Uncovering Capitol Hill’s rotten core

This Final Call interview with Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) was conducted in her Washington, D.C. office just before the Congressional Independence Day recess by White House Correspondent Askia Muhammad.

Final Call (FC): What is the state of the nation, Congress and the Capitol just before (July 4) Independence Day?


Rep. Cynthia McKinney (CM): We in the African American community recently celebrated Juneteenth, which is our own sort of Independence Day.

And, while the United States Congress has failed to renew the Voting Rights Act, I have to say that the state of the Black body-politic is just about dead.

If the African American and progressive communities around this country cannot rally and force the United States Congress to consider renewing the Voting Rights Act, then all of us are in very bad shape.

Not only is Hurricane Katrina a devastating example of the failure to incorporate Black America into all of the hopes and aspirations of America, but now we have got the failure to extend the Voting Rights Act, too. How many failures are we going to tolerate?

FC: You have earned a certain amount of infamy on Capitol Hill. First, you accused President Bush of knowing about the 9/11 attacks. You were excoriated for that, and then the movie Fahrenheit 911 was released, and you were vindicated.

Former Rep. Denise Majette took your seat in 2002, then her eyes got bigger than her stomach, and you won the seat back in 2004.

And finally, on Mar. 29, there was the incident with you and a Capitol Police officer, followed not too long thereafter by an incident involving Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), which showed that the Capitol Police can be especially considerate and cooperative with certain members of Congress, even during law-enforcement events.

Do you feel vindicated by these turns of events?

CM: It’s hard to feel vindication when you peel away and discover that the core is rotten. From the very beginning we’ve known that the core of the Bush administration was rotten by the way it treated African American voters in Florida, then again in Ohio in 2004.

So if it came to office in this illegitimate manner, then we shouldn’t be surprised at anything that this administration would do: lying to Congress, lying to the public, taking our young men and women off to war…they’re just babies. All of this, we shouldn’t be surprised at. But we should be doing more to counter it.

With respect to the Capitol Hill Police, it’s clear, there are still litigated lawsuits that have been filed by the Black police officers, against the Capitol Hill Police Department.

So, now, if we have more than 250 Black police officers saying that they are racially profiled, and they are on the same side of the “Blue Line,” just imagine the treatment the average ordinary American gets when they come in these halls.

So, we just have another core that we will un-peel and find that once again, there’s something that’s rotten up under there. We can’t build a foundation, if our core is rotten.

FC: During the Mar. 29 incident, why didn’t you have an aide with you to say: “That’s Representative McKinney, Officer McKenna.”?

CM: I should have had an aide with me. I don’t travel alone now. We subsequently have gotten hate mail and bomb threats. It’s a part of my life and I have to deal with it, so I’m not alone ever, anymore.

FC: Do you have any statewide or national ambitions, other than representing the 4 District of Georgia–which, by the way, was reapportioned and shaped like a pretzel once, in order to get you out of office?

CM: That is a little known scandal, because we just had the triumph of the (former House Majority Leader Tom) DeLay (R-Texas) redistricting by the Supreme Court.

So you know, the adversaries of progress, particularly racial progress, don’t stop, and will do just about anything in order to prevail in the elections.

FC: Atlanta has become a very popular destination for people relocating, particular those reaching retirement age. Do you have any advice for people moving to the Big A-T-L?

CM: Yes. We have an awful lot of people who are moving South, and we welcome them all. Metro Atlanta is very big. When people say they are moving to Atlanta, rarely do they actually move to Atlanta. They are moving to Stone Mountain, Lithonia, Smyrna, or various environs and they call it Atlanta.

But the local leadership is vastly different, in reality, from the idea that they have when they move to what they think is Atlanta.

They are confronted with a different kind of local politics that they are totally unaware of and unprepared for.

So I would just recommend that people know where they are moving when they say generally they are moving to Atlanta; know the specific locale and the elected leadership.

FC: Thank you.