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Lott-in-Mouth Syndrome?

Lott-in-Mouth Syndrome? Gone with the wind are the good old days of joking about the South. It certainly won’t rise again at this rate.

During a Lincoln Day celebration speech in Knoxville, Tenn., over the weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) “warmed the crowd with a collection of jokes and anecdotes,” according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. But one of his quips prompted hair-trigger charges of racism from Democrats and liberal media Web sites.[IMGCAP(1)]

The liberal blog DC’s Inside Scoop picked up the story from the Knoxville paper with its own headline that blared: “Déjà vu: Lindsay [sic] Graham’s Racist Comment Brings Back Memories of Trent Lott.”

In his Knoxville speech, Graham said, “We don’t do Lincoln Day Dinners in South Carolina. It’s nothing personal, but it takes awhile to get over things.”

DC’s Inside Scoop suggested that Graham apologize to blacks for his apparent reference to President Abraham Lincoln’s role in emancipating slaves after the Civil War ended.

Kevin Bishop, a spokesman for Graham, said the reference had nothing to do with the Senator’s real views toward the Civil War, slavery or the Emancipation Proclamation. He said the audience understood it to be a “light-hearted comment. Unfortunately, without proper context, statements in print can sometimes come across in a much different light.”

“No offense was intended and he hopes none was taken,” Bishop added.

But some Democrats, more privately than publicly, expressed outrage and offense. Jano Cabrera, a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee, stepped up to the role of offended and outraged American: “Sen. Graham should apologize. Forlornly reflecting on a dark period of America’s history was what deposed [former Senate Majority Leader] Trent Lott. He should know better.”

Lott was forced to step down after his claim at then-Sen. Strom Thurmond’s (R-S.C.) 100th birthday party that if the now-deceased Senator had been elected president as the segregationist candidate in 1948, “We wouldn’t have had all these problems over all these years.”

Bishop noted that Graham, a colonel in the Air Force Reserves, was speaking in an area of Tennessee that did not secede from the Union. He said as the only Senator currently serving in the armed forces, Graham is “fully committed to protecting and preserving the Union.”

March Madness. Forget about Social Security: The biggest issue on Capitol Hill this week, at least for Southern Senators, is basketball, with the ACC tournament held in Washington for the first time ever.

On Tuesday, ESPN began taping segments featuring selected Senators. They will air throughout the tournament, which tips off at 7 p.m. Thursday at the MCI Center.

“The biggest power in Washington right now … is from North Carolina,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) says in his taped segment. “I’m proud to be a Senator that’s home to the Tar Heels, Blue Devils, the Wolfpack and the Demon Deacons.”

Burr, a Demon Deacon through and through — he played football at Wake Forest University — will also be doing commentary throughout the tournament on the Wake Forest Sports Network.

Since his state has the most and the best teams in the ACC tournament, Burr will likely get more airtime on ESPN than, say, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), whose Clemson Tigers ranked dead last in the conference.

Chris Alexopoulos, the ESPN producer in charge of taping the segments, told HOH he was “taken aback” by the interest among Senators. He said the network had to turn some of them away.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), whose Terrapins have defeated Duke twice (but also lost to Clemson), made the cut. “Never bet against an incumbent. … And the Terps are the reigning champs,” Mikulski’s script reads. “They’ll be strong on defense — that’s always helpful in D.C.”

Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) is scheduled to record his segments today on Capitol Hill, including this line: “Alongside the halls of Congress the game’s most storied conference convenes the campaign for its crown. And while the goal of the Senate is a nonpartisan consensus, there’s no such thing around here when it comes to hoops.”

Apparently the network is banking on North Carolina teams doing well. “If it’s Duke versus North Carolina in the final, our ratings are going to go through the roof,” Alexopoulus told HOH.

All Gannon, All the Time. Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) finally heard back from the Secret Service on how the conservative White House reporter known by his pseudonym Jeff Gannon secured daily clearances into the White House for almost two years. But they aren’t exactly satisfied with the answers they got.

Slaughter and Conyers, the ranking members respectively on the Rules and Judiciary committees, say the response leaves many unanswered questions, including how often Gannon was cleared and who at the White House was responsible for submitting his name for clearance.

In its letter to the lawmakers, the Secret Service said Gannon was given clearance under his legal name, James Guckert, rather than his pen name. Conrad Everett, deputy assistant director of the Secret Service, said “there was no deviation from Secret Service standards and procedures,” as Slaughter and Conyers have suggested.

Everett said the Secret Service, following federal guidelines, determines clearance based on whether an applicant “presents a potential source of physical danger to the president and/or the family of the president so serious as to justify his or her exclusion from White House privileges.”

Slaughter and Conyers said the letter won’t suffice. “We will not rest until the White House fully explains this matter. We will keep asking the tough questions until we get the real answers. The responsibility for full and open disclosure here lies at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. If the White House has nothing to hide, why don’t they just come clean?” Slaughter said in a statement provided to HOH.

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