Reasonable people can disagree over who's the best candidate among the three finalists for the College of Charleston presidency. But to suggest that Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell should be pre-empted from consideration because of his record on race and heritage issues is to badly misrepresent that record.
In a press conference on Monday, the NAACP said Lt. Gov. McConnell would be a divisive choice, citing, for example, his role in the legislative compromise on the Confederate flag in 2000.
The civil rights organization has taken the position that the flag belongs in a museum, not on the Statehouse grounds. That, too, is a subject about which reasonable people can differ. But Mr. McConnell played a pivotal role in the good- faith effort to remove the flag from a position of sovereignty on the Statehouse dome, and in the legislative chambers, while settling an acrimonious issue of extended debate.
NAACP officials also took Mr. McConnell to task based on a selective interpretation of his interest in the Civil War and the Confederacy. Many of those opposed to his candidacy displayed placards showing him in a Civil War uniform.
Indeed, Mr. McConnell is an unabashed Civil War buff, and has long been a Civil War re-enactor, as both a Confederate and Union soldier. It's a hobby enjoyed by many others, including the black re-enactors of the Massachusetts 54th, who celebrate its role as the first African-American unit to see combat in U.S. history, on Morris Island.
Other areas of contention were cited by the NAACP, but no mention was made of Mr. McConnell's support for naming more black judges in South Carolina, or providing state lottery proceeds to historically black private colleges, or for training black male teachers for placement in public school classrooms.
Or for that matter, his work as chairman for the African-American monument at the Statehouse. He helped raise $2 million for its design and construction.
Perhaps the most telling response to the NAACP's criticism came from state Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland, a black minister who was Mr. McConnell's colleague in the Senate for many years.
"None of them who are speaking have ever worked with McConnell. He has been nothing but fantastic to work with," Sen. Jackson said.
He called the NAACP's comments on Mr. McConnell "character assassination."
As a leader of the state Senate - the first Republican to hold that position since Reconstruction - Mr. McConnell was generally recognized for his forthright and even-handed treatment of the issues and the people involved. He reached across the aisle and built alliances with his fellow senators, black and white, Republican and Democrat. That is why he was overwhelmingly re-elected to that position year after year.
Mr. McConnell's response to the NAACP's news conference: "I should be judged by my record and not by their rhetoric."
That's only fair. He may be handicapped in the competition to become the College of Charleston's president because he doesn't have a career background in academics.
But there's nothing in Mr. McConnell's record of public service as senator or lieutenant governor to disqualify him for that position.
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