Thursday, September 25, 2003

Moonies Play Games with the CBC

The proud neo-confederates over the Washington Times promised to run a rebuttal by the Congressional Black Caucus to a hateful smear piece done by Deborah Simmons. According to the CBC, the Moonie Editors twice promised to run it verbatim, and then hacked it to bits without telling them. Here's how the rebuttal actually ran, and here's how it was originally written (modified bits underlined):

As Chairman of the 39-member Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), I understand that criticism from the press is part of serving in the Congress.

More difficult to understand, however, is how a major newspaper like the Washington Times could be reduced to printing the inaccurate and misleading assertions that dominated its September 19th op-ed, "Partying With No Purpose," under Deborah Simmons' byline.

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 33rd Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) being held in Washington this week will serve some very important purposes, and I am confident that the non-profit Foundation's very able Chairman, Congressman William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, would agree.

Fair is fair, however.  Let's allow the Times' readers to make up their own minds.

Yes, as noted in the Times editorial, there will be receptions, a fashion show and an awards dinner during the ALC.  Although the Times chose to label these events a "shakedown," I believe that the thousands of deserving young people who have benefited from the $6 million in scholarship assistance raised by these events over the years would disagree.  They might well call the ALC's fund-raising efforts a "hand up".

The Times also failed to inform its readers that more than 50 citizen-legislator forums will be held during the ALC this week.  Thousands of Americans will come together in Washington to examine and debate what the federal government is (and should be) doing to create more jobs, support small businesses, improve our schools, expand access to high quality healthcare, protect our lives and preserve our freedom.

Are these issue forums, the policy "brain trusts," and the national "town hall" that will cap off the conference political?  No, unless one uses the word, "political," in the sense that the late Senator Paul Wellstone used it when he called upon those of us who serve in Washington to return to what he termed the "politics of the center."

During the ALC, thousands of Americans will learn from - and TEACH - their elected Representatives about solutions to the public policy issues that are central to our lives.  This, in my view, is a very important purpose.

So, to the Times and those reading these words, I ask: isn't this how our representative democracy is supposed to work?  How could a government that is truly "of, by and for the people" possibly work otherwise?

I submit that politicians communicating with the people who elected them is at the heart of the American government system.


The fact that the Members of the CBC are currently all Democrats seems to be at the crux of the Times op-ed's complaint.

The example of former CBC member, Congressman Gary Franks, illustrates that the CBC is not immune to Republican influence.  I am not angered, however, by the inference that the Times prefers Republicans over Democrats.

I must respectfully suggest, however, that editorial criticisms are far more convincing if they are grounded in fact.

For example, contrary to the Times assertion, almost all of the Members of the CBC were in the Capitol voting against the Republican "voucher" bill, H.R. 2765, on Tuesday evening, September 9th - NOT attending the Congressional Black Caucus Institute's Democratic Presidential Debate in Baltimore.  The Times and its readers can check the recorded roll call vote (number 491) on the House web site - but allow me to tell you "the rest of the story."

The CBC Institute and Fox News Channel announced in early August that we were going to hold a presidential debate on the evening of September 9th.  We knew that the public interest would be high, as the television ratings ultimately confirmed.

Several days before the debate, however, and knowing that the vote on the D.C. voucher experiment would be a very close one, the House Republicans scheduled the voucher vote for the same night.   As the Majority Party, Republicans set the agenda and schedule the votes.

I spent several hours urging members of the CBC to stay in Washington (they all did, with the exception of myself), and I called House Majority Leader Tom Delay seeking the courtesy of a vote postponement.  He declined.

We, Democrats, have come to expect this lack of cooperation from the Republican leadership in Washington. 

The Members of the Congressional Black Caucus believe that there is a better way for this nation to be governed - an approach that stresses an informed and engaged citizenry as well as a more civil, more cooperative discourse on Capitol Hill.

And on Election Day next year, the American people will decide if we are right.

You may call the Washington Times editorial department at 202-636-3305 and ask them if their policy of not accurately airing the views of African-Americans is a direct result of their being under the stewardship of neo-confederate Wesley Pruden and staffed by such people as their Assistant National Editor Robert Stacy McCain. (see here, and here too)