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With apology for misstep, McDonnell promises no Confederate History Month next year

Rosalind Helderman

Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) announced Friday morning that he will declare April 2011 "Civil War in Virginia" month, rather than "Confederate History Month," as he offered a humble apology for a proclamation this year that omitted reference to slavery's role in the war.

Speaking at a scholarly conference about slavery hosted as part of Virginia's commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War at Norfolk State University, McDonnell called this year's proclamation an "error of haste, not heart."

"My major and unacceptable omission of slavery disappointed and hurt a lot of people--myself included," he said.

McDonnell drew criticism from across the county this year when he declared April Confederate History Month, a proclamation that came at the request of the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Even President Obama weighed in, chiding McDonnell for failing to mention the role that slavery played in the state was the capital of the Confederacy.

Within days, McDonnell had apologized and reissued the proclamation with a new reference to the "abomination" of slavery.

But in brief remarks at Friday's conference, McDonnell promised next year he will go farther, pledging to issue no proclamation honoring Confederate history, but rather one that acknowledges the broader sweep of the war in Virginia.

"One hundred and fifty years is long enough for Virginia to fight the Civil War," he told the 1,600 attendees of the conference on "Race, Slavery and Civil War: The Tough Stuff of American History and Memory."

He promised Virginia would conduct a sensitive commemoration of the war in coming years.

"For this to be truly one nation, under God, it required the abolition of slavery," he said. "A modern Virginia will take four years and will remember that past with candor, with courage and with conciliation."

In so doing, he will follow the lead of former governor Jim Gilmore (R), who broke with his predecessor governor George Allen (R) and first issued a Confederate History Month proclamation that included anti-slavery language and then changed the proclamation to note the Civil War broadly rather than the Confederacy.

Democratic former governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine declined to issue any declaration for the month, with Warner calling such documents a lightening rod that prevents racial reconciliation.

By Rosalind Helderman  | September 24, 2010; 9:20 AM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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A little more social conscience than we have seen from McDonnell in the past. Let's hope this is the start of a trend that continues.

Posted by: samsara15 | September 24, 2010 9:53 AM | Report abuse

To be united under God, the United States still has a long way to go he forgot to mention desegregation in his speech as being another step towards seeking absolution too. That being said, I am still of the mindset that the US should let go of some of its history to avoid apologies for the oversight of some incompetent speech writer. I mean you don't see the British running around honouring Cromwell and the Civil War. I know he did much that can be seen as questionable, but then his decisions were based on his belief in his faith and yet even he ironically saw policy and choices made as erred in the end. Still without fanfare the Brits learned to reap the benefits of the order he brought, delivering many from the kind of tyranny that existed. The question is when will America leave God out of things and just put its emphasis on unity from humanity?

Posted by: brickman1 | September 24, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Just think, on last week on these blogs ... so many Virginia residents with very strong opinions about DC, Fenty, Gray and Rhee - who neither live in DC nor work in DC.

So today, we'll talk about VA. Not the UVA shooting that garnered nationwide coverage, or the VA Tech shooting that did the same; not the crazy fool that killed his neighbor in the so-called calm exurbs over a speedbump.

But over the CIVIL WAR that was over 145 years ago. That's Virginia's claim to fame, a war it led, lost and had its president in Richmond. A war, 145 years later, it clings to like it was 2008. A war it is proud of for some reason. A war it gives more attention to than the Gulf War in 1990. But that's VA.

Posted by: morrisday1 | September 24, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Fair enough.

Posted by: bigbrother1 | September 24, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

I trust people note that there's a difference between "a misstep" and stupid.

Posted by: bpotter1942 | September 24, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

> lightening rod

Is that something like a flashlight?

Seriously, this is a welcome and unexpected change

In no other country would the symbol and history of a defeated insurrection be so celebrated for so long

Posted by: GWGOLDB | September 24, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

why not just call it Virginian History Month?

Attendence is down at Williamsburg and there is a lot more History to Virginia then just the civil war era.

Mcdonnell is a doofus.

Posted by: MarilynManson | September 24, 2010 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Good for him. Good for Virginia (I'm sure there will be a lot of grumbling, though).

Of course, it's a step he had to take if he has any presidential aspirations.

Posted by: hitpoints | September 24, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

It is amazing someone of that age and position can be so inconsiderate. But, I guess better late than never for the poor saps of the backwater Commonwealth of Virginia.

Posted by: johng1 | September 24, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I liked the gesture, however, he still has the backing and counsel of Mr. KooKoo...imbalence there?

Posted by: fairness3 | September 24, 2010 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Well, at least he learns from his mistakes.

Next up: The stupid ABC plan.

Posted by: hoos3014 | September 24, 2010 10:18 AM | Report abuse

no doubt he was more truthful about his feelings the first time.

Posted by: newagent99 | September 24, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Couldn't resist mentioning god, could he?

Posted by: jckdoors | September 24, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

"wish i was in the land of cotton"

"carry me back to ol virginny"

Posted by: OldSalt8 | September 24, 2010 10:55 AM | Report abuse

The Civil War was a watershed event in American History. Whenever someone mentions the "Founding fathers" I point out that many of them owned slaves and all were willing to tolerate slavery. The Civil war not only put a full stop to that issue, it put the National government in the place of guaranteeing individual rights against the actions of the states.
The 14th amendment fundamentally changed the relationship between the federal government and the states. Read the language:

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

The requirement of due process, both substantive and procedural, and equal protection are fundamental to our concept of ordered liberty

That is worth celebrating, in Virginia or anywhere else.

Posted by: Vince5 | September 24, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Virginia is for LOSERS!

Seriously, this guy didn't even go to a real law school! He went to some goofy evagelical no-name dump.

He is a HACK!

Posted by: trenda | September 24, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Virginia is for LOSERS!

Seriously, this guy didn't even go to a real law school! He went to some goofy evagelical no-name dump.

He is a HACK!

Posted by: trenda | September 24, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

You can't discuss the American Civil War without getting into the history of the Confederacy. Though I would disagree with there actually being a day dedicated to one historical viewpoint, I think this was blown outta proportion.

Posted by: UnknownHenson | September 24, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Actually, how about an appreciation month where all the white people of ol' backwater Virginia are made to be subservient to black folk. Whips can be used. Let's do it. I think they could learn their history lessons very quickly!

Posted by: johng1 | September 24, 2010 11:37 AM | Report abuse

A Rose by any other name...

Won't stop some fool from giving out a loud Rebel Yell from his oversized pickup while a scattering of crushed Bud cans and empty Southern Comfort pint bottles litter the truck bed...


Then again, don't need no official 'Holiday' for that

Posted by: kahlua87 | September 24, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

theblueeyeddog876: Nice. You appear to be proof that evolution has its limits.

Posted by: Gunga2009 | September 24, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

"Common sense is an inadequate compass but should not be ruled out as a tool of thought"

Posted by: kendra2 | September 24, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

I just don't understand my state's obsession with the civil war. Seriously, with all the issues this state is facing, who cares about this declaration. McDonnell should be using his time to come up with ways to generate more revenue that don't include selling all the ABC stores.

Posted by: wmwilliams14 | September 24, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Well said, Governor.
You might want to kick off the commemoration at the historical marker at 9700 Fairfax Blvd., Fairfax, VA‎, where the first Confederate soldier lost his life. Now, as then, it is just an ordinary place on an ordinary highway, but it is a poignant reminder of those who have gone before us.

Posted by: dricks | September 24, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: RobInVaBeach | September 24, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Funny how the same folks yelling at the top of their lungs about "This is America, we speak English here!" are often times the same so-called patriots who (in Virginia, at least) crow about how their great-great-grandfathers fought so valiantly *against* the Union ... Ugh.

I have breaking news, folks: Lincoln freed the slaves! Lee surrendered at Appomattox! The war's over and your side lost! Please make your way, single file and without panic, into the 21st Century!

Posted by: terpfan2000 | September 24, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Its not often these days that one sees a Republican politician actually act as a statesman rather than just playing to the base - so that's a good sign.

Next year is the 150th Anniversary of the start of the Civil War - it will attract a lot of attention and a lot of tourism. I think McDonnell had to take this route so as not to unduly offend potential tourists, but regardless of the motives I'm glad he did.

Posted by: hohandy1 | September 24, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

He can start by tearing down that redneck statue in the middle of the road in Alexandria. The remains of that monstrosity should be ground into dust and thrown into the river.

Posted by: johng1 | September 24, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Just declare April to be TREASON MONTH.

Posted by: Garak | September 24, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Bobby, Bobby, Bobby. Why don't we call April "Virginia in the Spring". That way we can focus on the present and future of Virginia that we live and deal with now. I for one thinks it's a waste of time to always look back, when the present day has more than enough challenges to consume us all.

Posted by: classicskins | September 24, 2010 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Why not call it VA history month. Stop trying to appease the sons of confederacy. The confederacy is not something we should be honoring seeing what it represented regarding racism. Yes, men were willing to fight for there freedom of federal law but they were also fighting on the wrong side of a social issue that marks an ugly stain on our country's history to this day. The confederacy to a black person is the same as some of you feel about mosque being built at ground zero. In fact is much worse.

Posted by: ged0386 | September 24, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Yesterday, September 23, McDonnell facilitated the ritual murder of Teresa Lewis -- the human sacrifice of a woman with retardation -- for his political ambitions.

And earlier this year, McDonnell issued his pro-Confederacy proclamation with no mention of slavery, and apparently no guilt or shame about the murder, rape, kidnapping, and torture of black people -- and the theft of their labor -- that was the basis of the Confederate economy.

This guy is not pro-life. And this past spring, he didn't bother to pretend to be pro-America, either. Nice to hear that he'll keep his racism under the radar a little in April 2011.

Posted by: ankhorite | September 24, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

The contents of this article can be explained by the author's name and her nose. Rest my case.

Posted by: theblueeyeddog876

Yes, lets blame the Jew. That should simplify the issue down to the level of a person with a 6th grade education. I rest my case too blueeye.

Posted by: ged0386 | September 24, 2010 2:43 PM | Report abuse

blueeyeddog876: What does your nose look like? What's your last name? What does any of this prove except that you are a racist ignoramous (look it up, you idiot)? Live in a trailer much?

Posted by: nyskinsdiehard | September 24, 2010 3:59 PM | Report abuse

mcdonnell is so stupid he didn't know slavery existed in virginia until other people had to remind him. typical republican.

Posted by: zipflock | September 24, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

mcdonnell is so ignorant he didn't know the civil war was about slavery. other people had to remind him. typical republican. no surprise there.

Posted by: zipflock | September 24, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

@morrisday1: i dunno who you are or even what race, but i love you to death! i'm so damned sick and tired of virginia's gung-ho insane fist-pumping of the evil civil war they waged against the rest of this country. they lost, they're still pee oh'd about it, and one can only shake one's head in wonder. it tells ya a lot about the character of such people, i think.

Posted by: jeandarc824 | September 24, 2010 7:10 PM | Report abuse

one more comment before i go. i want to thank the people who've weighed in on this issue on THIS site. it's **so** different here than at Yahoo! where ugly hatred has the floor. at least it *seems* that most people here use their brains. well, thanks, an adios!

Posted by: jeandarc824 | September 24, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

Why not call it West Virginia Freedom Month?

Scr*w you tidewater planters.

Posted by: thealaskan | September 24, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

For any war to be a civil war, it is necessary to have two sides who are warring for control of a central government. This was never the case when Mr. Lincoln chose to invade the Confederate States of America, because the CSA had NO interest in taking over the federal government. Since the invasion of the CSA by the USA, the Union has had to bear enormous guilt from the death and destruction it caused, including the deaths of old men, women and even children, not to mention the astonishing amount of property damage, especially among the civilian population. The guilt of this invasion has been so great that the Union has repeatedly attempted to revise history, from that of an invasion of the CSA by the Union, to a non-existent "civil war".

Lincoln first approached Robert E. Lee, the first graduate of West Point to have no demerits, to fully command the Union military effort. Knowing human personality, I am certain that Lee's rebuff of Lincoln and then accepting command of the CSA Army of Northern Virgnia under these circumstances had a severely negative effect on Lincoln's personality; and this one action probably had the greatest effect on Lincoln. This is probably what produced the unconstitutional manner in which Lincoln then prosecuted the invasion of the CSA, and the rest of the war, much of which included extensive military action against Southern civilians with a huge loss of life and property. Lincoln is probably the most unconstitutional president this nation has ever had.

Posted by: is4817 | September 24, 2010 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Kaine is a good person, but he just can't get anything done sort of like what he is doing as the second in charge to Carter today.

Posted by: jornolibist | September 24, 2010 9:54 PM | Report abuse

No one except the bigots and the ignorant have fought the Civil War for 150 years, Gub'nor.

When will you finally surrender?

Posted by: NancyNaive | September 25, 2010 6:40 AM | Report abuse

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