Confederacy of Dunces

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.