"Dead-end" activists lure McKinney to sad fate

Posted: Aug 03, 2006 12:01 AM

What do Fox News pundit Juan Williams and Georgia Democratic Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney have to do with each other? The answer in a moment.

First, a reminder: In April, I wrote in this national Creators Syndicate column that controversial Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney would likely lose her bid for re-election to a relatively unknown opponent in Georgia's Democratic 4th Congressional District contest.

McKinney now finds herself in a runoff and trailing Hank Johnson, who served as a local county commissioner, according to our latest InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion survey of that race.

In April, I noted that Washington insiders were too busy concentrating on whether McKinney would be charged for allegedly striking a Capitol policeman. They were missing the fact that McKinney's district, although heavily African-American, had proved in the past that when McKinney goes too far, they will vote her out. (It happened once before.)

In a desperate attempt to save McKinney, big-time national black leaders such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have voiced support for her. Nevertheless, I believe she will lose next Tuesday.

That's where the human-interest side of this story comes into play.

While my column is based out of Jacksonville, Florida, InsiderAdvantage is based in Atlanta, and we own the Southern Political Report, which is in Washington.

All of this is a roundabout way of explaining that, by location and a common past, I have known Cynthia McKinney and her father, former Georgia state legislator Billy McKinney, for many years.

While the Cynthia of today deserves her apparent political fate, the Cynthia I used to know, before national, professional malcontents got their claws into her, was a politician probably deserving of re-election.

Enter Juan Williams, Fox News TV analyst and National Public Radio senior correspondent.

His politics are hardly right-wing, and yet he has authored a new book, "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America -- and What We Can Do About It."

Among other things, the book hits the Jacksons and Sharptons of this world right in the mouth with a good dose of common sense -- or what should be both socially and politically obvious.

Williams will undoubtedly face criticism from some who will call him America's newest "Uncle Tom." They will put him in a boat that is increasingly being filled by more and more fed-up black icons, such as comedian and superstar Bill Cosby.

So be it. The African-American journalist Williams has the credentials to withstand the criticism. I only hope that Cynthia McKinney will read the book. Here's why:

In the early 1990s, as a young man willing to take on a "good-ole-boy" system that dominated southern politics, I was befriended by an eclectic group of individuals. Among them was a charming and very bright state representative named, yes, Cynthia McKinney.

Later, I served with her father in the Georgia Legislature. Although often political foes, we never exchanged cross words. In my personal dealings with each of them, I was left with nothing but fond memories of both father and daughter. Because of that, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the McKinneys.

That said, Cynthia's ascendance to Washington led her into the waiting arms of the very leaders of these "dead-end movements" that Williams exposes in his book. McKinney increasingly embraced their cynical view of America and turned to their tired antics, which seek to deflect criticism and conjure support by demanding it.

These players played Cynthia. They knew she was bright, attractive and willing to say virtually anything to make an impact.

And so the spiral began. By 2002, her outrageous comments about 9/11 only fed the perception that she was too comfortable with the national and international political factions that demonized America. This was too much for her suburban Atlanta district. She was voted out, only to return quietly when the seat became vacant two years later.

When our recent poll was released, she blasted it as being "Republican."

She is wrong. InsiderAdvantage polling is not partisan. Our polling record around the nation -- and especially in the South -- clearly shows this.

But I understood. It's just politics.

After the dust settles -- probably leaving a bad taste in her mouth -- I hope Cynthia McKinney will reflect on the fact that the likes of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are no longer the future of African-Americans.

I hope further that she will reassess her view of those who have used her as a one-woman movement to support their own self-proclaimed causes.

I also hope she will read Juan Williams' book.

The sad thing is that I cherish the personal memories I have of Cynthia McKinney. And my wish for her is that she can find that former Cynthia once again.

She'll probably have plenty of time to look.