Dear David from Georgia:
I want to thank you for the email you sent last week. It made me laugh out loud.
It seems you were unhappy I took a shot at Rush Limbaugh a few days back. Limbaugh had argued that John Lewis might have avoided having his skull fractured by Alabama state troopers while protesting for voting rights in Selma, AL 48 years ago, if only he’d been armed. I suggested, tongue in cheek, that Limbaugh would have given the same advice to Rosa Parks, who famously refused to surrender her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, AL, bus.
Which moved you to write: “If Rush Limbaugh were on that bus that day, like so many of us, he would have insisted that Ms. Parks REMAIN seated. … Rush doesn’t need me to defend him from your silly assumption, but I just like to bring it to your attention that just because Rush is WHITE doesn’t mean he is not a gentleman!”
David, Rush Limbaugh is the man who once said the NFL “all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips” and told a black caller to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back.” So the idea that, in Alabama, in 1955, as a black woman was committing an illegal act of civil disobedience, this particular white man would have done what 14 other white passengers did not is, well, rather fanciful.
But then, it’s seductively easy to imagine yourself or your hero on the right side of history once that history has been vindicated. So of course “Rush” would have stood up for Rosa Parks. Of course “Rush” would have defended Jews who were turned away while fleeing the Holocaust. Of course “Rush” would have supported women agitating for the right to vote. Of course he would’ve defended human rights. Wouldn’t we all?
Actually, no. Not then, and not now.
As it happens, David, your email appeared the same week as news out of Flint, MI, about Tonya Battle, an African-American nurse who is suing her employer, the Hurley Medical Center. Battle, an employee since 1988, was working in the neonatal intensive-care unit when, she says, a baby’s father approached her at the infant’s bedside, asked for her supervisor and then told said supervisor he didn’t want any black people involved in his child’s care.
So, of course, the hospital stood up for its 25-year employee, right?
No. According to her suit, a note was posted on the assignment clipboard saying, “No African-American nurse to take care of baby.” The hospital, naturally, has declined comment.
David, this is ultimately not about “Rush.” He is a rich blowhard and therefore, unexceptional. No, this is about the implicit, albeit unstated, “of course” that comes too easily to you and frankly, to many of us, when we contemplate how we would have responded to the moral crimes of the past.
There is to it an unearned smugness that insults the very real courage of those like Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo and James Zwerg, who did take the morally correct stand at hazard of life and limb. It is easy to “stand up” for the right thing when doing so requires only paying lip service 50 years after the fact, something at which Limbaugh and his brethren have become scarily adept.
But the need for real courage, for willingness to stand up for human dignity, did not end in 1955, something to which our gay, Muslim and immigrant friends — and Tonya Battle — would surely testify. So there is something starkly fatuous in your vision of “Rush” defending Rosa Parks. No, sir. We know where he would have stood then because we know where he stands now.
Perhaps you find comfort in your delusion. But some of us realize we live in an era where bigotry has its own talk show and cable network. Can we find comfort in delusions like yours?
Of course not.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo. February 20, 2013
For nigh on forty years, the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation have been doing a good-cop/bad-cop routine—make that a bad-cop/really bad-cop routine. Yesterday, Heritage decided to double down on bad, with stained-glass windows.
Up until now, the Heritage Foundation has done a fairly competent job of disguising itself as a “think tank” where sobersided “scholars” write unreadable “policy papers” with “executive summaries.” But by appointing Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, as its new president, Heritage risks “rebranding” itself as a full-bore, revival-tent, Jesus-saves belief tank of the Christianist right.
DeMint inhabits the outer reaches of movement conservatism pretty much across the board, but his greatest passion seems to be reserved for what are delicately termed “social issues.” On questions of sexual identity and behavior, he is a forthright bigot and a prude. Shortly before the 2008 election, speaking at a Dominionist “Greater Freedom Rally,” he summarized his position thusly:
If someone is openly homosexual, they shouldn’t be teaching in the classroom. And he holds the same position as an unmarried woman who’s sleeping with her boyfriend. She shouldn’t be in the classroom.
Last year, he indicated that his belief in small government is rooted in the theory that there is a fixed and limited amount of space that can be occupied by the government and the deity combined. The size of the public sector and the size of the Almighty are inversely proportional to each other. It’s an iron law, a zero-sum game:
I’ve said it often and I believe it—the bigger government gets, the smaller God gets.
DeMint appears to believe that there is a similarly inverse, zero-sum relationship between science and Christianity. He is a notorious global-warming denialist and creationist. And he is an enemy of the very idea of public education. At the “Greater Freedom Rally,” he explained why:
The thing that we’ve conceded as a people that we’ve got to fix, is turning the education of our children over to the government…. Let ’em go to a school where they can learn that God created this earth—because we know he did. Scientists more and more are—are being trapped or backed into this whole idea. As they see the whole genome experience, experiment, or they research all the DNA, they realize that this had to be created. It could not have happened by accident. It’s impossible. So we can go out with confidence that we are created, we are given unalienable rights, and God has blessed this country beyond anything we could have imagined. And he’s put us in charge of this vineyard we call America.
DeMint’s garbled reference to genomes and DNA, by the way, was apparently a confused allusion to Francis Collins, the former director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, whom President Obama appointed to head the National Institutes of Health. Collins is an evangelical Christian, but, like all reputable scientists, he rejects creationism, including its “intelligent design” variation, and does not believe that global warming is a hoax engineered by liberal scientists motivated by a fanatical ideological preference for government regulation of private business.
The big Washington story of the moment is the battle between conservative Republicans and very conservative Republicans over whether or not to hold the economy hostage in order to prevent marginal income-tax rates on the top two per cent from reverting to the slight higher Clinton-era levels. A parallel story over the next few years may be the quiet struggle between A.E.I. and Heritage for Republican hearts and minds. A.E.I. may have the advantage when it comes to minds, but Heritage is where the hearts are. Heritage was founded in the first place because the older organization was considered too squishy. Even so, badthink has sometimes crept in. It was Heritage, you may recall, that invented the “individual mandate” that became the basis of Obamacare and, earlier, Romneycare. DeMint is unlikely to tolerate any such outbreaks of left deviationism at Heritage. Under him, its grip on the organ of G.O.P. emotion can only strengthen. Its grip on the organ of reason, such as it is, is apt to fare less well.
By: Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker, December 7, 2012
Neither is Lindsey Graham. The rest of the Republicans who persist with smear campaigns against U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and other women, especially women of color, aren’t too smart either. To the 97 members of the House, who wrote a letter to President Obama attacking Rice, I say, you are even stupider.
The Monday letter was written by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), chairman of a House subcommittee on terrorism. Those that signed the letter are among the most conservative House Republicans, and at least 10 of them lost reelection bids this month.
They should have figured out by now that women go to the polls more than men, and more black and Latina women voted for Barack Obama than did their male counterparts.
But men like McCain who are ruled by an overweening sense of personal privilege are not very bright. Though they sit on committees with the word “intelligence” in the name of the group, it doesn’t seem to have rubbed off. In fact, all this macho posturing and bluster in front of the cameras may put the nation at risk. Loose lips sink ships.
My assessment has nothing to do with his courage, or past service to the country in war.
Men who feel threatened by women of strength and superior intelligence, who resort to bullying, bluster and lying when challenged by said women, are simply lacking smarts.
Their bigotry tends to crowd out brain cells.
I have a rule of thumb when judging the males of our species. I choose to look at their behavior towards women to understand their character. Men who exhibit bonhomie towards other men, yet choose trophy wives (who they demean while pimpin’ off of them), who can’t or won’t deal on a level of equality with women (especially women of color), or accept that there are women who are smarter than they are, have a part of the brain that has never fully developed. It has been culturally limited, constrained, constricted and shaped by our cultural gender norms and as such many would never even recognize it as a failing.
In fact, there are those who see it as admirable. They see them as “manly men.”
I’m not one of them.
I’m happily married to a man who is pleased as punch to tell his male friends that his wife is smarter than he is. He isn’t the least bit uncomfortable about it. In fact, he thinks he’s pretty smart for marrying me. I agree. I’m pleased that he is more talented than I am. We respect each other. That’s what makes a good partnership.
Politics is about partnerships. Political leadership requires selecting and building a smart team. If your team doesn’t have smart women in it, you won’t get my vote.
Let’s take this latest Benghazi bullcrap being used to taunt and demean U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. It has nothing to do with Benghazi really, which I wrote about in Black Kos last Tuesday. The racism, blended with their sexism is blatant.
By now those who didn’t know her credentials are aware of them. Those of us who have her back, from the president on down to a coalition of congresswomen, to bloggers and commentators like Soledad O’Brian and Rachel Maddow, have made it clear that she is not only a brilliant Rhodes scholar, but is an astute diplomat, with an important background in not only international affairs in general, but Middle East terrorism specifically.
President Obama is not afraid of strong smart women. He’s surrounded by them.
Republicans have attacked his wife, his mother-in-law, his daughters, appointees like Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice, Melody Barnes and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Republicans have gone after Tammy Duckworth on her military record. Teh stoopid ruled. Scott Brown went after Elizabeth Warren on her pride in having Native American ancestry.
So McCain lost an election partly because of his choice of a female running mate. Her selection—based on her having a uterus rather than brain cells—was stupid.
The War on Women launched by the Teapublicans was stupid.
Escalating that war to target Susan Rice is the height of stupidity.
Targeting women of color is political suicide.
Keep it up.
See how well stupid works out for you in 2014 and 2016.
By: Denise Oliver Velez, Daily Kos, November 25, 2012
“A Man Is Known By The Company He Keeps”: John Sununu And Mitt Romney Are Not So “Strange Bedfellows”
The saying goes: A man is known by the company he keeps.
If that is true, what does the company Mitt Romney keeps say about him?
This week Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama again, as he did in 2008. That apparently set John Sununu, a co-chairman of the Romney campaign, on edge. Powell’s endorsement couldn’t possibly be the product of purposeful deliberation over the candidates’ policies. In Sununu’s world of racial reductionism, Powell’s endorsement had a more base explanation: it was a black thing.
On Thursday, Sununu said on CNN:“When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama.” He continued: “I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”
Talk about damning with faint praise. In other words, Sununu was basically saying that he was applauding Powell’s inability to see past the color of his own eyelids.
Sununu is the same man who said that the president performed poorly in the first debate because “he’s lazy and disengaged.” He is also the same man who said of the president in July, “I wish this president would learn how to be an American.”
Could Sununu be unaware that many would register such comments as coded racism? Or was that the intent?
To understand Sununu, it is important to understand his political history.
For starters, he is no stranger to racism controversies. When George H.W. Bush selected him as chief of staff in 1988, The New York Times reported:
“Mr. Sununu’s selection was shadowed by concern among some key Jewish leaders. The 49-year-old New Hampshire Governor, whose father is Lebanese and who takes pride in his Arab ancestry, was the only governor to refuse to sign a June 1987 statement denouncing a 1975 United Nations resolution that equated Zionism with racism.”
But that wasn’t his undoing. It was his actions. In 1991, Sununu became enmeshed in a scandal over using government planes for personal trips.
After the embarrassment of the incident, Bush ordered Sununu to clear all future flights in advance. What happened later you must read for yourself, and it is best stated by Time Magazine in a July 1, 1991, article:
“If Sununu hadn’t exactly been grounded, he had certainly been sent to his room. But Bush underestimated the depth of Sununu’s ethical obtuseness and his zeal at finding a way around the rules. Like a rebellious adolescent, Sununu sneaked down the stairs, grabbed the car keys and slipped out of the White House. After all, the old man had only said, ‘Don’t take the plane.’ He didn’t say anything about the car.”
The piece continued:
“Overcome by a sudden urge two weeks ago to buy rare stamps, Sununu ordered the driver of his government-paid limousine to drive him 225 miles to New York City. He spent the day — and nearly $5,000 — at an auction room at Christie’s. Then he dismissed the driver, who motored back to Washington with no passengers. Sununu returned on a private jet owned by Beneficial Corp.”
By the end of 1991, amid sagging poll numbers, Bush began to see Sununu as a drag and unceremoniously relieved him of his post. As The Times reported then, Sununu was made to plead for his job before he was pushed out anyway:
“Mr. Sununu and the White House portrayed the departure as voluntary. But it followed meetings in which Mr. Bush listened to Mr. Sununu’s arguments that he should stay on and then decided to follow the advice of top-level Republicans who urged the removal of his chief of staff.”
R. W. Apple Jr. wrote in The Times after the move that Bush’s “indirectly soliciting and then promptly accepting” Sununu’s resignation had made it abundantly clear what actually happened.
Sununu has apologized, somewhat, for his racial attack on Powell’s motives. But what should we make of all this?
We have a very racially divided electorate. As The Washington Post reported Thursday, “Obama has a deficit of 23 percentage points, trailing Republican Mitt Romney 60 percent to 37 percent among whites, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll.”
The report pointed out that nearly 80 percent of nonwhites support Obama, while 91 percent of Romney’s supporters are white.
I worry that Sununu’s statements intentionally go beyond recognizing racial disparities and seek to exploit them.
What does that say about Romney, and what does it say about his campaign’s tactics?
Remember: A man is known by the company he keeps.
By: Charles Blow, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 26, 2012
Perhaps it was too optimistic to think that the election of Barack Obama in 2008 meant that we were in, or at least entering, a post-racial society. Whatever racial elements were at play in the last presidential election, the tension and even anger now seems even more pronounced.
An ABC/Washington Post poll shows greater racial polarization among the electorate this year than in 2008, the first year an African-American became a credible presidential candidate, let alone the president. The tracking poll shows the president lagging behind Republican Mitt Romney among white voters by 23 percentage points—far more dramatic than the seven percentage points by which Obama was behind in the white vote in 2008, and even the 12 points by which he eventually lost the white vote that year.
Meanwhile, former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu, apparently piqued at former (Republican) Secretary of State Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama, suggested that the respected general was making a decision based on some sort of racial solidarity. Said Sununu on CNN:
When you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to look at whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or he’s got a slightly different reason for endorsing President Obama. I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.
Sununu walked back the statement later, but it’s still disturbing. This is not some random angry person making anonymous comments on the Internet. This is a former senior White House adviser and a former governor, someone who is now advising Romney’s campaign.
Whites aren’t required to back a black candidate to prove they are not racist, any more than Powell and other African-Americans have to vote for a nonblack candidate to prove they are taking into account issues other than race. There is an argument to be made that really hating Obama because you don’t like his healthcare or economic policy represents an advancement in race relations. But the numbers suggest something deeper is still at play. African-Americans, for example, have been even harder hit by unemployment than whites, and have similar American concerns about foreign policy and education. If race were truly not an issue, the numbers would be a little more closely aligned among racial and ethnic groups.
Nor has the attack on Obama as “other” dissipated in the slightest since his election. Sununu himself has commented that Obama needs to be more of “an American,” and absurd rumors persist about Obama’s place of birth or religion. The tragic irony is that Obama, aside from the sheer example of his status as president, is hamstrung when it comes to actually talking about race, since on a political level, it’s more threatening coming from an African-American than a white candidate or official. Bill Clinton could talk about race in a way that sounded more palatable to white America. And yet Obama, if he were to engage in a frank discussion of race, would surely be castigated as divisive.
It’s common, historically, for social advances to be met with an immediate pushback before things start to settle in for the better. The abolition of slavery was followed by Jim Crow laws. The civil rights movement of the ’60s also was met with a backlash, though the fundamentals endured. There’s been a lot of social and demographic change in this country over the last 50 years, even over the last 25 years, and it’s perhaps a lot for some people to absorb. When the Tea Party candidates proclaimed they wanted to “take our country back”—and carried signs featuring the female former House Speaker, the gay former committee chairman, and the mixed-race president, that was no accident.
It does appear that some of the pushback is generational, and not necessarily coming from a position of pure bigotry. If you’re much older, it may be difficult just to get your head around all the changes that have occurred in your lifetime. A white man who is now 70 grew up with a different example—guys like him ran the country, and his country pretty much ran the world. Neither of those things is true anymore, and neither is likely to change. And while it’s not a defense of racism or xenophobia or unilateralism, it is an explanation of why it might be hard for some older people to adjust.
I have two young brothers, both of whom are mixed-race. One of them plays soccer at his school, and our father recently told me of watching Matty join in a pre-game huddle with his teammates. There they were—black, white, mixed-race, Cambodian—and they were all yelling, “Uno! Dos! Tres! Quatro!” to psych themselves up for the contest ahead. It was a lovely hybrid of the metaphorical melting pot and what former New York City Mayor David Dinkins used to call the “gorgeous mosaic” that makes up our country. We may end up taking one step back on race relations for every two we take forward. And eventually, maybe we just grow out of it.
By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 26, 2012