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Pat Buchanan: ‘Both sides were right’ in the Civil War

By David Edwards and Daniel Tencer
Friday, April 9, 2010 11:30 EDT
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Bloggers suggest MSNBC should ban ‘racist who defends slavery’

Did conservative commentator Pat Buchanan cross a line when he appeared to defend slavery during a debate on MSNBC’s Hardball?

That’s the question political observers are asking after Buchanan told a panel he believed “both sides were right” in the Civil War.

The comment came during a discussion of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s omission of the issue of slavery in a proclamation reinstating Confederate History Month in the state. Buchanan argued that McDonnell was right to ignore slavery because that wasn’t the core issue that prompted Virginia to leave the Union and join the Confederacy.

“Virginia did not secede over slavery,” Buchanan said. “Virginia stayed in the union when Lincoln was elected. … What took them out of the Union was when Abraham Lincoln said, We want 75,000 volunteers, your militia and your soldiers in Virginia, to attack the deep South and bring them back into the union. They said, We’re not going to kill our kinsmen. That’s how Virginia left the union.”

(That claim seems to be undermined by Virginia’s own secession ordinance, which asserted that the state was leaving the Union because the federal government had “perverted” its powers “not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slaveholding States.”)

Buchanan then angered host Chris Matthews by arguing the South’s secession was motivated by a desire for freedom.

“They wanted to be free of the Union,” Buchanan said.

“They wanted to keep slaves,” Matthews retorted.

Finally, Matthews pushed Buchanan into a corner. “Who was right in the Civil War?” he asked.

“I think in a way both sides were right,” Buchanan responded. “Lincoln had a right to save the Union. I think they [the South] had a right to go free.”

“Let’s not defend the right to slavery,” MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney interjected.

Buchanan made similar points in an article he published this week, “The People You’re Allowed to Hate,” in which he argued that the people complaining about McDonnell’s decision were preaching intolerance.

“Has Buchanan, who is certainly no stranger to racial controversy, finally stepped over the line?” asks Alan Colmes’ blog, Liberaland. “Should MSNBC disallow further commentary from this man?”

That sentiment was echoed by the Political Carnival blog. “MSNBC continues to hire a racist who defends slavery, glorifies the Civil War south, and uses code words like ‘states’ rights’,” blogger GottaLaff states. “But David Shuster is kept off the air.”

At the other end of the political spectrum, libertarian blogger Kenneth Durden argues that Buchanan “has no clue what he’s talking about. He has no idea what the Confederacy represents to black people, especially to those who grew up in the former Confederate states. Buchanan never had family picnics interrupted by Confederate-flag-waving rednecks yelling ‘Nigger!’ He never had the experience, as a 16-year-old boy simply mowing his lawn, of having Confederate-flag-waving freaks threatening to kill him.”

This video is from MSNBC’s Hardball, broadcast April 8, 2010.

 
 
 
 
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