Remembering Bull Connor … accurately

Chris Matthews, a Democrat who favors civility when it suits him, has quipped that Texas governor Rick Perry is “Bull Connor with a smile.” This is the “Hardball” punch line to an MSNBC campaign of vilification against Perry, built around deceptively edited clips designed to support the argument that the Texas governor and presidential candidate is a “racist.”

Of course, the media water-carriers for the Obama administration have long since “maxed out” the race card. But Matthews’ effort to portray Perry as the reincarnation of the infamous Bull Connor deserves a short comment. Specifically, we should remember Bull Connor for what he was, and what he was not.

Bull Connor was a Democrat. As the public safety commissioner of Birmingham, Alabama, it was at his command that civil rights protestors were attacked by dogs and beaten back by high-powered streams from fire hoses. One did not have to fabricate evidence that he was a racist.

Bull Connor was also a member of the Democratic National Committee. That’s the governing board of the national Democratic Party, the one currently chaired by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She’s the ever-civil, understated lady who says Republicans are using “violent movie clips” to push “their people to inflict pain and hurt people.” But I digress. We were talking about Bull Connor, whose minions — unlike the Republicans maligned by Ms. Schultz — really did hurt people.

It bears noting as well that Bull Connor was not only a member of the Democratic National Committee, but also of the Ku Klux Klan. And when Klansmen attacked Freedom Riders in Birmingham with bats and metal pipes, Connor allowed the beating to go on for 15 minutes without police interference. No arrests were made at the scene, but the pain and hurt inflicted were real.

Connor was active in the Democratic Party at the same time that Senators Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Albert Gore, Sr. of Tennessee were leading the opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Connor was no doubt pleased that 80 percent of the “no” votes on that bill in the U.S. Senate, and 75 percent of the opposition in the House, came from Democrats.

Bull Connor lived and died a Democrat.

Unlike Rick Perry, Bull Connor was not a Republican.

Ray Hartwell is a Navy veteran and a Washington lawyer. He can be reached at [email protected].