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Tom has scores to settle with a couple of his readers and their online comments

Before we jump headlong into this new year (it is only the 12th, after all), I have a few things to clear up.

I love to read the comments that people post after my column comes out, even (or, perhaps, especially) the mean ones. I almost never respond to those, because I've already had my say, and then it's everybody else's turn. But this past week, people just plain got stuff wrong, and it has to be addressed.

Someone named Riverwoman wrote: President Eisenhower did more for civil rights than any other U S President. He was the one that de-segregated the armed forces, he was the one to send Federal troops to protect the "nine". He originated almost all of the civil rights actions that were credited to Pres. Kennedy & Johnson.

I love the "Riverwoman" thing; it sounds so native. I once had a basketball player named Eagle Woman; she had a sister named White Thunder Woman. Way cool.

However, you got it wrong. Harry Truman, not Dwight Eisenhower, desegregated the armed Forces. Unsure whether he could get a law through Congress, Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, ending all segregation in the military. The secretary of the Army, Kenneth Claiborne Royall, was forced to resign in 1949 after refusing to implement the order. Great stand there, Mr. Royall. How does it feel to forever go down in history as a bitch?

Eisenhower did indeed send the troops to Little Rock to protect the Central High Nine. How cool would it have been if Eisenhower had walked those kids into the school himself? Oh, well; history is full of blown opportunities.

Eisenhower did push for some civil-rights legislation, much of which was gutted and/or stalled by the Senate majority leader, Lyndon Johnson. There is no disputing that. Johnson was a flawed man, but when he came to his senses (or, as the cynics would put it, saw which way the wind was blowing), he jumped in with both feet and got things done. I sincerely believe that Johnson, with his J. Edgar Hoover-like collection of dirt on everybody and his "Johnson Treatment" ways of negotiating, got things done that neither Eisenhower nor Kennedy ever could have.

Which leads to the next thing. Vote Chewning writes: Pres. Johnson signed the Civil rights act into law July 2, 1964. The house of Representatives passed the bill - 289 to 124 80% Republican and 63% Democrats voted yes. The Senate voted 73 to 27 with 21 Democrats and only 6 Republicans voting no. KKK member Sen. Byrd filibustered the bill for 14 hours. Richard Nixon, presidential candidate Barry Goldwater and Republican Martin Luther King lobbied for the bill. As you can see your article is misleading in that it indicates that the Democrats were in favor of civil rights Republicans against. There are good and bad in both parties.

First off, Barry Goldwater famously opposed the Civil Rights Act. He did so on constitutional grounds after reading an opinion written by fellow Arizonan and future Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist (who also ridiculously supported Plessy v. Ferguson). Goldwater later regretted his opposition to the bill.

Goldwater had supported civil-rights bills in 1957 and 1960 (and voted in favor of the 24th Amendment, which outlawed the infamous poll tax), but whiffed on the big one, remarking, "You can't legislate morality."

We have to get another thing straight, because I don't want to hear this nonsense this entire election year. The Southerners who called themselves Democrats from the 1870s into the 1960s were a bunch of redneck losers who used the term "Democrat" simply because Abraham Lincoln had been a Republican. It sucks that they used the term "Democrat," but anyone with half a brain knows that those people have nothing to do with the real Democratic Party; trying to make some lame point by using that is disingenuous times 12.

When Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, he remarked, "I know the risks are great, and we might lose the South, but those sorts of states may be lost anyway." After a brief detour into George Wallace's racist American Independent Party camp in the election of 1968, the South became solidly Republican and remains that way today. (Bill Clinton won Georgia, Louisiana and a couple of other Southern states in 1992, and four in 1996; and Barack Obama won Florida, North Carolina and Virginia in 2008, but that's about it.)

The Southern people who used to call themselves Democrats are now Republicans, and it's a much better fit for them. (And I'm not saying that Republicans are, by definition, racist. I don't believe that. Now, Tea Party members ... just kidding. Sorta.)

Also, will Republicans please stop invoking the names of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt? Neither of those guys would be welcome in today's GOP. Lincoln would be tarred and feathered, and Roosevelt would be burned at the stake. Can you imagine the Republicans supporting someone who would take on big business and stand for environmentalism?

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