At Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft has a terrific round-up with photographs and video of Secretary Rice’s trip to Alabama this weekend. Among yesterday’s highlights were Secretary Rice’s visit to the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham that was bombed in September 1963 after the March on Washington and her speech at the dedication of a memorial plaque to the four girls killed in the bombing. Jim links to the story by Steven Weisman in today’s New York Times: “At memorial ceremony in Birmingham, Rice pays homage to victims of church bombing.”
I wrote about Secretary Rice’s Birmingham roots in a column for the Standard this past January when Secretary Rice was confirmed as Secretary of State: “Birmingham’s new legacy.” In that column, I noted that in numerous formal speeches she gave and informal remarks she made while holding the position of National Security Advisor, Rice recalled her ties to Birmingham and to her “friend and playmate” Denise McNair. In the Vanderbilt University commencement speech she gave on May 17, 2004, for example, Secretary Rice said:
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, before the Civil Rights movement–a place that was once described, with no exaggeration, as the most thoroughly segregated city in the country. I know what it means to hold dreams and aspirations when half your neighbors think you are incapable of, or uninterested in, anything better.
I know what it’s like to live with segregation in an atmosphere of hostility, and contempt, and cold stares, and the ever-present threat of violence, a threat that sometimes erupted into the real thing.
I remembered the bombing of that Sunday school at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963. I did not see it happen, but I heard it happen and I felt it happen, just a few blocks away at my father’s church. It is a sound that I will never forget, that will forever reverberate in my ears. That bomb took the lives of four young girls, including my friend and playmate Denise McNair. The crime was calculated, not random. It was meant to suck the hope out of young lives, bury their aspirations, and ensure that old fears would be propelled forward into the next generation.
Rice added that “those fears were not propelled forward. Those terrorists failed.” Yet Weisman writes in today’s Times:
Since becoming first national security adviser and then secretary of state, Ms. Rice has not made a public display of her personal story as the daughter of a Presbyterian minister and church organist who grew up in the civil rights era.
But in recent months that reticence has lifted as Ms. Rice has pressed the Bush administration’s campaign for democracy in the Middle East as a pillar of its foreign policy, and it has become useful to make an analogy between what Ms. Rice calls the American “birth defect,” its record of racism, and the problems faced by other countries. Her seeming reluctance to dwell on her history was cast aside for this trip, as much of Alabama welcomed her home as a kind of daughter of history.
Weisman to the contrary notwithstanding, Secretary Rice has regularly given speeches making these points over the past couple years; it is not a recent development, as Weisman states. Is Weisman making this up as he goes along? Has he bothered to do the slightest research before making these statements? Is the fundamental inaccuracy here a function of laziness, incompetence or hostility?
I noted in the Standard column that the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 had been the handiwork of former members of the Ku Klux Klan — brothers under the hood to former Ku Klux Klan Grand Kleagle and current Democratic United States Senator Robert Byrd. Byrd of course opposed Rice’s confirmation as Secretary of State. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Byrd and 11 other Democratic senators in opposing Rice’s confirmation as Secretary of State was Democratic senator Mark Dayton who is, oddly enough, the occupant of Hubert Humphrey’s seat in the Senate. History takes strange turns and politics makes strange bedfellows.