An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia
Exhibit 37: Betraying the Lost Cause
NewsMax trashes the Confederacy in order to trash the Clintons once more. How will that go over with its conservative readers?
By Terry Krepel
A Jan. 18 NewsMax article begins this way:
When Hillary Clinton used her Martin Luther King Day tribute to accuse Republicans of running Washington like an Old South "plantation" - she knew whereof she spoke.
The surprising thing is not that NewsMax is attacking the Clintons -- heck, that's NewsMax's raison d'etre. The big news is that it attacks Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy in the process.
Conservatives love the Confederacy, as does the ConWeb. The Conservative Book Service sells a "Confederate Trilogy for Young Readers" detailing the lives of Lee, "Stonewall" Jackson, and J.E.B. Stuart. Pat Buchanan excoriated conservatives who suggested that Lee and Jackson fought for the cause of "slavery and treason." WorldNetDaily considers a biography of Jefferson Davis to be part of its homeschooling curriculum, sells a DVD portraying Lee and Jackson as "masterful generals, brilliant strategists and, above all, faithful Christians," and blamed the financial failure of the Civil War epic "Gods and Generals" on the "PC [politically correct] crowd" who purportedly objected to the film's sympathetic view of the Confederacy. CNSNews.com reported that a proposal to erect a statue of Abraham Lincoln in the former Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., met opposition from "the kin of Southern soldiers and citizens who perished in the Civil War"; it also promoted charges by the Sons of Confederate Veterans that Rep. Dick Gephardt was engaging in "flag bashing" when he claimed that the Confederate flag "no longer has a place flying anywhere, anytime in our great nation."
NewsMax's cite of the Washington Times is particularly interesting since it employs editors and writers, such as Wesley Pruden and Robert Stacy McCain, who are Confederate sympathizers to the point of having links to the League of the South, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "rife with white supremacists and racist ideology." (WND, meanwhile, has previously served up a defense of the group.)
NewsMax itself has sung Lee's praises. It has run commentaries by Calvin E. Johnson Jr. in 2003, 2004 and 2005 to honor Lee's birthday, in which he noted (in 2003) that " [m]any commemorations will be held throughout the country to honor and pay tribute to Gen. Robert E. Lee on his birthday, Jan 19." Johnson stated in his 2004 commentary: " Let America not forget Jan. 19, 2004, the 197th anniversary of the birthday of Gen. Robert E. Lee" (he updated the numbers for his 2005 commentary).
Lee has taken a beating in recent years. Because he fought for the Confederacy, his image is being removed from public places all over the South, as a symbol of "hate" and "racism." Yet a remarkable book called "Robert E. Lee on Leadership" by H.W. Crocker III has convinced me that "Marse Robert" would have been the first to protect innocent Muslims on the streets of New York.
Poe added that "like George Bush today, Lee was criticized for being too soft on the enemy" -- that enemy, of course, being Abraham Lincoln and Union troops.
NewsMax columnist Phil Brennan also brought Lee and other Confederate generals into modern controversies in a January 2001 commentary: "Some of the witless anti-Ashcroft rhetoric has bordered on the absurd. One of his critics, for example, expressed horror at Ashcroft's alleged kind words about Robert E. Lee and T.J. Jackson. Imagine, finding something good to say about Stonewall Jackson, a man so sunken in depravity that his motto was "'Duty is mine, Consequences are God's.'" (Ashcroft had praised a magazine for defending "Southern patriots" like Lee, Jackson and Jefferson Davis.)
And the news that Lee "fought to allow the South to keep blacks enslaved" will come as a surprise to NewsMax's readers. Poe insisted in his 2001 commentary that "Lee opposed slavery. ... Lee believed that slaves should be emancipated gradually, their owners compensated, and the slaves trained and set up in steady jobs."
In latching onto to the Lee/King holiday, NewsMax conveniently overlooks the history of the holiday in Arkansas. Lee's birthday has been observed in Arkansas since at least 1907, according to state Capitol historian David Ware. The holiday was reaffirmed in 1943, he said. In1983, the act was amended to recognize King's birthday. In other words, it's not unlike early Christians who built the celebration of Christmas around pagan festivals.
NewsMax's claims regarding Clinton and recognizing a star in the state flag as representing the Confederacy contradicts a November 2003 NewsMax "Insider Report," which approvingly cited a book on the South and the Confederacy as evidence of Clinton's political acumen on the issue:
Bill Clinton, the smartest Democrat in a generation, knew better than to go anywhere near the issue, quietly declining all suggestions that he remove the Confederate motif from Arkansas' state flag. As Clinton recognized, Yankee moralizers are no more welcome today than were the carpetbaggers of 142 years ago.
NewsMax's attempt to smear Hillary Clinton over her comment that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives was being run like a "plantation" -- NewsMax also quoted Republican Rep. Peter King calling the remark "cheap racial politics" -- ignores the fact that NewsMax has, over the years, published several articles and commentaries by conservatives applying the "plantation" metaphor to Democrats and liberals. A few examples:
And then there's this charming entry, a July 31, 2001, column by John L. Perry:
Being black is difficult enough. Now there's the additional indignity of having to tote Bill Clinton, not exactly the lightest bale on the barge.
But Is NewsMax really changing its mind about the Confederacy, a cause still embraced by many of its conservative readers? What's next? Will NewsMax work to eliminate designated Confederate History Months in Virginia and Georgia?
Or is it merely just contradicting itself and setting aside its principles in order to push yet another smear against the Clintons? If so -- if it's so willing to betray its ideals for political expediency -- why should conservatives continue to support NewsMax?