Confederate History Month fight: Obama rebukes Virginia governor
President Obama said it was 'unacceptable' for the Virginia governor, Bob McDonnell, not to mention slavery when reinstating Confederate History Month.
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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) invited an uproar after deciding to reinstate Confederate History Month without mentioning "slavery." That word had been included in previous Confederate heritage proclamations. (Governor McDonnell later apologized and added language that painted slavery as a cause of the war and as a "hateful" institution.)
"I don't think you can understand the Confederacy and the Civil War unless you understand slavery,'' said Mr. Obama, who sent a wreath, as presidents have done since Woodrow Wilson, to the Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery last Memorial Day. (Moreover, first lady Michelle Obama is a descendant of Southern slaves.)
McDonnell's initial omission of slavery in his proclamation was "unacceptable," Obama said.
The president's statements, made to ABC News correspondent George Stephanopoulos, were an unusually harsh rebuke – reminiscent of his first comments on the controversial arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. last summer at his home in Cambridge, Mass.
Obama's entry into the debate about the Confederate legacy shows that the president, though careful, speaks his mind about race when he feels it's warranted. Indeed, says one expert on race in America, the subject of race becomes ripe for discussion after certain events.