldman Sachs Chairman Stephen Friedman to head the National Economic Council, a spot vacated by the dismissal of Bush economic advisor Lawrence B. Lindsey. The president had been expected to announce Monday his choice of Friedman when he nominated John W. Snow as his new Treasury secretary.

"The activists are particularly disturbed by Friedman's role as a director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan group that crusades against federal budget deficits. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. 'Our No. 1 objection to Friedman is that he has never really been part of the supply-side, pro-growth club,' said anti-tax activist Stephen Moore.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-gopecon11dec11.story

George W. still has a 62 percent approval rating, says the Wall Street Journal:

"President Bush enjoys a strong tail wind of public opinion as he begins the second half of his term with the twin challenges of reviving the economy and confronting Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

"A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that Americans favor aggressive action on both fronts. A 48% plurality says strengthening the economy should be the top priority for the president and Congress, underscoring the pressure that led Mr. Bush to replace the two leading players on his economic team in recent days.

"At the same time, more than half of Americans continue to support military action against Iraq -- even if it requires large numbers of American troops or increases the threat of terrorist attacks against the U.S."

Fred Barnes tries to knock down six myths about the Dems in the Weekly Standard. Here are are few of them:

"Myth one is the abuse of Daschle. How was he abused? Republicans called him an obstructionist, which of course he was. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"Myth two: Clinton insisted that Republicans have a 'destruction team' but Democrats don't. I'd like to hear what Kenneth Starr, the former independent counsel, thinks about that. In my years in Washington reporting, no figure has been more unfairly maligned than Starr, and it was Democrats who waged the campaign against him during the investigation and impeachment of Clinton. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"Myth three: The media is right-wing dominated. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}. Are Gore and other Democrats paranoid? It seems so. The conservative press is noisy, but it is dwarfed by the TV networks, the national newspapers (except the Wall Street Journal editorial page), CNN, MSNBC, and so on. As a media phenomenon, liberal bias far exceeds any conservative bias. .{sbquo}.{sbquo}.

"Myth five: Bush concocted the Iraq regime-change issue to help Republicans in the fall campaign. Any number of Democrats--Gore and Kerry, to name two--have voiced this charge. True, the Iraq issue may have aided Republicans, if only because Daschle and other Democrats handled it so clumsily. But if it was raised only for the campaign, why is Bush still pursuing it so aggressively, deploying troops to the Persian Gulf region and calling for tougher United Nations inspections?"

http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/995iuhwc.asp

The liberal media. Let's see, would that include Newsweek, which just put a glowing Condi Rice profile on the cover?

Finally, it seems bloody obvious that mistakes were made on the other side of the Atlantic, according to this Washington Times wire report:

"Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, choked backed tears yesterday while publicly acknowledging mistakes in her involvement with an Australian con man.

"Mrs. Blair said she erred twice -- by allowing someone she barely knew to become involved in her family's affairs and by brushing off questions in an attempt to protect her family's privacy.

"Her admission came after days of newspaper stories about Peter Foster, a convicted con artist who helped Mrs. Blair close a $790,000 property deal. Earlier yesterday, the prime minister's office accused the press of 'character assassination' and insisted there was no evidence of wrongdoing in Mrs. Blair's dealings with Foster."

Blame the press! That sounds familiar.

The scandal involves "charges that immigration officials tried to hasten Foster's deportation from Britain and that Mrs. Blair called the con man's attorneys to discuss his case kept the story on front pages."

http://washingtontimes.com/world/20021211-335909.htm

That sure worked well.