As Hank Aaron reflected upon America in the forty years since he surpassed Babe Ruth's then record of 714 Home Runs, the former Braves slugger offered a provocative political answer. The 80 year old slugger claimed that not much has changed in race relations since his 22 years in the Major Leagues, where he received some cruel correspondences as he chased the legendary mark of the Sultan of Swat. To underline his assertions, Aaron essentially asserted that Republicans have treated President Barack Obama like the KKK, except that they wear neckties and starched shirts rather than hoods. USA Today summarized theses reflections with the headline: "40 Years Later, Hank Aaron's grace a beauty to behold." It is dubious that those in the GOP smeared by this biased broadside of bigotry would agree with that assessment.
Although Barry Bonds now holds the MLB record of 769 Homers surpassing Aaron's mark of 755 in 2007, even Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig still consider Aaron the Home Run King. Aaron's strength, skill, longevity and perseverance without steroids to pass Babe Ruth was commendable. It is a pity that he tarnishes his legacy with a polemic political philippic.
While public policy partisans may quibble about priorities or programs, no one is entitled to their own facts. It is rich irony that Hank Aaron compares the GOP to the KKK. Perhaps he has forgotten that Jackie Robinson and Martin Luther King supported Republicans, because of what the Grand Old Party did to ensure Blacks freedom in the 1860s as well as their key role in enacting civil rights protections in the 1950s and 1960s and rejecting the Klan.
Of course, there is also the legacy of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), who had had actually been a Grand Kleagle in the KKK. Some dismiss this charge noting that Byrd was not in the KKK long enough to get his sheets broken in. Yet Byrd was an ardent opponent of civil rights legislation in the Senate during the 1960s.
Yet Hank Aaron has the audacity to imply that the GOP are doing the high tech lynching, to borrow a phrase from Democrats excoriating President George H.W. Bush's nominee Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
In his time, Aaron was an outstanding slugger behind the plate. But as contemporary political commentator, Hank "the Hammer" strikes out badly. May Aaron not continue to follow the lead of his fellow Georgian octogenarian, President Jimmy Carter, who makes outrageous opinionated outbursts which sully his legacy.