McDonnell's Political Two-Step

By Chris Gordon
|  Friday, Apr 9, 2010  |  Updated 1:46 PM EDT
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Virginia Governor Says He's Sorry He Forgot to Mention Slavery

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Gov. Bob McDonnell

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Virginia Governor Says He's Sorry He Forgot to Mention Slavery

After a barrage of criticism, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell says he's sorry for offending people after he left out any reference to slavery in his April Confederate History Month proclamation.
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Virginia Gov. Bob Mc Donnell said he made a mistake when he omitted slavery from Virginia's confederate history, and he is apologizing to all those he may have offended.

When he proclaimed April Confederate History Month, the language he used got him into political hot water. A day later, he posted an apology on his official Web site for what he called "a major omission the failure to include any reference to slavery as a major cause of the civil war."

Democratic lawmakers in Virginia were surprised that neither McDonnell nor his advisors anticipated the political fallout.

"Well, I think that now he probably has a better understanding of why his two predecessors -- Govs. [Mark] Warner and [Tim] Kaine -- left this alone," Sen. Dick Saslaw said. "Why you would want to pass a proclamation that glorifies your state's effort to maintain slavery, uh, fight a war to maintain slavery, is beyond me."

A WashingtonPost.com article on McDonnell's proclamation prompted 42 pages of reader responses. Political analyst Mark Rozell, of George Mason University, said it's a political setback for McDonnell.

"This is certainly not the kind of publicity he wants or needs at this point," Rozell said. "He was considered a rising star in the party. People were looking to him as a possible candidate for national office at some point in the future. He did the counter to the State of the Union message, so there were a lot of people putting him forward as a player in future national politics, but I think that this is going to be a real set-back for him for some period of time, because this showcases some really bad political instincts."

There are some who question McDonnell's motives for making April Confederate History Month in the first place.

"I think Gov. McDonnell initially, and I think even now, is pandering to the far right extremism wing of the Republican Party, because at some future point he sees himself as a candidate for some higher office," said Delegate David Englin (D-Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax). "And in this day and age, if you are not in with the Tea party wing of the Republican Party you're not going to go anywhere as a Republican candidate."

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