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Tilting at Windmills

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April 8, 2010

CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES.... Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) came under quite a bit of criticism yesterday as the public learned of his latest proclamation, declaring this "Confederate History Month" in the commonwealth -- a practice recent Virginia governors had ended. Making matters worse, unlike the state's last Republican governor, McDonnell made no reference to slavery in his declaration.

Adding insult to injury, the governor said he limited the scope of his declaration to the issues he thought "were most significant for Virginia" -- a sentiment that seemed to suggest he considered slavery and its role in the Civil War to be unimportant.

McDonnell's declaration generated intense and widespread criticism. The DNC's Tim Kaine, McDonnell's predecessor, was incensed, and civil rights groups, editorial boards, and some of the governor's allies were openly critical. Even conservative bloggers found it hard to defend.

By late yesterday afternoon, McDonnell conceded that he was wrong.

After a barrage of nationwide criticism for excluding slavery from his Confederate History Month proclamation, Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) on Wednesday conceded that it was "a major omission" and amended the document to acknowledge the state's complicated past. [...]

Wednesday afternoon the governor issued a mea culpa for the document's exclusion of slavery. "The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission," McDonnell said in a statement. "The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed."

McDonnell also called the nation's first elected black governor, L. Douglas Wilder (D) of Virginia, and the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Del. Kenneth Cooper Alexander (D-Norfolk), to apologize after they said they were offended by the document. McDonnell told them that he would alter the proclamation to include slavery and acknowledge that it was the cause of the Civil War.

The apology was not universally accepted.

John Dickerson noted the larger political context, in which McDonnell had tried to position himself "as a post-ideological 'future face of the Republican Party,'" a ploy that now seems rather absurd. The GOP's far-right base already adored McDonnell, but in contemporary Republican circles, that never seems to be enough -- party officials keep trying to do more to impress right-wing activists, no matter how insulting or offensive the efforts may be to everyone else.

Steve Benen 8:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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I don't believe McDonnell. I see no reason to trust him. Why did Virginia's voters?

Posted by: freelunch on April 8, 2010 at 8:16 AM | PERMALINK

McDonnell did this in the most idiotic way possible. He revived a dead "holiday" and then denied slavery was important. Only after he got criticism did he decide slavery was important after all. He pretty much guaranteed that everyone was pissed at him.

Posted by: Unstable Isotope on April 8, 2010 at 8:18 AM | PERMALINK

them damn macaca moments git easier to deal with ever' time.
suckers...

if you still think mcdonnell's soul drags its knuckles on the ground, why you must be one of those he may have offended -- and he is sooo sorrryy.

Posted by: neill on April 8, 2010 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

The whole problem with 'Confederate' history and it's adherents is that they firmly stop at Appomattox: no mention of Reconstruction and it's slide into the Jim Crow era; no mention of the rise of a White Supremacy culture (abetted by Northern politicians who sold out freed blacks for the economic colonization of the conquered South to the benefit of a small Southern Ruling class, and an Abolitionist movement that turned it gazed to Temperance..) The politics of Lynching never gets a mention, as well as the dispossession and terrorizing of the blacks population up through the '60s...
And the existence of Unionists, or Southerners who turned against the Confederacy, is never mentioned...The disaffection of the folks in my part of the South (the Southern Appalachians) has been covered up by the dreadful construct of "Southern Heritage", that had nothing to do with the Brother against Brother struggle that was the reality. My own family's history gives lie to the noble myths based only on the military history.
One of the things that makes the Texas Schoolbook controversy is that Southerners got a very distorted version of history, where Mrs. Mitchell's powerful, if racist, romance novel Gone With the Wind is taken for real history. The generation of Teabaggers are the folks who got the 'Heritage' version in their schoolbooks, one with happy slaves where 'State's rights' had nothing to do with slavery. It's a damnable lie, and should be exposed, not celebrated.

Posted by: MR Bill on April 8, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Raw Story linked to the WaPo "Postpartisan" article on this. Go read the comments for some risable neo-Confederates.
Take away: these clowns always seem say the War Between the States wasn't about slavery at all! They then beat their breasts about their love for "their country" (the USA, not CSA), and the Constitution.
Guess who took up arms against "their country" and its Constitution?

Posted by: Stan H on April 8, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Uh, Steve, I think Gail Collins might have laid claim to the title of your post.

Posted by: Scott F. on April 8, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

One thing's for sure: April sure has become "Confederate History Month," but not exactly in the way these yahoos intended.

Posted by: Virginia on April 8, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

The Sons of Confederate Veterans weren't uniformly happy that the apology was issued or the proclamation changed. Some were insulted.

Contacted this afternoon by TPMmuckraker, Dorsey said he was unaware of McDonnell's apology. After it was read to him, Dorsey said the apology "comes as a shock," and accused the governor of "pandering to people who never would have voted for him nor supported any of his policies."

Making clear that he was speaking only for himself, Dorsey said that the apology "completely undermined the purpose of the resolution." He added: "We would probably have rather not had a proclamation whatsoever, than for him to add a clause that says that everything that we support and everything we hold dear has to do with slavery."

http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/04/sons_of_confederate_vets_split_on_mcdonnell_apolog.php?ref=fpb

Posted by: sue on April 8, 2010 at 8:30 AM | PERMALINK

MR Bill summarizes this nicely. WHen I lived in the south I was shocked to learn what a typical southerner takes to be "history" wrt Civil war and its aftermath.

If the VA gov. was aiming to develop a full discourse, examining the roots and consequences of the Civil War, provide light into what was essentially an attack on the US, etc., maybe that would have been fine. Of course, he was not aiming for that, was he. On the bright side, if anyone had any illusions as to this guy's motives and true beliefs, I think this clears it up. Just another "suck up to the southern/christian wing of the R party" hack.

Posted by: bigwisc on April 8, 2010 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Stars and bars southerners desperately want their cause to be noble, but the injection of slavery as an issue makes the entire Confederacy very much ignoble. So they ignore slavery or try to repudiate its importance.

LGM consistently calls it treason, which it was.

Posted by: Mudge on April 8, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

Why not run with it:
Confederate History Month
Day 11: Fort Pillow Day, Confederate army massacres
Black prisoners.
Day 15: Nathan Forrest Day, Confederate General founder of KKK

Etc.

Posted by: Himself on April 8, 2010 at 8:37 AM | PERMALINK

A reader above asks a good question: How did this birdbrain become governor of Virginia a year after the state went for Obama. Here are a few observations:
--Virginia’s strange electoral cycle elects single term governors the year after a Presidential year - just at the moment when disillusionment with the new President is usually at its height. As a result, the party that lost the Presidential almost always wins the VA governorship.
--The three-way Democratic primary was a fiasco. The strongest potential candidate, Terry McAuliffe, was detested by the Daily Kos crowd for being a Clinton-era “triangulator.” The slugfest between Terry and the other liberal in the race, Brian Moran, succeeded in knocking them both out. This allowed a colorless, little-known Blue Dog from southern Virginia, Creigh Deeds, to win.
--Deeds come-from-behind win was largely attributed to an endorsement from the Washington Post, which got him a chunk of the Northern Virginia vote. Did it occur to Virginia Democrats that Fred Hiatt might not have their best interests at heart?
--Without going into depressing detail, Deeds’ campaign was simply one of the worst I have ever seen.
--McDonnell has a good haircut, a perky wife, and photogenic kids. He ran as a moderate. Who could possibly have imagines that after getting into office he would reveal himself as a right-wing know nothing? (snark)

Posted by: Virginia on April 8, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

Governor McDonnell's original proclamation was correct and it is regretable that he has not stuck with it.

As we move forward in our country, we will continue to observe the impacts and effects that The War of Northern Aggression caused in our country.

As proud defenders of our founding fathers' original intent, we will accept apologies only when the amendments to the Constitution that have decimated the original intent are repealed. Specifically, we call for the repeal of the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 19th amendments.

Posted by: TheConfederacyLives on April 8, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

So McDonnell has pissed off gays and blacks and apparently now the NRA manly men crowd with his apology. Has he pissed off the women yet?

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 8, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

Right, it is hard to imagine a more fringe political party---and yet, the American people are going to vote these lunatics back into power in 2010. If that doesn't scare the few remaining sane Americans, I don't know what would. So, sure, it is nuts that there are people like this Gov, who are willing to pander to the worst in America, but it is waaayyyyy more nuts that the American people are going to return them to their rulership.

Posted by: ralph Kramden on April 8, 2010 at 8:45 AM | PERMALINK

The translation of TheConfederacyLives on April 8, 2010 at 8:45 AM is:

The reich wing will be satisfied when there is no income tax, women do not have the right to vote, and good white Amerikkkans are again allowed to own slaves.

Posted by: AmusedOldVet on April 8, 2010 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

In other exciting news, the Democrats in Georgia have a candidate to run against our local, state and national embarrassment, Paul Broun: Russell Edwards.

http://www.onlineathens.com/stories/040810/new_603252127.shtml#mdw-comments

Posted by: anomaly on April 8, 2010 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Any apology that includes the phrase "to any[one] who has been offended" is NOT an apology. It puts the onus on those who took offense, and implies something unreasonable about their perception.

If you're going to apologize, then take the responsibility and the blame. Don't try to shift it around.

(Of course, the "to any fellow Virginian" part is additionally offensive, implying that anyone outside the state has no stake in the matter and no business reacting to it. And it seems rather shortsighted for someone who apparently harbors national aspirations.)

Posted by: jvwalt on April 8, 2010 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

Why is flying a Confederate Flag not the same as flying a Nazi Flag.

We kicked both of their asses.

Posted by: SHARKSBREATH on April 8, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

A couple of posters on the Wednesday thread wrote that the war was 150 years ago and we should all forget about it. What they don't understand is that in the South, for many, 150 years ago was yesterday. However, they can't quite remember the details.

Nathan Bedford Forrest has replaced Abe Lincoln as the titular head of the RepuG Party.

Posted by: berttheclock on April 8, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

--The three-way Democratic primary was a fiasco. The strongest potential candidate, Terry McAuliffe, was detested by the Daily Kos crowd for being a Clinton-era “triangulator.”

I think it was more or less a carpetbagger problem: he didn't seem to have done anything in VA politics before this and it injected a whole bunch of national baggage into the primary. McDonnell ran as a fake moderate and Deeds ran as a fake conservative, and the fake moderate won.

Has he pissed off the women yet?

I'm guessing this is sarcasm (with current politics I can't tell anymore), but if anyone needs a refresher there's the thesis thing. "He wrote in the thesis that working women and feminists had been 'detrimental' to the traditional family and criticized federal tax credits for child care because they made it easier for women to be employed outside the home. "

One more stupid thing about VA politics is that governors are limited to one term. Turns all the statewide positions into a game of musical chairs. If you don't like your governor, he's gone in one term. If you do like your governor, he's gone in one term. It means that the governor is always angling for the next job instead of doing his damn work.

Posted by: ericblair on April 8, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Down here, the South didn't lose, it has just made a strategic retreat;>

Confederacy history in the South only deals with battles, never with politics. So the war wasn't fought about slaves, it was fought about fighting, apparantly. Of course, all of the Noble Cause crap didn't start showing up until about 1875 when the North caved on Reconstruction. Downhill from there.

Posted by: martin on April 8, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

[cue Queen - Another One Bites the Dust]

Posted by: John Henry on April 8, 2010 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Why did Virginia's voters?

The ten-cent version is:

(1) Creigh Deeds ran a Martha-Coakley-style non-campaign;

(2) Bob McDonnell lied his ass off about virtually everything; and

(3) A lot of Virginians are flat-out gullible.

Posted by: DH Walker on April 8, 2010 at 9:19 AM | PERMALINK

As we move forward in our country, we will continue to observe the impacts and effects that The War of Northern Aggression caused in our country.

Well, the US knows how to deal with traitors, if that's what you mean.

Posted by: DH Walker on April 8, 2010 at 9:23 AM | PERMALINK

Has he pissed off the women yet?

I'm guessing this is sarcasm (with current politics I can't tell anymore), but if anyone needs a refresher there's the thesis thing. "He wrote in the thesis that working women and feminists had been 'detrimental' to the traditional family and criticized federal tax credits for child care because they made it easier for women to be employed outside the home."

Not intended to be sarcasm. I was aware of this that was simply dismissed by the knuckle dragging crowd as something he said in the past and should not be part of the debate. The same knuckle dragging crowd has dug up everything said in the past regarding Obama and anyone he has chosen and used it repeatedly. But I guess what I'm asking is has he done anything since being elected to demonstrate that his past remarks were indeed true to his beliefs now, just as asserted by his opposition during the campaign? Would be an I told you so to rub in some faces.

Posted by: flyonthewall on April 8, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

But I guess what I'm asking is has he done anything since being elected to demonstrate that his past remarks were indeed true to his beliefs now, just as asserted by his opposition during the campaign?

Cut him some slack - he's only been in office for a few months. He can only antagonize so many targets of right-wing bigotry at a time.

Posted by: DH Walker on April 8, 2010 at 9:32 AM | PERMALINK

Way too many of voters in Virgina who voted for Pres. Obama decided to sleep in during the Gubernatorial Election in Virginia, I worked at the polls and the turnout was abysmal. I'd like to think that these folks have noticed the antics of Cuccinelli, our horrifying Attorney General, and the "so called moderate" Gov. McDonnell and will show up in 2010, but not holding my breath. At the moment it seems misinformation fueled by anger is in the lead. Maybe Cuccinelli showing up the speak at the open carry rally in Alexandria this weekend will arouse some of the slumbering.

Posted by: Kathryn on April 8, 2010 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 over their various dissatisfactions with Al Gore are not real Democrats. Democrats who bypassed the opportunity to vote when a right-wing loon like McConnell was running for office are not real Democrats. Democrats who sit on their hands in the upcoming midterms over their various disappointments with President Obama, thereby facilitating the election of more violence-inciting rightwing Republicans, are not real Democrats.

Posted by: bluestatedon on April 8, 2010 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Tomorrow, April 9, is the 145th anniversary of the surrender of the Southern Traitors at Appomattox.

Let's spend the day reminding today's Party of Stonewall Jackson (who fought because he was a white supremacist) that they LOST! They are LOSERS! Always have been - always will be!

April 9, the new holiday: Wingnut Losers Day

Posted by: TCinLA on April 8, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

I am profoundly offended by the entire concept of "Confederate History Month."

In the framing of this discussion, we have conceded that Confederate History Month should even be celebrated.

Imagine Japanese Americans openly celebrating Pearl Harbor and honoring the brave pilots who gave their lives to strike back (as long as were revising history) against the American aggresors.

Such an absurdity would blasted as un-American, and not just by the Palinites.

The Confederacy was dedicated to preserving the notion that white people should have the right to own black people as property, period.

If they'd won, mine tragedies like the one that occured in WV would be regular occurances because, replacing dead slaves would be much cheaper than slowing down coal production.

What is wrong with Virginia voters?

Posted by: Winkandanod on April 8, 2010 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Klink, you idiot! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 8, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Alexander Stephens, Vice Presdient of the Confederate States of America, explains on march 21, 1861, what the South is fighting for and what the difference is between the CSA and the USA:

The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted... Jefferson's ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. ... Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 8, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

I agree with @Winkandanod above. To do anything to honor the Confederacy is appalling.

But if he would have announced "Civil War History Month", that would have been a different story, offering the possibility of reflecting on the entire war: both sides of the conflict, the secession of West Virginia, the crime of slavery, African-Americans who fought with the Union, and so forth. One of the motives given by the Gov and others is to promote Virginia tourism. An honest appraisal of the Civil War could have done that, providing incentive to visit the battlefields and other historic sites (including colonial Williamsburg, which isn't about the Civil War but has coverage of slave life in Virginia).

Posted by: meander on April 8, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Governer McDonnell, meet the Texas Board of Education.

Posted by: * on April 8, 2010 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

McDonnell's comments reflect the mindset of his base. What is interesting is that Va. voters just voted this guy in last year after a couple successful democratic governors had served the state. Really not sure what they were thinking. Democrats are in trouble if they're losing state elections to guys like this.

Posted by: Bruce on April 8, 2010 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

"The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed."

"And if you are not a Virginian but were offended or disappointed, well, STFU."

Posted by: josef on April 8, 2010 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

So, everybody around here hates Sen. Jim Webb for talking about how the Confederacy was really about states' rights and is unfairly maligned, right?

Posted by: John Thacker on April 8, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Why did Virginia elect McDonnell after just going for Obama?

All of the reasons sited above, plus one: African Americans did not get out and vote. Creigh Deeds made no connection with them at all. None. And the Democrats turned their backs on them completely. Just sayin'...

Posted by: chrenson on April 8, 2010 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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