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“Paul ‘Rage’ LePage, Maine’s National Embarrassment”: GOP Governor Under Fire Following Racially Charged Comments

Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R), already facing possible impeachment in an abuse-of-power scandal, is no stranger to controversies involving race. Early on in his term, for example, the Republican governor got in a dispute with the Maine NAACP over his decision to skip events honoring Martin Luther King. In reference to the civil-rights group, LePage said, “Tell them to kiss my butt.”

Two years later, according to Republican attendees to a LePage gathering, the far-right governor complained that President Obama doesn’t emphasize his biracial heritage because the president “hates white people.” He later denied having made the comments.

This week, however, LePage went just a little further still. The Portland Press Herald reported on comments the governor made at a town-hall meeting on Wednesday night.

About 30 minutes into the meeting, which was rebroadcast Thursday night, LePage responded to a question about how he was tackling substance abuse in Maine. He began talking about how much of the heroin is coming into Maine from out-of-state drug dealers.

“These are guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty … these types of guys … they come from Connecticut and New York, they come up here, they sell their heroin, they go back home,” LePage told a large crowd. “Incidentally, half the time they impregnate a young, white girl before they leave, which is a real sad thing because then we have another issue we have to deal with down the road.”

By way of a defense, as Rachel noted on the show last night, the governor’s spokesperson said in a statement to reporters, “The governor is not making comments about race. Race is irrelevant.”

Look, I feel bad for anyone who has to defend Paul LePage’s rhetoric; it must be an unpleasant and incredibly difficult job.

But if the governor’s office expects to be taken seriously, pretending LePage wasn’t making comments about race only makes matters worse.

On camera, and in front of a large group of people, the governor said “D-Money” is coming into his state from elsewhere – Maine’s population is over 95% white – selling heroin, and impregnating “young, white” girls.

Are we really supposed to believe LePage’s unscripted comments had nothing to do with race?

The governor’s rhetoric, not surprisingly, generated national attention quite quickly, and last night, Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign issued a statement condemning the remarks.

“Governor LePage’s comments tonight are not only offensive and hurtful but they try to cover up the very real epidemic of drug abuse facing people in his state and across the country,” Hillary for America’s Marlon Marshall said. “LePage’s racist rants sadly distract from efforts to address one of our nation’s most pressing problems…. Sadly, Governor LePage’s comments aren’t too dissimilar from the divisive, misleading and hateful rhetoric we’re seeing from Republicans across the country these days.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 8, 2015

January 8, 2016 Posted by | Maine, Paul LePage, Racism | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Same Weary Tune”: Steve Scalise And The Right’s Ridiculous Racial Blame Game

In much the way one used to savor the sight of some lying schmuck be game-set-match cornered by Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes, I love watching conservatives try to explain away race scandals. Like the be-Wallaced lying schmuck, they know deep down they’ve had it. But quite unlike the schmuck, and this is the fun part, they never run up the white flag; indeed quite the opposite. They go on the attack, and it’s just a comical and pathetic thing to see.

Before we get to all that, permit me a brief reflection on this matter of Steve Scalise. Let’s allow him the error in judgment, or whatever tripe it is he’s peddling, of speaking to a David Duke-related white supremacist group in 2002. It’s hard to believe, but let’s go ahead and be generous about it.

I think we should find it a little harder, though, to be generous about his vote as a state legislator in 2004 against a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the state of Louisiana. His was one of six votes against the day, which received 90 votes in the affirmative. And in case you think he may have rushed to the floor from the bathroom and accidentally hit the wrong button, he had cast the same ‘no’ vote in 1999. No error in judgment explains that. He was part of an extreme, racialized white faction in the Louisiana state house that was clearly dead-set against honoring King. (In which goal he is hardly outside the Southern mainstream; some states in Dixie still sometimes celebrate King on the same day they honor Robert E. Lee.)

So it’s hardly shocking that Scalise spoke to the group. Indeed it would have been more shocking if he hadn’t. This is a state, after all, where Duke, in his statewide race for governor in 1991, received a majority of the white vote. In fact, a large majority, of 55 percent, meaning that even though Edwin Edwards walloped Duke by 23 points, a near-landslide percentage of white Louisianans voted to make an avowed white supremacist their governor. Yeah, it was a long time ago. But how different would things have been 11 years later, when Scalise attended the Duke event? By attending, he wasn’t doing anything that would have been seen as controversial by most of his white constituents; indeed most of them would have endorsed it.

Some of the defenses of Scalise have been amusing and have followed the expected pattern, like redstate.org finding a black Democratic Bayou pol to avow that Scalise didn’t have—you guessed it—“a racist bone in his body.” But the fun starts when conservatives stop playing defense and go on offense. Here are the three main tropes, which apply not only in this situation but every time we’re met with one of these revelations.

1. But Al Sharpton is the real racist!

Nobody has to lecture me about how Sharpton has played racial politics in New York. I wrote some harsh columns about him back in the day, having to do with the way he played ball in New York City mayoral politics, especially in the 2001 election. But to call him or any black man “the real racist” is to evince complete, and I’d say willed, stupidity about what racism is. Racism isn’t just a person’s feelings and attitudes (and I don’t think Sharpton is “a racist” even by that definition); it is, more importantly, a set of power relationships, legal and economic, that kept and to some extent still keeps one group of people (and they aren’t white) from enjoying the full promise of American life. That’s what racism is, and Al Sharpton just ain’t its practitioner.

2. But hey, we elected Tim Scott.

Right. You did (he’s the African-American conservative Senator from South Carolina). And J.C. Watts back in the 1990s. And there was Allen West. And now’s there’s Mia Love of Utah and Will Hurd of Texas. Bravo. That’s five. Congratulations! Meanwhile, white liberals have helped elect dozens of blacks to high office—mayors, members of Congress, a few senators and governors, and now a president.

This is supposed to “prove” that conservatives aren’t racist, and I would readily agree that on an individual level, most probably are not, and they’re willing to vote for a black candidate provided he or she has the proper right-wing views. Fine. Elect 20 more and then you’ll start to have a case. But they won’t elect 20 more, for many years anyway, because 1) the conservative agenda appeals only to about five percent of African Americans, and rightly so, since it stands in opposition to virtually every policy change that has improved black life in this country over the past 50 years, and 2) the Republican Party puts very little effort into recruiting black candidates and adherents, something the Democratic Party has been doing—at no small electoral cost to itself, by the way, but because it was the right thing to do—for 40 or 50 years.

3. B-b-but Robert Byrd!

Ah, my favorite of them all. Amazing how people can still haul this one out with a straight face. Yes, Byrd—dead four-and-a-half years now—was a Kleagle in the Ku Klux Klan. And his last known affiliation with the Klan was almost 70 years ago, in 1946. And yes, he voted against the Civil Rights Act in 1964. But as everyone knows, he went on to say—not once but many times—that that was the greatest error of his career by far. As long ago as the early 1970s, he had gone on to support most civil rights-related legislation. He endorsed Barack Obama in 2008 in May, when Hillary Clinton was still technically in the race and just after Clinton had walloped Obama in the West Virginia primary. Byrd could very easily have gotten away with endorsing Clinton, justifying it as the overwhelmingly clear will of the people he represented. But what he did was reasonably brave and freighted with all the symbolism of which he was well aware.

And saliently for present purposes, and in contrast to Scalise, here’s what Byrd had to say about a national King holiday back in 1983, when Ronald Reagan was still opposing it: “I’m the only one who must vote for this bill.” The only one. There’s no missing what he meant by that. And the italics were his, not mine.

I suspect that somewhere down there in the Freudian precincts of their minds, the Byrd-invokers from Limbaugh on down know this, and it’s what they hate about Byrd most of all: The very sincerity of his repentance makes him a capitulator to the liberal elite and a traitor to his race. But they can’t say that in polite company, so they keep whipping a horse that’s been dead for at least 40 years.

And they’ll probably whip it for another 40, unless demographics overwhelm them sometime between now and then, but they’ll resist that as long as they can too. There’ll be more Steve Scalises, and every time, the right-wing orchestra will strike up the same weary tune.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, January 2, 2014

January 3, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Racism, Steve Scalise | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We Still Aren’t Good Enough”: Morally, We Have Failed To Make A Brotherhood

How fitting it is that this weekend’s shabbat observance, which I plan to share with the B’nai Tzedek Congregation in Potomac, coincides with two other weekend celebrations: Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the swearing-in of President Obama.

There is much to commemorate: the exodus to freedom from slavery in Egypt; the life and legacy of America’s foremost civil rights leader; and a changing United States that reelected its first black president.

But delve deep below this weekend’s celebratory moments and consider our world with introspection, and you might well be led to an observation that King made in 1954, one that still holds true.

In a sermon in Detroit, he said that you didn’t have to look far to see that something was basically wrong with our world.

Society, he said, has more knowledge today than people have had in any period of human history, whether the topic is mathematics, science, social science or philosophy.

“The trouble isn’t so much that we don’t know enough,” King preached, “but it’s as if we aren’t good enough.”

The trouble isn’t so much that our scientific genius lags behind, he said, but that our moral genius has not caught up.

Through our scientific advances, such as the building of jet aircraft that can transect the globe, we have made the world a neighborhood, King said.

But morally, he said, we’ve failed to make it a brotherhood.

Examples abound.

Consider these words: “It is high time to assess how many [members of parliament] and government members are of Jewish origin and who present a national security threat.”

Do you think those evil thoughts were expressed during Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich? Marton Gyongyosi of the neo-Nazi Jobbik Party of Hungary spoke those words last fall.

The fire of anti-Semitism that reduced a once-thriving Hungarian Jewish population to a third of its size still smolders. The smoke also rises in other parts of the world.

Some government leaders condemned Gyongyosi’s remarks, belatedly. But there are plenty of others, such as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who belong in Gyongyosi’s camp.

They remind us, just as King preached at the tender age of 29, that we still aren’t good enough. King declared that some things are right and some things are wrong, eternally and absolutely.

And there still exists one undeniable wrong that must be faced.

Despite scientific and technological advances that have taken us to places unthought of only a few years ago, in 2013 bigotry has global dimensions. It represents a moral challenge to the world.

King spoke of creating a worldwide fellowship that lifts concern “beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation.” Embrace all mankind, he said.

Now that is a tough call for an American president, to move from national to ecumenical concerns.

Fixing the economy, rebuilding infrastructure, strengthening the middle class, managing the debt, protecting our homeland, defending the vulnerable and changing gun laws are presidential priorities that can’t wait. They all cry out for action.

But bigotry is a global curse, a growing cancer on the world. Can America turn a blind eye to hatred?

Would that the questions stopped there.

Is hatred a popular subject for a reelected Barack Obama to address? The polls would probably say no.

We have enough on our hands here at home, is the common answer. What do ethnic and religious rivalries have to do with us, anyway?

Besides, is it good politics? The politicians probably would universally say no. There are no votes in taking on world hate.

But is it the right thing to do?

King would say yes.

Not because he believed that a word from the president of the United States would change the world.

But King might contend that the president of a racially, ethnically and religiously diverse nation founded on the principles of liberty and equal rights — however haltingly observed in the past — has an obligation to take sides against bigotry wherever it is found.

King wrote from his Birmingham jail cell that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“We are” he said, “caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. What ever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

Bear this in mind as we gather this weekend to remember, rejoice and observe.

 

By: Colbert I. King, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, January 19, 2013

 

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Bigotry | , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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