I have been watching Sul Ozerden practically all his life. I knew his dad and mother going back to the 1970s. I was always impressed with him and his family, same thing with Louis Guirola. … I am sad about Judge DeLaughter… I hope that is behind us so we can move on now.
There were always two Trent Lotts – one, the Senator who took care of his people; the other Tricia’s husband who cared deeply for his family. Perhaps that’s why the Sunday Sun Herald reports on his post-Senate life in two stories: Life’s busy for Lott… and Lott talks scandal… (another h/t to Steve for the second link)
Hurricane Katrina was a defining event in Lott’s career, one that gave him his finest moment – and thereafter there were no longer two Trent Lotts but one.
…Hurricane Katrina came, and Lott was back in the spotlight. He lost his Pascagoula home to the storm and was suing his insurance company and at the same time working alongside Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, known as “The Quiet Persuader,” to secure billions in federal funds for South Mississippi’s recovery.
The Lotts’ beachfront home in Pascagoula, which the former senator called his “nest egg” hasn’t been rebuilt. Lott says when he’s on the Coast, he is able to stay with relatives. He and his wife Tricia — who had expressed some concerns about rebuilding on the water at the time Lott retired — now have a country home a few miles outside Jackson. Lott said they were buying the property before Katrina, so they used flood insurance money to spruce it up.
His current lifestyle allows for more time with family, which the 67-year-old Lott said he relishes. He intends to stay retired from politics. The way Lott puts it, he doesn’t have much choice.
“I’m tempted to want to get back in the arena, but my wife would absolutely cut my throat from ear to ear,” Lott said with a laugh. “She said for 40 years, I was in the arena and I have done my part. I am enjoying having a little more time with my grandkids and my kids and having a little bit more time. I can say ‘no’ now and not pay a price politically.”
Some have speculated Lott cut his own throat and was forced into retirement, avoiding indictment unlike his brother-in-law Dick Scruggs. Most of the speculation, I suspect, came from those who may have known Senator Lott but didn’t know Tricia’s husband. However, as the trial of Bobby DeLaughter approached, the speculation about Lott’s role resurfaced:
The U.S. Attorneys’ office in north Mississippi did talk to me about it. I told them everything that went on as far as I am concerned. That was strictly a courtesy call. That slot was always going go to (now federal judge) Sul Ozerden down there on the Coast. I assure you, I had one conversation with DeLaughter. I don’t even know DeLaughter. If I have ever met him, I don’t know when it was. He didn’t meet any of the criteria that I look for in federal judges. He was never seriously considered.
The fact of the matter is my brother-in-law is Dickie Scruggs. I can’t deny that. He married my wife’s middle sister. There was nothing as far as I was concerned, and as far I knew from DeLaughter, nothing untoward about that. That very day that I talked to him I had a friend that called from Hattiesburg and asked me to call a lawyer in Petal. I talked to two people that one day that were interested in that. Of course I had people that called me about Sul Ozerden, I had people that called me about (federal judge) Louis Guirola Jr. Dozens of calls like this were made or received over the years.
I didn’t make those choices, that shows you how mistaken some of this stuff is. One of the persons involved had alleged that (U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran) had made the last appointment, so this one was going to be mine. Thad and I didn’t do it that way. Thad and I always did our nominees by consensus. We had to both agree and we were very comfortable with that arrangement. It was not my call and it was not his call. It was our call. We were looking for first of all, some people that we knew. I have been watching Sul Ozerden practically all his life. I knew his dad and mother going back to the 1970s. I was always impressed with him and his family, same thing with Louis Guirola. … I am sad about Judge DeLaughter. The whole thing is very sad with what has gone on with the Bar and the judiciary in the state.
Ever the politician, Lott the lobbyist leaves each to his own to determine what Lott thinks is “sad” and what he thinks “has gone on with the Bar and the judiciary in the state”. Tricia’s husband is still very much Lott the Republican:
Lott left the Senate two years ago, after having held its most powerful position, majority leader, and after serving as one of the architects of modern congressional politics. He and former Louisiana Democratic Sen. John Breaux founded “The Breaux-Lott Leadership Group,” a lobbying firm. Their list of clients includes corporations such as Chevron, Shell, Northrop Grumman, FedEx, Tyson Foods and General Electric, most of which have ties to Mississippi or Louisiana. Lott is also on the corporate board for EADS North America, which has a helicopter plant in Columbus and he also works with the Mississippi Phosphates board.
Lott gave his papers to his alma mater, the University of Mississippi, and has been working with the staff there to organize them. In a recent interview with the Sun Herald, Lott, who was in his Washington office, said he was also writing an article for Politico about how Congress can get things done in the fall. He had recently spoken to a nuclear energy group at the request of the power company Entergy, one of Breaux-Lott’s clients. He sometimes finds himself attending dinners for retiring Capitol Hill staffers, or speaking to groups about military issues or meeting with prospective clients.
“Retirement is not exactly sitting on the front porch in a rocking chair,” Lott said.
Lott said he tries not to “wear out his welcome” when dealing with old Senate colleagues in his new capacity as a lobbyist. Often, he opts to work from behind the scenes, counseling clients about strategy on certain legislative issues in which they are interested. Sometimes he finds himself seeking updates about where legislation is headed from his former Senate cohorts, he said.
Lott’s comments on the current problems with the Republican party indicate he won’t be wearing his welcome out any time soon, particularly with members of the party:
Chip Pickering was a staff member and a friend and I am very close to him and very fond of him. I talked to him this morning. I have been close to his dad for 50 years. It disturbs me to see what several of those guys wound up getting into, but I’ll tell you what I blame it on. When you leave your family somewhere other than where you are, trouble is going to come. A lot of them say ‘I want my kids to grow up back in Nevada or South Carolina or Mississippi.’ No. You want your kids to grow up where you are. As a congressman or senator if you are in Mississippi with your family or in Nevada with your family and not in Washington where your jobs is, you are not doing your job.
When I first came up here, families came with their staff members and congressman and senators, but beginning in the late 1980s and 1990s, frankly under Newt Gingrich, they started saying leave your families back home, go home every weekend, work your districts and get re-elected. That was a huge mistake. That’s one of the things that is wrong with Washington now.
With modern communication, modern transportation all of these modern devices, and families divided, it is not a good life and it is not going to get better until we change that. I maintain that one of the biggest mistakes we ever made was giving a congressman and a senator unlimited airplane tickets home each year. People back home want you to be there, want to see you, want to feel like you are one of them, but the thing is the job is here. If you fly in here on a Monday night and you fly out on Thursday, you are not doing your job…
I started warning my colleagues back in 2005 that we were losing our focus. We were losing some of our better spokesmen. We were beginning to act like we were the government. We were beginning to act like Democrats, quite frankly, thinking that the government was the answer and that is not the Republican way of thinking. Our base began to slip away from us. We lost our message. We lost our messengers. We weren’t producing things that people really cared about. President Bush’s popularity was slipping and the Iraq War was not an easy risk for the Republicans to carry. The combination of that caused us to lose ground in 2006 and 2008.
Washington has gotten to be a lot meaner. It is not just about winning a legislative vote, or winning a political point of view. It has gotten to where it is now that it is just about destruction. That needs to change…
Unless Obama decides to become more pragmatic and move a little bit more back to the center and stop trying to take over everything, he is going to be the best thing that Republicans could have hoped for. Secondly, Republicans have to make clear what they stand for. What’s the message? If it is about freedom and independent responsibility and growth, opportunity, say that. They have got to get some spokesmen and women that can project a positive image that people are comfortable with. Lastly, Republicans need to be thinking about who is our standard bearer in the next big race.
No doubt Tricia’s husband already has some ideas.