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1861 all over again in Virginia

Democratic strategist Ben Tribbett runs down a forgotten bit of recent Virginia history, the controversy in 2002 over then-Del. Bob McDonnell's use of a pledge written by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to open sessions of the House of Delegates. African Americans of the House were furious, refusing to participate. Here's how The Post's Michael Shear reported it:

Del. Robert F. McDonnell (R-Virginia Beach), who introduced the salute last week, said he regards it as a "wholesome and healthy and patriotic" message. He said the intent was not to be divisive, and urged members to take the salute's words at face value.

"We don't inquire about the values and the feelings and the backgrounds of a patron of a bill," he said. "We look at what the legislation says. Where does that stop? Will we have to distance ourselves from the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence because they were written by slave-owners?"

Two things here. First, McDonnell's 2005 and 2009 campaign team did brilliant work by reintroducing him to voters as a pragmatic problem-solver, with no interest in divisive politics. Second, as minor as this story is, as much of a no-brainer as it looks to conservatives, you couple it with the Confederate History Month declaration and it makes it just a little tougher to see McDonnell as a national candidate in 2012 or 2016.

By David Weigel  |  April 7, 2010; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  Conservatives  
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