McKinney back in DC

After losing her House of Representatives seat in 2002, over a comment that Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks before they occured, Cynthia McKinney came back on November 2nd, and won it back. That’s a feat in itself.

Now she has to hurtle the feelings of other members of Congress that didn’t like her comments about Bush. She’s been assured that, “It’ll be a thing of the past”, but why should it be? After all, McKinney has been proven right. Bush was given a memo, titled, “bin Laden determined to strike inside the US” In August 2001. He had ample time. McKinney was just pointing the obvious out.

Good luck, Cynthia. Don’t ever stop doing what you feel is right.

Article archived here.

GEORGIA’S NEW VOICES IN WASHINGTON
Cynthia McKinney: Refocused but unchanged, outspoken critic fights on
A continuing series of profiles of our new members of Congress

By BOB KEMPER
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 12/28/04

WASHINGTON — Cynthia McKinney won back her congressional seat in Georgia’s 4th District this year by doing what she didn’t do when she lost it two years ago: avoiding intemperate rhetoric and focusing on local concerns.

“It’s a new day, y’all,” McKinney shouted to supporters on election night.

But as she prepares to return to Congress next week, there are indications that things won’t be so new and different for one of Congress’ most outspoken critics of the Bush administration and most passionate defenders of the poor and minority rights.

McKinney lost her re-election bid two years ago after suggesting in a March 2002 radio interview that President Bush may have had prior knowledge of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and failed to prevent them. She implied that people close to the administration stood to gain financially from a war on terror.

“We now know that there were enough warnings prior to Sept. 11 that we didn’t even have to experience Sept. 11 at all,” McKinney said on Pacifica Radio, sparking a national uproar and drawing criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.

Congressional investigators and an independent panel have since found that the CIA and the administration had failed to connect the dots on several pieces of intelligence before the Sept. 11 attacks, and failed to give weight to contrary intelligence analyses before invading Iraq. McKinney feels vindicated.

“People can’t help thinking about me when they hear about Richard Clarke,” McKinney told From the Wilderness, an Internet publisher, in April, referring to the former White House intelligence officer who publicly confirmed pre-9/11 intelligence lapses and described a rush to war by the administration.

The same focus

Yet, while McKinney talked about 9/11 at out-of-state appearances this year, she kept her election campaign focused on landfills near DeKalb neighborhoods and congestion on local roads.

Denise Majette, who defeated McKinney in 2002, ran for the U.S. Senate seat Zell Miller vacated rather than re-election to the House.

That cleared the way for McKinney, with strong support from her base in the fast-growing neighborhoods of south DeKalb, to roll over a crowded Democratic primary field without a runoff and to handily defeat her Republican opponent Nov. 2.

“I think she’s learned some great lessons from what happened two years ago, and I think she’s going to be more effective now,” said state Rep. Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta), McKinney’s friend and mentor.

“The people of DeKalb and that district will be No. 1 for her, I believe, but she will always be Cynthia,” Brooks said. “She will be there to speak to the issues of the poor and the downtrodden. And she’ll be challenging Congress and the administration.”

“There’ll be no difference,” her father, former state Rep. Billy McKinney, said flatly.

“While she was out of office, she spoke all over the country and all over Europe,” he said. “She was in great demand. That’s because she spoke truth to power. . . . The 4th District put her back in office for that same reason.”

It’s rare for a member of Congress to win back a seat previously lost, according to Norman Ornstein, who studies Congress at the American Enterprise Institute. “Usually, when people lose, they don’t run again,” he said.

“Losing a primary after a decade of service typically means the end of a career,” said Thomas Mann of the Brookings Institution in Washington.

And those who do make a comeback typically run at the urging of their party’s leaders, something that didn’t happen in McKinney’s case.

Majette ousted her in 2002 with the backing of some prominent Democrats. McKinney blamed what she said was a large Republican crossover vote in the primary and even sued the state Democratic Party over the open primary system.

It’s not clear what specific issues McKinney will tackle in Congress — she declined several requests for an interview — or how successful she will be.

Fellow House Democrats have refused her demand to reinstate 10 years of seniority from her previous tenure, making it more difficult for her to secure influential committee positions.

Moreover, the woman who once hand-wrote, but never submitted, a bill to impeach Bush returns to a capital more tightly controlled by Republicans than even two years ago.

Many of them may still harbor grudges for her 9/11 remarks and for a letter she wrote to a Saudi prince expressing empathy for his claim that U.S. policy in the Middle East may have helped provoke the attacks.

But Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), one of the Democrats who scolded McKinney for her comments about Bush and 9/11, said her statements would likely be treated as “a thing of the past.”

“If people violate the law, yeah, we deal with them,” Frank said. “But other than that, people [in Congress] are not inclined to be terribly judgmental about each other.”

Voice of a maverick

Still, McKinney starts her new term with a reputation for seeking controversy. She calls herself a “child of the ’60s,” and she was that. The first time she participated in a civil rights march, she rode on the shoulders of her father, a former longtime state representative and Atlanta cop.

And long after the Voting Rights Act was signed into law and integration became the norm in American public schools, McKinney often sounds disillusioned with post-’60s America.

“As I survey the landscape of the changes that have taken place literally before my eyes, over the course of a lifetime, I have to wonder where did we go wrong,” she said in 2003.

That view, and the influence of a father who was an outspoken political maverick, help explain McKinney’s anti-Establishment philosophy and her self-image as the latest in a long line of black leaders persecuted by the government, the political machinery and the media.

“She’s one of the lone voices who offers an opposing view on many questions,” said William Boone, a political science professor at Clark Atlanta University.

McKinney’s critics, he said, “all think that she’s some person who’s so far out there and doesn’t have a firm grasp of reality. That’s totally wrong,”

McKinney, 49, entered her first political race without knowing it. Her father wrote in her name for a state House seat in 1986 while she was living in Jamaica with her husband, Jamaican politician Coy Grandison, and their son.

By 1988, McKinney had divorced Grandison and returned to the United States with her son. She campaigned hardfor the state House and won, creating the only father-daughter legislative team in the nation.

She quickly made an impression by wearing pants on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives, defying rules requiring women to wear skirts or dresses. She harshly criticized the 1991 invasion of Iraq, and her colleagues walked out of the state House in protest. She called her own party’s leaders “dinosaurs” who considered blacks “no more than spare parts for their whites-only party machine.”

“I’m attracted to fights,” she once said.

McKinney was elected to Congress in 1992 in a freshly drawn majority-black district. She immediately called for a Justice Department investigation into Georgia’s kaolin industry, a prominent employer in her district, on antitrust charges.

In ensuing elections, even as her district was altered around her, McKinney continued to easily win races often marked by racial overtones.

That streak ended in 2002, after a race during which McKinney’s strong support from Arab donors was one issue. McKinney’s father spelled out for reporters that he felt “J-E-W-S” helped bring her down.

Even in the moment of her defeat, however, McKinney hinted at her return, telling supporters she simply wouldn’t “be in Congress for a couple of years.”

“I’ve got to be proud of what she did,” said Billy McKinney, who was conspicuously absent from his daughter’s campaign this year.

“The same forces that were against her last time were against her this time,” he said.

“She had six opponents and most of them were funded by the same people, [but] the citizens of DeKalb County decided what they wanted.”

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