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History on Line 1, sir
Will Gov. McDonnell weigh in on the Wilderness Walmart?

Date published: 12/17/2010

ULYSSES S. GRANT said that the Civil War could have been avoided but for "a poor set of politicians." Like the poor generally, they will always be with us. But some Virginia politicians have behaved virtuously in the matter of Walmart's lust for land important in the Battle of the Wilderness, where Grant and Robert E. Lee first tangled.

Virginia's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Jim Webb, has urged Walmart to find another, nearby Orange County location for its planned superstore, which preservationists and others are legally contesting. Gov. Tim Kaine (D), and House of Delegates Speaker Bill Howell--the only prominent state Republican to chastise Walmart--vainly offered state assistance in such a re-siting. Disappointingly, however, current Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has not joined this chorus, which sings a song of remembrance for the 30,000 men who shed their blood in the hellish three-day battle that--though it was unperceived at the time--sounded the death knell for the Confederate States of America.

Mr. McDonnell's lapse, one surmises, stems from inattentiveness rather than the hots for elephantine retail or some ideological petrification. The governor has a commendable capacity to see where he is wrong, admit it, and change course. Ironically, the perfect example involves another Civil War issue--his April Confederate History Month proclamation that ignored slavery. He not only made amends, but did so publicly at Norfolk State University, where he called the lacuna "[m]y [italics ours] major and unacceptable omission." Solid fellow.

A public McDonnell challenge to Walmart to find another Orange County site would weigh heavily in several respects. Politically, for example.

In recent years, many Republicans have repeatedly appealed to the discriminatory impulse in American society--against newcomers, homosexuals, federal workers, and so on. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Republicans insist on retaining the Bush tax rates for the wealthiest Americans (a position we support, as part of an overall extension) while viewing the renewal of jobless benefits for workers idled by the Great Recession as a bargaining chip to gain Democratic concessions. (Some Republicans argue that more benefits would erode the toiling class's work ethic, as though anyone is getting fat and sassy on a few hundreds dollars a month.)

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