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McDonnell's apology raises questions about what he really believes

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By Robert McCartney
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 8, 2010

"There was a right side and a wrong side in the late war, which no sentiment ought to cause us to forget." -- Frederick Douglass, 1878.

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Although he acted only under severe pressure, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was obviously right Wednesday afternoon to admit a major mistake, issue an apology and add a vital new paragraph clarifying his original proclamation of Confederate History Month.

But the episode raises concerns about what McDonnell really believes and what Virginia's Republican Party stands for when it comes to the state's African Americans and other minorities.

McDonnell (R) is still stuck with having made the astonishing blunder of issuing a formal statement Friday that effectively endorsed the South's cause in the Civil War.

He didn't quite say it explicitly. But there was no other way to interpret it.

The first paragraph said "the people of Virginia" joined the Confederacy in a war "for independence."

It said they "fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth." It urged reflection on their "sacrifices." It implied it was too bad they were "ultimately overwhelmed" by the North's "insurmountable" resources.

Nowhere did the original statement condemn or even acknowledge the fact that the South was fighting primarily to defend a society based on slavery, as the Confederacy's own leaders said at the time. It neglected to mention that the state joined the Lost Cause without consulting the one-fourth of Virginians in bondage because of their race.

When asked by reporters on Tuesday to explain why slavery wasn't included, McDonnell said it wasn't "significant" enough.


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