Although he has been in office less than three (3) months, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has quickly shown himself to be insensitive - if not downright stupid - in terms of how his pandering to the extreme right of the Republican Party has reaped near non-stop negative publicity for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Last month we saw the debacle of the McDonnell/Cuccinelli anti-gay jihad that backfired and caused McDonnell to adopt an unenforceable Executive Directive in a desperate effort to staunch the daily flow of negative PR sweeping the media and the blogosphere. Now, with no apparent assistance from Kookinelli, McDonnell has ignited a new firestorm by issuing a proclamation naming the month of April "Confederate History Month."
I have no problem with valuing history. But to issue the proclamation with no language condemning slavery or some of the wrongs done by supporters of the Confederacy in this day and age was simply idiocy.
Even former Governor James Gilmore (who rarely scored high on the sensitivity charts) had the common sense to modify his proclamation and add strong disclaimers about the wrongs of slavery. Not so with McDonnell, who likely was repaying a campaign chit to the Virginia Chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans - an organization which I myself could seek membership in based on Confederate ancestors from the New Orleans branch of my mother's family were I willing to mark myself as an insensitive bigot.
The Washington Post took McDonnell to task in its main April 7, 2010 editorial and Larry Sabato - a sometimes fan of McDonnell - has joined in the condemnation along with many Virginia Democrats and commentators across the media spectrum. Is McDonnell really that stupid, or does he need to (1) fire some staff and (2) stop listening to the whispers of Pat Robertson and fans of the Klan?
Here are highlights from the Washington Post's editorial:
IT WAS only in 1997, 132 years after the Civil War, that Virginia finally retired "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia" as its state song, acknowledging that the lyrics (including "this old darky's heart" and "old Massa") offended blacks, among others. Now, inexplicably, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) has issued a proclamation that blatantly airbrushes the history of Virginia, the Civil War and the United States, again raising questions about how far the Old Dominion has evolved, or not.
It's fine that Mr. McDonnell decided to proclaim April as Confederate History Month; the Confederacy is an important chapter of history that merits study and draws tourists to Virginia. But any serious statement on the Confederacy and the Civil War would at least recognize the obvious fact -- that slavery was the major cause of the war, and that the Confederacy fought largely in defense of what it called "property," which meant the right to own slaves. Instead, Mr. McDonnell's proclamation chose to omit this, declaring instead that Virginians fought "for their homes and communities and Commonwealth." The words "slavery" and "slaves" do not appear.
Even more incendiary is the proclamation's directive that "all Virginians" must appreciate the state's "shared" history and the Confederacy's sacrifices. . . .
If Mr. McDonnell was unable to draft a historically honest statement, the best course would have been to follow the example of his direct predecessors, former Democratic governors Timothy M. Kaine and Mark L. Warner, who sidestepped the issue.
Laryy Sabato's comments as reported by Blue Virginia are equally critical and make one wonder what new fiasco waits around the corner in the coming month or months. McDonnell takes his Catholicism very seriously, but that doesn't mean he has to act like he is living in a bubble and out of touch with reality like the current Pope when it comes to acknowledging the Church's sex abuse disaster. Here are some of Sabato's comments:
Already tweeted about Gov. McDonnell's Confederate proclamation, but it's becoming increasingly clear this is a disaster for him & VA...McDonnell is even being denounced in a Richmond Times-Dispatch edit. The RTD normally leads the cheers for the GOV...VA's national image is suffering. It looks like the Old Dominion again, not the New Dominion so many in BOTH parties have worked hard for...Unlike some, I have no problems with a proclamation saluting Civil War sacrifices & urging study and reflection as we approach war's Sesqui...But it MUST include unqualified condemnations of slavery and secession. To do less is to elevate 19th century VA over 21st century VA...In his own interests, and the state's, Gov. McDonnell must amend this proclamation promptly or face long-lasting recriminations & turmoil...I know Bob McDonnell a bit. He was born in Philly, grew up in NoVa, has never shown slightest evidence of prejudice that I've seen...He hoped to slip this in quietly to please a small vocal part of VA constituency. Didn't work. Now he's being redefined by it.
Bob, if you have aspirations for higher office, you really need to get your head out of Pat Robertson and Victoria Cobb's butts and think before you shoot off your mouth or sign some dunderheaded order or proclamation. You are making all Virginians look ridiculous. And we do not appreciate it whatsoever.