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November 29, 2007

Hey CNN (and Gov. Romney)...This Southern Man Don't Need You Around Anyhow

I think this quote from the Corner is exactly right.

I was absolutely disgusted with what I saw tonight from CNN. Thousands of people submitted questions for this debate; yet, the questions they chose only served to reinforce the stereotype that the average Republican voter is a confederate-flag-waving, gun-toting, bible-brandishing conspiracy theorist! There were staggeringly few questions on National Security, and the few that were asked include some of the substanceless "gotcha" questions which were designed for no other purpose than to induce gaffes. What bothers me most is that CNN's embarassing performance was not out of malice; they genuinely believe that this is what Republicans are like and that these ridiculous questions are what Republican voters want to hear. A bad night for CNN and for the American media generally.

Emph added.

So, I started thinking about this and I was reminded of something similar from my days in the Senate.

The late Senator Paul Coverdell introduced a bill in 1997 called the "Volunteer Protection Act." The goal of this legislation (which was signed into law) was to exempt volunteers (like little league baseball coaches) from negligence lawsuits brought against them by ambulance chasing trial lawyers.

Vermont's continuing embarrassment, Senator Patrick Leahy, took to the Senate floor to speak against this bill. He used a prop...a poster of a Confederate Flag. He said that the bill would provide legal immunity to members of the Klu Klux Klan. He was wrong. It was, purely and simply, an attempt to tar a bill opposed by the trial lawyers under the auspices of perhaps the worst slander one can commit in America today: ill-founded accusations of racism.

So, what did Senator Coverdell do? He became irate.

Many of you might not be familiar with the former Senator's record. He was the former Director of the Peace Corps. He was a Conservative true believer, who had a reputation as the "hardest working Staffer in the Senate." He helped kill the Kyoto treaty. He passed the bill renaming National Airport after Ronald Reagan.

And he was proud of his Southern state of Georgia. He wasn't going to let some loud mouth Vermont Yankee slander him with accustaions that he was introducing a bill designed to protect the Klan.

So he took to the Senate floor, and basically told Leahy to go to hell. The Congressional Record entry doesn't reflect this, as Coverdell was too much a gentleman to actually say that. Instead he said the following:

But I have to say to him that evoking the Ku Klux Klan is something I would not have expected from him. It is demeaning. It is an inaccurate portrayal of the legislation. There is regional arrogance in the context of the Senator's statement, and I do not appreciate it.

And that's what Republicans were faced with tonight. A debate that was not only stereotypical with it's emphasis on "God, Guns, Gays, and General Lee", but also seemed to have been constructed by people who had never met a living, breathing Conservative before.

Pauline Kael is apparently alive and well and working in Atlanta.

And you know what bothered me about this debate? None of the GOP candidates had the wherewithal to say "what's up with these ridiculous questions?"

In other words...there wasn't a Coverdell among them.

In fact, some of the Republicans even made it worse by fumbling what could have been a Coverdell moment.

Romney, for example, allowed himself to be played like a violin. They set a trap for him and he walked right into it with his answer on the Confederate Flag.

As a lifelong resident of the South (DC is as far North as I've ever lived), I understand full well the passions that run on all sides of the Confederate Flag issue. For some it is a symbol of racism. For others it is a symbol of family military service. For some others it is a symbol of cultural and regional ties. Somebody flying a Confederate Flag probably is more likely to go to a NASCAR race or attend the weigh in at a Bassmaster Tour event than is somebody from Maine wearing a Boston Red Sox hat who does so to self identify with the cultural traditions of New England like, I dunno, Lobstering and raising taxes.

And Romney botched it. Here was the kicker line to his answer:

And that flag, frankly, is divisive, and it shouldn't be shown.

It shouldn't be shown? Really? Not over a Memorial Cemetary? Not in a museum? Not over Six Flags? Not in the Grandstands at a Nascar race? Not in a Re-enactment event? Not at a Historic Location like say the Shiloh Battlefield or Gettysburg? Not on the roof of the General Lee?

You know what else is divisive, Governor? Your campaign.

It's set Republicans against Republicans. Christians against Christians and/or Mormons (see, now even that is a debate!) and now Yankees from many Southerners. Maybe your campaign shouldn't be shown either. It's divisive.

And, Governor, to be honest, I really don't care about the Confederate Flag. I supported it's removal from the Capitol Dome in Alabama and in South Carolina. I also supported it's removal from State flags that had incorporated it.

But I don't believe it "shouldn't be shown." That's the kind of opinion one gets from the Northeast Elites. Those predisposed to a little of what Sen. Coverdell might have termed "regional arrogance."

But you choked. You let CNN stereotype Republicans as Rebel Flag obsessed racists, and then, accepting their stereotype, proceeded to throw a blanket condemnation upon them.

Coverdell understood the liberal's game, Governor. Look at his quote again:

But I have to say to him that evoking the Ku Klux Klan is something I would not have expected from him. It is demeaning. It is an inaccurate portrayal of the legislation. There is regional arrogance in the context of the Senator's statement, and I do not appreciate it.

Suppose you had been smart enough to say this, Governor:

But I would have to say that evoking the CONFEDERATE FLAG is something I would not have expected from CNN. It is demeaning. It is an innaccurate portrayal of WHAT THE GOP STANDS FOR. There is regional arrogance in the context of CNN's QUESTIONS, and I do not appreciate it.

Hell...I might have been convinced you had it in you to be President.

But you can't say that Governor. You are incapable of it. It takes someone who knows who he is and what he stands for to have the gumption to say it.

And you aren't that man. You simply have been too many things at too many stages of your life. Your philosophical core is hollow. You'd look great at Madame Toussauds, but awful in the Oval Office.

I don't mean to single you out...I only do so because you were the most egregious at letting CNN's questions go by. Your answer played into what they set out to portray.

Thus is the current state of the GOP. People say we are hung up about finding another Reagan.

I'm not.

I'd be happy if any of these guys even remotely resembled Paul Coverdell.

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posted by Jack M. at 02:04 AM

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