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mcconell

SOURCE:  Office of Senator Mitch McConnell

New York Times, Jennifer Steinhauer

July 10, 2015

Mitch McConnell’s Civil Rights Record Sets Him Apart

Last spring, Marc H. Morial, the president of the National Urban League, found himself in a place he has come to know well over the years, across a desk from Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, talking about public policy.  Mr. Morial’s question this time was pointed: What was going on with the confirmation vote for Loretta E. Lynch, President Obama’s nominee for attorney general, which Mr. McConnell had been dragging out for months over an unrelated imbroglio with Democrats.

“He said, ‘I believe she will be confirmed,’ ” Mr. Morial recalled. But what Mr. McConnell did not tell him — or anybody else for that matter — was that it would happen with his vote.

While Mr. McConnell’s aye in favor of Ms. Lynch may have startled many of his Republican colleagues, it was consistent with Mr. McConnell’s nuanced, sometimes surprising, sometimes contentious record on civil rights that has placed him apart from some Republican colleagues and from some voters in his home state, Kentucky.

In recent years, Mr. McConnell’s longstanding commitment to civil rights legislation has come into conflict with his party’s push for state-imposed limits on early voting, voter identification requirements and other measures that Democrats say are intended to disenfranchise minorities.

Eyes will now turn to Mr. McConnell, an early voice calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina capitol, after a major skirmish in the House this week over the use of the flag on federal land. “One thing I am not in favor of erasing is our history,” he said, referring to the removal of statues, not the House debate on the flag. “The Civil War was a part of our history and there were actually good people on both sides of that war.”

The tension can be seen in his own ambivalence about changes to civil rights laws proposed by some members of Congress, including measures that would bring back federal oversight of elections in some states.

But Mr. McConnell’s interest in race issues was inspired by his upbringing in Kentucky by parents who opposed segregation. It was fermented on the campus of the University of Louisville, where he encouraged students to march with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It was reinforced by his internship in the office of Senator John Sherman Cooper, a Kentucky Republican who helped break the Southern-led filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

It also surfaced during his first term in the Senate, when Mr. McConnell’s vote helped Congress override President Ronald Reagan’s veto of a measure imposing sanctions on South Africa during apartheid, and has persisted through his years in the United States Capitol, most recently last month, when Mr. McConnell stood before reporters and said that a statue of Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, should be removed from Kentucky’s Capitol.

“This whole business of America moving past its original sin,” Mr. McConnell said in an interview, “has been over a big period during which I have lived.”

Mr. McConnell’s strong feelings about racial equality began with his parents, whom he often refers to as “very enlightened Southerners” who were involved in the National Urban League.

“I was born in North Alabama, and when I was a little kid, I remember segregated movie theaters, segregated drinking fountains, segregated schools,” he said. “We had a day off for Robert E. Lee’s birthday, along with Lincoln’s. The Civil War was omnipresent.”

During college, he served as an intern in Washington and attended Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 — “You could see a massive throng of humanity down to the memorial” — and wrote a college editorial excoriating opponents of civil rights. He worked as an intern for Mr. Cooper, opening mail, much of which was from constituents unhappy with the senator’s support for the Civil Rights Act.

Mr. McConnell, 73, recalled, as he often does, asking Mr. Cooper how he could handle the overwhelming pressure. His boss told him, “There are times when you are supposed to lead, and other times to reflect the views of your state, and I think it is time to lead,” he said. “That was pretty inspirational to a young guy just going to law school.”

These experiences combined to have a profound and lasting impact, Mr. McConnell and others said. “Mitch doesn’t reveal a lot,” said Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and a contemporary of Mr. McConnell. “But we have had discussions about our parallel experiences. You couldn’t be a student in the late ’50s and ’60s without racial injustice staring you in the face.”

Mr. McConnell spoke recently at the John Sherman Cooper Lecture Series, held at Somerset Community College in Kentucky. “He was my hero,” Mr. McConnell said of Mr. Cooper, who died in 1991. “In all my years of public life, there’s been no one from whom I’ve learned more.”

In 1986, Mr. McConnell was among 31 Senate Republicans who voted to override President Reagan’s veto of legislation imposing stiff economic sanctions on South Africa. At the time, he said of Mr. Reagan: “I think he is wrong. We have waited long enough for him to come on board.”

In 2002, Mr. McConnell was one of the principal authors, with Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, of the Help America Vote Act, which helped modernize state voting systems after the debacle of the 2000 presidential election.

“Because of that act,” Mr. Dodd said in an interview, “millions more people in this country can vote now,” he said, referring to the malfunctioning voting systems that were replaced because of the legislation, many of them in minority communities. “And a big reason was Mitch McConnell.”  Help America Vote was intended to help all Americans vote, but the worst voting machines were in low-income minority areas.

But in 2007, in keeping with his party’s move to the right on voting rights, Mr. McConnell proposed an amendment to a Senate immigration bill that would have amended that same act to require that all voters show photo identification.

Civil rights groups are now pressing Mr. McConnell to support a new wave of legislation that would curb racial profiling practices by law enforcement officials and that would restore voting rights provisions stripped away by the Supreme Court in 2013. That ruling allowed nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval, known as preclearance.

Mr. McConnell has shown little support for measures intended to strengthen that law, noting more than once that “America is very different from what it was in the 1960s.”

There is legislation in the House and the Senate that would reinstate federal supervision of elections in states where there has been a history of voter discrimination. Many Republicans have criticized these efforts as unfairly singling out states and as failing to address voter fraud.

The N.A.A.C.P. gives Mr. McConnell poor grades on its congressional report card, largely because he has not supported President Obama’s health care law and programs to aid the poor, but also because he has not voiced support for the voting rights and profiling measures.

Civil rights leadership requires “a continuation” of progress toward equal treatment, said Hilary O. Shelton, a senior vice president at the N.A.A.C.P.

“If you look at the Racial Profiling Act,” Mr. Shelton added, referring to the 2013 law, “we are not seeing leadership coming from him, but if you asked anyone at the King Center, they would say Dr. King would have wanted a racial profiling act.”

Mr. Morial of the National Urban League said, “He is not committed to it, but I also have not heard him say he is opposed.”

“He knows how deeply we feel,” he said. “He is a straight shooter. He is not going to duck or dodge. He is not going to sit in his office and tell me he is going to do something and not do it.”

Given the tilt to the right of the conference he now controls, Mr. McConnell was silent about how he would vote on Ms. Lynch’s confirmation, and many assumed he would cast a no ballot, like many of his colleagues.  After he voted in favor of her confirmation, he looked on with glee as several African-American women from the House came to the Senate to celebrate.

“I did kid my friend Sheila Jackson Lee,” he said of the outspoken lawmaker from Texas, who like many Democrats was angry that it took so long to get the confirmation vote. “I said, ‘I don’t remember you coming over and giving Dick Durbin trouble when he voted against Condoleezza Rice.’ ”

Where others see persistent flaws in race relations, Mr. McConnell says he sees great progress compared with what he witnessed as a youth in the South, as highlighted by the swift outrage across a broad spectrum of the country in response to the shooting of nine members of a black church in Charleston, S.C., last month.

“America is a work in progress on this issue,” he said. “We are always looking for opportunities to improve our country. I am actually pretty upbeat and positive about all the progress America has made with race relations.”

600px-US-DeptOfNavy-Seal.svgFlag Officer Assignments

SOURCE:  Department of Defense

The Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert announced the following assignments:

Rear Admiral (lower half) Michael E. Jabaley Jr., selected for promotion to rear-admiral, will be assigned as program executive officer for submarines, Washington, District of Columbia. Jabaley is currently serving as commander, naval undersea warfare center, Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia.

Rear Admiral (lower half) Patrick A. Piercey, selected for promotion to rear-admiral, will be assigned as director, maritime operations, DMOC/N04, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Piercey is currently serving as commander, Carrier Strike Group Nine, San Diego, California.

 

General Officer Assignments

SOURCE:  Department of Defense

The chief of staff, Army announced the following assignments:

Maj. Gen. William K. Fuller, deputy chief of staff, operations, Resolute Support Mission, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, Afghanistan, to deputy commanding general, I Corps, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Maj. Gen. Megan P. Tatu, U.S. Army Reserve, commander, Troop Program Unit, 79th U.S. Army Reserve Sustainment Support Command, Los Alamitos, California, to chief of staff, Individual Mobilization Augmentee, U.S. Army Reserve Command, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Brig. Gen. Joseph R. Calloway, chief, general officer management office, Office of the Chief of Staff, Army, Washington, District of Columbia, to director, officer personnel management directorate, U.S. Army Human Resources Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Brig. Gen. John E. Cardwell, U.S. Army Reserve, commander, Troop Program Unit, 9th Mission Support Command, Honolulu, Hawaii, to deputy commander, Troop Program Unit, 75th TrainingDepartment of the Army Command, Houston, Texas.

Brig. Gen. Paul A. Chamberlain, commanding general, U.S. Army Soldier Support Institute, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to deputy chief of staff, G8 director, resource management, Third Army, U.S. Army Central, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Brig. Gen. Stephen K. Curda, U.S. Army Reserve, commander, Troop Program Unit, 351st Civil Affairs Command, Mountain View, California, to commander, Troop Program Unit, 9th Mission Support Command, Honolulu, Hawaii.

Brig. Gen. Robert A. Karmazin, U.S. Army Reserve, commander, Troop Program Unit, Pacific Training Division, 75th Training Command, Camp Parks, California, to director, Army Reserve Engagement Cell, Individual Mobilization Augmentee, U.S. Army Central, Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Brig. Gen. Mary-Kate Leahy, U.S. Army Reserve, deputy commanding general, Troop Program Unit, 81st Regional Support Command, Fort Jackson, South Carolina, to director, J-2, U.S. Southern Command, Doral, Florida.

Brig. Gen. Kenneth H. Moore Jr., U.S. Army Reserve, deputy commander, Individual Mobilization Augmentee, U.S. Army Africa, Southern European Task Force, Italy, to director, Army Reserve Engagement Cell and deputy commander, Individual Mobilization Augmentee, U.S. Army Africa, Italy.

Brig. Gen. Gabriel Troiano, U.S. Army Reserve, commander, Troop Program Unit, Military Intelligence Readiness Command, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, to deputy director, intelligence and knowledge development, J-2, U.S. Africa Command, Germany.

Brig. Gen. Brently F. White, U.S. Army Reserve, deputy commander, Troop Program Unit, 75th Training Command, Houston, Texas, to commander, Troop Program Unit, Pacific Training Division, 75th Training Command, Camp Parks, California.

PHOTO(s) OF THE DAY

SOURCE:  Department of Defense /Defense News Lead Photo

Army paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division perform an airborne operation at Sicily drop zone during Defense Secretary Ash Carter's visit to Fort Bragg, N.C., July 10, 2015.

Army paratroopers assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division perform an airborne operation at Sicily drop zone during Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s visit to Fort Bragg, N.C., July 10, 2015.

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Mark W. Freas, an unmanned aerial vehicle maintainer assigned to Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2, performs a preflight check on an RQ-21A Blackjack prior to a training flight at Marine Corps Outlying Field Atlantic Field on July 1, 2015. The training flight was conducted to ensure the safety and stability of the small unmanned aircraft system. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Koby I. Saunders/Released)

U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Mark W. Freas, an unmanned aerial vehicle maintainer assigned to Marine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 2, performs a preflight check on an RQ-21A Blackjack prior to a training flight at Marine Corps Outlying Field Atlantic Field on July 1, 2015. The training flight was conducted to ensure the safety and stability of the small unmanned aircraft system. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Koby I. Saunders/Released)

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks with paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division as they prepare to jump over Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 10. These paratroopers form the nucleus of America’s global response force, capable of responding to crises worldwide with little to no notice. Carter’s visit included a question and answer session with Soldiers of the XVIII Airborne Corps and capabilities demonstrations from airborne and special operations forces. Carter praised the readiness of the servicemen and women stationed at Bragg, promising a bright future as the very tip of the spear in the nation's global strategic posture. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Crail, XVIII Airborne Corps /Released)

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks with paratroopers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division as they prepare to jump over Sicily Drop Zone at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 10. These paratroopers form the nucleus of America’s global response force, capable of responding to crises worldwide with little to no notice. Carter’s visit included a question and answer session with Soldiers of the XVIII Airborne Corps and capabilities demonstrations from airborne and special operations forces. Carter praised the readiness of the servicemen and women stationed at Bragg, promising a bright future as the very tip of the spear in the nation’s global strategic posture. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Charles Crail, XVIII Airborne Corps /Released)

150708-N-FQ994-105  MEDITERRANEAN SEA (July 8, 2015)  Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) participate in a low-light small arms training exercise. Ross is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/Released)

150708-N-FQ994-105
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (July 8, 2015) Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71) participate in a low-light small arms training exercise. Ross is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/Released)

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