Friday, January 20, 2006
Hillarys View of the House of Representatives Plantation: Typical Overstatement
Its coming to be a Democratic tradition on Martin Luther Kings day that those seeking high office exaggerate, spindle and mutilate the truth for headlines, using a racial tag as a grabber. Nothing recent has tied the Hillary Rodham Clinton statement delivered in a typical scream before a wildly approving black audience than the House of Representatives under Republicans has become a plantation. Earlier, Al Gore used a similar forum to shout great doubt that President Bush followed time-honored security procedure notwithstanding that Bill Clinton had done the same. Frenetic partisans are expected to ignore this but those who concentrate on the details see the subterfuge.
As one who labored as a lowly staffer in a House that was run by Democrats for decades, Ms. Clinton doesnt know what a plantation was. For one thing, the Sam Rayburn House wantonly mistreated one of the two African American committee chairmen, negated his chairmanship and forced him to return to his district where he ran again and was reelected by the voters. That was Adam Clayton Powell who along with Illinois William Dawson was one of two black chairmen, Powell of Education and Labor. Unlike Dawson who was a quiet, get-along-go-along player, Powell was a Harlem minister and exciting speaker, a tall, ruggedly handsome, brilliant man with a recklessness in his personal life that proved to be a scandal to the white southern Democratic establishment that ran the House: people who, in addition to Rayburn, involved Judge Howard Smith of Virginia who ran Rules and his deputy, Bill Colmer of Pascagoula, Mississippi. I knew Colmer fairly well later in life along with his then chief of staff, a man named Trent Lott.
The married Powell made a habit of running around with white women which was a scandal to the string-tie southerners. After he went to Bimini with one for a vacation, the real plantation owners in the House put up such a howl that the laffair Powell became grist for the tabloid mill. This along with other fancied indignities led to the Democratic plantation people un-horsing Powell from his committee. He was publicly disgraced and went back to Harlem where he won easily in a special election and returned. But his committee chairmanship was gone and he served not long after that in a kind of purgatory. No one knows about this better than the man who ultimately defeated him, one who usually is very vocal about racial matters, Charlie Rangel. Wonder why he didnt pipe up about the Republican plantation? Probably because he knows full well the story of the real Plantation where white southern bigots ran the House, reelected in a segregationist south and named people to key chairmanships who sat on civil rights legislation for years. I still cant get over the chutzpah of Hillary Clinton, who should know this history, getting away with that crack before the amen corner in Harlem!