Thursday, April 08, 2010

Marsh's Reaction to McDonnell a Little Off Base

In an interview with CNN's John King, Virginia State Sen. Henry Marsh III lumped Governor Bob McDonnell's support for charter schools and cuts to public education with his proclamation of Confederate History Month. I don't think any explanation is needed to see where the state senator's logic went wrong. John King's follow-up was enough to cut through his argument:

KING: We try every night to take you outside of Washington to take the pulse of the country. Tonight we head to Virginia, where the governor, Bob McDonnell, just issued an apology for what he calls a major omission in a proclamation honoring Confederate History Month. It called Confederacy a defining chapter in Virginia's history, noted that Virginians fought for their homes and made sacrifices and admitted the state was overwhelmed by insurmountable numbers. But that initial proclamation made no mention of slavery.

Joining me now, Virginia state senator Henry Marsh III, a prominent member of the Civil Rights community in the state. Senator, the governor has now apologized. He has said slavery is an evil and inhumane act, that it should have been in the proclamation, and he's issued an amendment to the proclamation putting it in. Case closed? Do you accept the apology?

HENRY L. MARSH III (D), VIRGINIA STATE SENATE: Well, he has a right to apologize, but I don't accept that as a good answer because this is a pattern of this governor. He says the wrong thing. He sends a signal to his base, and then he makes an apology. And this has happened many, many times. So I think it's a question of whether or not he's sincere or not.

KING: A question of whether or not he's sincere -- and I want to follow up on that point. I believe you were the first African- American mayor of the city of Richmond. Governor Wilder, we had on the program the other night, is the first African-American elected governor in the United States and from a state that was once the capital of the Confederacy. We have our first African-American president, who lives in the White House. Why are we still having these controversies and these debates, sir?

MARSH: Well, I think it's a question of recognizing that this is not the last century. This is a new century and people are different. We have different expectations. Governor McDonnell came on saying he was the unity governor, he was going to bring us together. And we expected him to do that, but his actions have belied what he said. I mean, he came in cutting public education K-12 to a horrible degree. We restored some of the cuts, the Democrats did, but...

KING: A lot of states have had to do that. I don't mean to jump in, sir, but a lot of states have had to do that because we're in this painful recession. Are you saying he did that in a way that was race motivated or just...

MARSH: Well, I'll put it this way. K-12 education is critical not just for African-Americans but for all Virginians to keep us competitive in the race for industry and for tourism, and to cut K-12, which has a disproportionate impact on poor people and African- Americans, in my opinion, was a tragic mistake. And he also unfroze (ph) the standards of quality funding, which left the part of Virginia where most African-Americans and poor people reside -- left them in a situation where they almost couldn't function. And later on, because of pressure, some of the money was restored. But he also pushed a charter school initiative that put the local school boards out of the situation. The state board could intervene to push charter schools and to push charter schools which would only serve the elite of public education.

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