What happened
Sen. Trent Lott has received a flurry of calls from law firms that specialize in lobbying since his controversial announcement that he planned to retire just a year after being re-elected to a six-year term. Lott (R-Miss.) is leaving office Dec. 31, a day before a new rule goes into effect prohibiting senators from lobbying their former colleagues for two years. (Bloomberg)

What the commentators said
“Lott's early exit casts a shadow on an extraordinary congressional career,” said Robert Novak in the Chicago Sun-Times. He made a commitment to serve six years, not one. No wonder “well-connected Republicans in Mississippi were shocked” by the news. Leaving now will allow him to start raking in a seven-figure income as a lobbyist after one year, instead of two. It doesn't seem worth it.

There’s an easy way for Lott to show he’s being honest when he says the rule change had nothing to do with his decision, said The Washington Post in an editorial (free registration). He can “comply with the two-year cooling-off period” even though he doesn’t have to. He’ll still be able to “make a whole lot of money” doing activities that are permitted, and his “departure would look a bit less unseemly.”

The important thing is what comes next for the party, not Lott, said David Freddoso in National Review Online. Lott—the Senate minority whip—leaves a leadership void and “an intra-party fight” has already begun to fill his shoes. “Conservatives will have a dog in this fight as they seek to fill the party leadership with Republicans who embrace both social and fiscal conservatism, and who will promote the message of earmark reform that could save a caucus apparently doomed to lose seats in 2008.”