A Best-Case Scenario | Legacy of Racism | Nixon Strikes Again

The Outlook—If Senator Kerry wins, George Packer, the essayist and author of the excellent political meditation Blood of the Liberals, says Kerry will inherit a great deal of trouble from the man he replaces. In the October 25 New Yorker magazine, Packer sketches the difficult outlook for the possible new president:

“The constraints won’t come only from the war, the deficits, and a probable Republican majority in at least one house of Congress. The conservative tide of the past quarter century has made it almost impossible for government to address our most serious national problems. The erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes and the startling rise in the number of poor and uninsured Americans are calamities without congressional hearings, bipartisan commissions and patriotic oratory. Along the bandwidth of acceptable domestic policy there is no longer room for the state to play a decisive role in reversing these disastrous trends.

“There used to be a word for national greatness on the home front: liberalism. It was a philosophy that made the federal government the guarantor of individual rights and equal opportunity. Several decades of political combat have turned it into a term of abuse. In recent days, with the race closing to a dead heat, Bush reached deep into his father’s old campaign arsenal for the Republicans’ ultimate equalizer and began to deploy the L-word against Kerry. In the last two debates, the president used it and its synonym, ‘Massachusetts,’ so often that they began to sound like locker room taunts.”

Red Was Black—The Commonwealth of Virginia (the “Old Dominion” still doesn’t like to be called a state) is preparing to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the English settlers’ landing at Jamestown in 1607, which we described in our October 15th issue.

We now learn that the tribal descendants of the Pamunkey and other American Indian tribes who were invaded by the Brits at Jamestown are still paying a price for that encounter.

That’s because in 1924 Virginia, one of the most segregationist states of the Civil War Confederacy, adopted the pro-white “Racial Integrity Act,” which defined its residents as either “white” or “colored.” Because Virginia’s Indians were not recognized as a separate group, they were classified as “colored,” and “Indian” was expunged from their birth certificates, school records, driver’s licenses and other documents.

Now a reporter at the Los Angeles Times has discovered that this erasure of tribal documentation has blocked Virginia’s few Indian remnants—the Pamunkey, the Mattaponi, the Monacan, the Nansemond and the Rappahannock—from tribal recognition by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. They have no tribal records and no proof of their ancient Indian heritage.

That means that Virginia’s 3,500 Native Americans cannot join the 562 other tribes across the country in qualifying for federal grants for housing, schools and health care.

Efforts to undo Virginia’s blackballing of Indians are under way at the state capital in Richmond and in Washington, where legislation recognizing the tribes is pending in Congress.

A little reluctantly, the tribes are preparing to join other Virginians in the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the British landing at Jamestown in 2007.

But Kenneth Adams, the Mattaponi Indian chief, who bears the family name of John Adams, the second American president, says that for Virginia’s Indians “it would be extremely ironic if we participate in this event on the beginning of the United States as we know it today, and not be properly recognized by the United States.”

Nixon Tapes Erased . . . Again—The Nixon family, survivors of a president who tape-recorded hours of obscene and damning telephone conversations, has forced the audio archivists at the National Archives to erase some of them. They wanted expunged from the total collection of 2,800 hours of taped Nixon chatter about 800 hours of his comments “on family matters” and “internal Republican” politics.

The 800 hours of cleansed tapes will not be available for public monitoring until 2008.