As one of the world’s largest news outlets, the Associated Press’s linguistic mandates significantly shape the broader vernacular. So when the organization this week decided to stop using the term “illegal immigrant,” it was a big victory for objectivity and against the propagandistic language of bigotry.
Cautious AP executives did not frame it exactly that way. Instead, editor Kathleen Carroll portrayed the decision as one in defense of grammar, saying that the term “illegal” properly “describe(s) only an action” and that it is not an appropriate label to describe a human being.
“Illegal,” of course, has been used as more than a mere label — it has for years been used as an outright epithet by xenophobes. They abhor the notion of America becoming more diverse — and specifically, more non-white — and so they have tried to convert “illegal” into a word that specifically dehumanizes Latinos. Thus, as any honest person can admit, when Republican politicians and media blowhards decry “illegals,” they are pretending to be for a race-blind enforcement of immigration laws, but they are really signaling their hatred of Latino culture.
How can we be so sure that dog-whistle bigotry is the intent? It’s simple, really. Just listen to who is — and who is not — being called an “illegal.”
Almost nobody is uses the term to attack white immigrants from Europe or Canada who overstay their visas. Nobody uses the term to describe white people who break all sorts of criminal laws. Indeed, nobody called Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter an “illegal” upon revelations about his connection to a prostitution service, nor did anyone call Bernie Madoff an “illegal” for his Ponzi schemes.
Instead, the word is exclusively used to denigrate Latinos who entered the country without authorization. Coincidence? Hardly — especially because the term “illegal” is used to describe Latinos whose immigration status is not even a criminal matter.
Yes, as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie noted back in 2008, though “the whole phrase of ‘illegal immigrant’ connotes that the person, by just being here, is committing a crime,” in fact “being in this country without proper documentation is not a crime.”
If Christie runs for president in 2016, he will likely get flak for that comment from anti-immigrant Republicans. But he was 100 percent correct.
“‘Illegal presence’ as the offense is called, is not a violation of the U.S. criminal code,” notes the Newark Star-Ledger, adding that while it is “a violation of civil immigration laws (and) the federal government can impose civil penalties” a person “cannot be sent to prison for being here without authorization from immigration authorities.”
Recognizing these facts is not to condone unauthorized entry into the United States. But it is to note a telling discrepancy: Latinos with non-criminal immigration status are called “illegals” but white people committing decidedly criminal acts are not called the same. Worse, the term is used so often and in such blanket fashion against Latinos that it ends up implying a description of all people of Hispanic heritage, regardless of their immigration status.
What’s amazing is that Republican media voices, which so often invoke such incendiary language, simultaneously wonder why the Republican Party is failing to win the votes of people of color and consequently losing so many elections. Somehow, the GOP doesn’t understand what the Associated Press realized: Organizations — whether political parties, media outlets or businesses – can no longer expect to insult and slander people of color and still have a viable audience.
Those that do not realize that truth will inevitably find themselves as lonely and as marginalized as today’s GOP.
By: David Sirota, Creators.com, April 5, 2013
It’s getting very hard to keep track of who is and is not allowed in the conservative movement these days. The issue of how much smaller the tent is getting always comes to a head at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, at which warring factions fight to keep each other off the guest list. In 2011, prominent anti-gay groups boycotted because the gay Republicans of GOProud were allowed to cosponsor the event. Last year, GOProud was banned but white nationalists and anti-Muslim extremists were allowed.
The guest list for this week’s conference is even more byzantine. Following last year’s bad publicity, the white nationalists have been disinvited. And anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller has been denied a panel slot, which she claims is because CPAC’s organizers are “enforcing the Sharia.” You know things are getting bad when CPAC has fallen to Sharia.
But excluding white nationalists and an anti-Muslim extremist doesn’t mean that CPAC has suddenly become a friendly and open-minded place. This year, gay groups did get a consolation prize: a rogue, unofficial panel “A Rainbow on the Right.” But don’t look for any rainbows inside — the conference still bars gay Republican groups from its official proceedings. And even without Pamela Geller, the conference will keep its strong anti-Islam tilt, hosting speakers who routinely attack American Muslims. And it’s not just gays and Muslims. New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who vetoed a marriage equality bill in his state, has been deemed too liberal to speak at the CPAC. So has Virginia’s Gov. Bob “Transvaginal Ultrasound” McDonnell, who apparently became some sort of leftist radical when he agreed to raise taxes to fund his state’s highways.
So who was conservative enough to make the cut for CPAC? War on Christmas analyst Sarah Palin, unhinged former congressman Allen West, and orange birther crusader Donald Trump, for starters. Mitt Romney has also been invited — presumably holding on to the right-wing makeover he underwent for his presidential campaign — though he loses top billing to his former running mate Rep. Paul Ryan.
In many ways, CPAC is caught in exactly the same bind as the Republican Party. The party’s leaders know that to survive in the long-term it must moderate its positions and expand its base. But they’re still in the grips of an extremist fringe that just won’t let that happen. Last year, fringe candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock helped sink the GOP’s hopes of gaining seats in the Senate. This year, strategist Karl Rove has threatened to launch primary challenges against fringe candidates in an effort to keep the party relevant. But in doing so, he’s provoked the anger of the Tea Party, whose leaders correctly note that they’re the only reason the GOP has any power at all right now.
This year’s CPAC can be seen as a preview of the 2016 Republican presidential primary. The party’s main movers and shakers are trying to keep their base happy by turning away leaders like McDonnell and Christie who have deviated, in however small a way, from the party line. But they’re also trying to hide some of the most disturbing aspects of their party’s fringe.
McDonnell got snubbed for daring to fund a transportation bill. In his place, CPAC will highlight Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who led the legal charge against the Affordable Care Act and who is running to be McDonnell’s successor. White nationalists and Pamela Geller were ousted for being too far off the fringe, but Donald Trump, who’s devoted himself to claiming that the nation’s first black president isn’t a real American, is a highlighted speaker.
As hard as CPAC’s organizers may try, their guest list is still a mess. But the problem isn’t just the guest list, it’s what they’re serving. They’re trying to represent a movement — and a party — that wants the American people to think they got the message while still relying on extremists and insisting on a rigid orthodoxy. That’s a tall order for any party. And they can’t have it both ways.
By: Michael B. Keegan, The Huffington Post Blog, March 13, 2013
So it turns out Chris Christie is fat.
If, somehow, that fact had escaped you before, surely it came slamming home last week after he appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman. There was the 50-year-old governor of New Jersey jokingly snacking on a doughnut as the talk-show host — who has taken a jab or two at Christie’s weight — gently asked him about his girth. The bit was in keeping with how Christie usually deals with weight-related humor. He seems to feel the best defense is a good fat joke.
The laughter curdled the following day, however, as Dr. Connie Mariano, a former White House physician, told CNN that Christie is a “time bomb” who, if elected, might die in office. Christie exploded, calling her “completely irresponsible,” and a “hack,” and told her to “shut up” about his health. After that, Christie reportedly spoke to her by phone and, presumably, told her what he really thinks about her. All of which has ignited a national debate that has raged from the couch on The View to the op-ed page of The New York Times.
And here, several things need to be said.
The first: Christie says what really bothered him is that one of his young children heard the doctor say his dad might die and came to ask if that was true. Even granting that Christie’s response was over the top, is there anyone who cannot empathize with the fatherly anguish that caused it?
The second: Does anyone really believe Christie does not already know he is overweight? Or that he is not already aware that this carries serious health risks?
The third: When has the hectoring of friends ever convinced an obese person to make a serious and lasting commitment to weight loss? Does it not more often trigger resentment than resolve? So how much less effective is national hectoring likely to be?
The fourth: There is something disingenuous in framing this as a question of Christie’s medical fitness for the presidency. The present holder of that office is a recovering nicotine addict and surely the lethality of tobacco is at least as great as that of fat, if not more so. Yet, in 2008, when the nation was debating his fitness for office, the fact that Barack Obama was a smoker rated barely a mention.
What is on display here, then, is neither noble concern for Christie’s health, nor high-minded rumination over what constitutes physical fitness for the presidency, but, rather, irresolution, the schizophrenia of a fat people, hooked in equal measures on fried chicken and Nikes, supersize drinks and fad diets. It is a blithe duality that makes it possible for a morning show to do a cooking segment filled with butter and cheese one moment and then in the next, with barely a twinge of irony, pivot to a segment on how to choose the best exercise equipment.
The problem with Christie is that he makes the irresolution manifest. His corpulence registers differently than does that of a Kirstie Alley or an Al Roker. On a celebrity, it is seen as human drama in which we have a rooting interest. Christie doesn’t get that pass, because he isn’t a celebrity — he is a politician, a leader, and maybe, a future president.
And the tone of this conversation, the high profile of this conversation — indeed, the very fact of this conversation — seems to suggest that in such a person, fat is almost a betrayal. If elected president, after all, Christie would be the living representative of all of us. One suspects that fact gives many people pause.
Because if Christie does, in fact, represent us, irresolution becomes more difficult, duality more threadbare, and the guy who says his pants shrunk in the wash must find a new excuse.
So don’t hate him because he’s bountiful. The governor is a mirror, reflecting truths we decline to accept. Some people seem to think that, once declined, a truth thereby goes away.
By: Leonard Pitts Jr., The National Memo, February 13, 2013
We all know Chris Christie is a bit of a hothead. I mean, it’s a bit like saying a hothead is a bit of a hothead. It’s not observation but truism. Republicans love him or loved him for it. And Democrats started to too because his blow ups don’t all follow ideology. There was this time back in 2011 when he flipped out at a reporter for questioning whether a Muslim-American judge he’d appointed to the bench might be a security risk or sympathetic to al Qaeda.
Then there was Sandy. Republicans were irate; Dems cheered. What it all really comes down to is that in addition to being a very big man Christie is clearly a big-hearted man. I don’t mean that in the sense that he’s necessarily a great guy in every respect. But he doesn’t do artifice well. He has his emotions on his sleeve. And on his lapel and his pants and his hat if he’s wearing one. He’s just all out there in the 24/7 run of performance art called being Chris Christie.
But this calling the “hack” doctor thing strikes me as a big deal. Not in the sense of the fate of the republic being at stake but in the sense of Christie’s future above the rank of governor.
Here’s what TPM Reader JL just wrote in …
Christie never had the remotest shot at the nomination. At least not after Sandy. But he had a shot at making some noise. Not anymore I suspect. And I say that as something of a fan.The thing is that to take CC seriously as a prez candidate you have to believe that his anger is an asset that he deploys deliberately and skillfully. Which often appears to be the case. But if it starts to look like the anger controls him rather than the other way around, his appeal really plummets.
I suspect the ill advised phone call was a pretty big deal. If I were he, I’d be working overtime on damage control.
This strikes me as exactly right. Calling this women up and berating her over the phone is the sign of someone whose anger has the better of him and lacks impulse control.
Governors don’t have armies or security services. So if they’re a bit nuts or reckless it’s not that big a deal. People evaluate presidents very, very differently.
By: Josh Marshall, Editor and Publisher, Talking Points Memo, February 8, 2013
Every week, it seems, New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s name inches higher on the list of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates.
As a result, unlike any public figure in recent memory, he is increasingly compelled to assure reporters and the general public that his weight does not impair his ability to lead.
Christie, by any measure, is obese. This has provided endless fodder for late-night talk show hosts — David Letterman has ridiculed him for years — and politicos who hope to use his weight against him.
Stereotypes masquerade as facts: Fat is undisciplined. Fat is lazy. Fat is bound for an early grave.
Fat makes for great TV, too, the theory goes, from sitcoms to cable news shows. So after Christie jokingly pulled out a doughnut on Letterman’s show earlier this week, former White House physician Connie Mariano diagnosed the governor from afar on CNN:
“I worry that he may have a heart attack,” she said. “He may have a stroke. It’s almost like a time bomb waiting to happen unless he addresses those issues before he runs for office.”
Mariano worked for three presidents and wrote memoirs about her time at the White House. Visit her website, however, and you’ll find a photo of her only with former President Bill Clinton and a quote from him extolling her book. Combine her on-air interview with her website and she comes off as unprofessional and partisan.
Christie’s response to Mariano was typically brusque: Unless she does what a doctor is supposed to do — examine the patient and record his family history — “she should shut up.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than one-third of Americans are obese. Still, fat jokes are a popular form of entertainment in this country. If you’re on Facebook, for example, you probably have seen the photos of morbidly obese customers at Walmart. The comment threads about the ample backsides of unsuspecting shoppers will make you lose faith in humanity, I swear.
Such cruelty can play out differently in politics, which brings us back to Christie. His approval ratings soared in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Even those who hated him had to concede that he was there for the people of his state — so much so that he hugged the president and then fired back at those who dared to criticize him for his gratitude.
The flood lines receded, and the fat jokes returned, but Christie’s political opponents — Republicans and Democrats alike — are ill-advised to make his size a campaign issue. When it comes to the governor’s struggles with weight, millions of Americans are on his side. Don’t think for a minute that Christie doesn’t know that, too.
“If you talked to anybody who has struggled with their weight, what they would tell you is, ‘Every week, every month, every year, there’s a plan,’” Christie said Tuesday at a news conference in New Jersey. “The idea that somehow I don’t care about this — of course I care about it, and I’m making the best effort I can.”
Sounding like millions of other Americans, 50-year-old Christie acknowledged that dieting has been a regular part of his life for decades.
“Sometimes I’m successful, and other times I’m not,” he said. “And sometimes periods of great success are followed by periods of great failure.”
But I’m not a Christie fan, because of his version of America. He has consistently attempted to demonize public-school teachers and called their union leaders “political thugs.” When a woman asked him, during an interview on a local television show, whether it was fair for him to cut funding to public schools when his children attend private school, he smacked her down.
“None of your business,” he said. “I don’t ask you where you send your kids to school. Don’t bother me where I send mine.”
Christie opposes marriage equality for gay Americans and vetoed a bill last year that would have allowed it.
He is also anti-choice. He’s just fine with turning over control of a woman’s body to the government. He’s got an attitude problem with women, too. Responding to a female heckler at a Mitt Romney rally last year, he said, “You know, something may go down tonight, but it ain’t gonna be jobs, sweetheart.”
Those are just some of the reasons Christie should never be president. There are plenty more.
Enough with the speculation about Christie’s health.
It’s the weight of his politics that could threaten the well-being of Americans.
By: Connie Schultz, The National Memo, February 7, 2013