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Katie Halper | The Nation

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Katie Halper

Katie Halper

Breaking news, politics, culture and—not least—humor.

The GOP Debate and the Worst Segue Ever From Martin Luther King Day

One of the best, and most telling, parts of last night’s debate took place before the debate even started. In all fairness, it’s already really awkward to hold a debate on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the last state to acknowledge the day as a federal holiday (in 2000). On top of that, there’s the whole ideological antithesis between King on the one hand and Fox News and the GOP candidates on the other. And then, add to that killer combo a candidate who doesn’t want to help “blah” people, a candidate who actually voted against making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a holiday and would have (his words not mine) voted against the civil rights bill and… I could go on, but I’d literally be here all day. Perhaps nothing captured the awkwardness and inappropriateness of the when-and-where of the GOP debate more than the painfully awkward and inappropriate segue from acknowledging Martin Luther King Jr. Day to starting the debate, when moderator and Fox News host Bret Baier said,

“Today, as you know, is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. As we look live at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, its first year on the mall, we’re reminded of one of the many notable quotes from the late Dr. King. ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in a moment of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ This campaign has been filled with challenge and controversy. The challenges are large. Here in South Carolina, the unemployment rate is near 10 percent, well above the national average. And on this MLK Day, unemployment in African-American communities is near 16 percent. But the controversy on the campaign trail in recent days has been about Governor Romney’s record. We are going to talk extensively about jobs, federal debt, world hotspots and social issues, but, first, let’s clear the air.”

Check out the video. The awkwardness starts at 2:25.

 

Top Three Right-Wingers of the Week: 'Information' on Newt Gingrich's Black Father and Other Goodies

The right wing is filled with hate and insanity, but every now and then someone does something that manages to shock even the most jaded observer. This week brings us three particularly over-the-top right-wing nuts. First, there’s James David Manning, a New York City pastor and birther—did I mention he’s black?—who has “inside information” about Newt Gingrich’s black father. The inside information is actually an inference based on his deductive reasoning and Gingrich’s middle name: “Newt’s real name is Newton Leroy McPherson. Nobody on the planet names their children Leroy except black people, just like nobody on the planet names their sons Hector except Hispanic people.” Newt Gingrich being “miscegenated,” as Manning puts it, by a white mother and “a liberal but educated black man” explains why Gingrich is so “erratic.” “But that ain’t all,” says the pastor, who goes on:

“Mitt Romney? His name is Willard! WILLAAAAARD! I think that he’s probably the son of a pyscho and that’s why he acts the way he acts. And I believe that Willard has some black blood in his too…. Somewhere down the line.”

Manning even hypothesizes about the circumstances under which Newt and Mitt were conceived. Demonstrating a fetish for hot rich-white-women-on-black-sleeping-car-porters romance, the man of the cloth fantasizes that

“these politicians’ and rich people’s wives used to take these long train rides and these sleeping car porters didn’t have anything to do, the women were bored…and the black sleeping car porter Leroy and Willard, they were there serving coffee and tea with their white jackets and black pants on. And Mrs. Romney and Mrs. McPherson took ’em in the sleeping car. These black men in the sleeping car.”

Next, the Speaker of the Kansas House, Mike O’Neal (R), forwarded a message from his personal e-mail, which contained Psalm 109 (which I’ve pasted below for those of you who don’t have it memorized):

Let his days be few; and let another take his office
May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.
May his children be wandering beggars; may they be driven from their ruined homes.
May a creditor seize all he has; may strangers plunder the fruits of his labor.
May no one extend kindness to him or take pity on his fatherless children.

Just to make sure his recipients got the message, so to speak, O’Neal introduced the e-mail with: “At last—I can honestly voice a Biblical prayer for our president!… Look it up—it is word for word! Let us all bow our heads and pray. Brothers and Sisters, can I get an AMEN? AMEN!!!!!!”

To be fair, O’Neil is no sexist. He also forwarded a disgusting e-mail attacking Michelle Obama, referring to her as “Mrs. YoMama” and comparing her photo to a photo of the Grinch. O’Neil is running quite an equal opportunity operation here!
 
And then there’s the compassionate conservative state Representative Richard Floyd (R) of Chatanooga, Tennessee, who sponsored the “Bathroom Harassment Act,” a bill fining transgender people $50 for using restrooms and dressing rooms. But Floyd has outdone himself. In defending his bill he said,

I believe if I was standing at a dressing room and my wife or one of my daughters was in the dressing room and a man tried to go in there—I don’t care if he thinks he’s a woman and tries on clothes with them in there—I’d just try to stomp a mudhole in him and then stomp him dry.

Don’t ask me to adjust to their perverted way of thinking and put my family at risk. We cannot continue to let these people dominate how society acts and reacts. Now if somebody thinks he’s a woman and he’s a man and wants to try on women’s clothes, let him take them into the men’s bathroom or dressing room.

But it’s all good because, as Floyd explains, the bill wouldn’t “penalize anybody.” In fact, it “protects everybody”! Yay!

Top GOP Tweets of the Week

The Republican candidates are the gift that keeps on giving. Whether they’re bragging about being dangerous, calling anyone who isn’t a millionaire “envious” or running around like a corporate lobbyist in a populist’s clothing, these GOP politicians never fail to provide comedic gold. While their soundbites have been combed, their tweets are relatively unmined. Let’s take a look at these nuggets of fun. (The following are screen shots I took of their actual tweets.)

You know his donations shot through the roof after this tweet. Even I donated. A girl can dream.

This is a double whammy! Gingrich thinks it’s noteworthy to be endorsed by major intellectual and political heavyweight Todd Palin. And the Newt seems to endorse someone else for president.


Jon Huntsman engages in some hot Mormon-on-Mormon folksy fighting.

But what if these will ideals refuse to accept your generous offer? 

Cain doesn’t seem to get how primaries work. (I know he’s suspended his campaign, but Cain’s still in the race, for me, until he unsuspends he campaign and then terminates it.)

Ron Paul’s Twitter feed links to this photo. Ron prefers showing photos of himself with his son over actually appearing with his son. Rand was absent from the stage when Ron, surrounded by every other relative he could find, addressed his supporters in New Hampshire. I think he told his Rand not to come on stage with him because he made babies cry when he stood on the stage in Iowa.

Santorum Defenders Unwittingly Call Their Candidate a Liar

Dear Rick Santorum defenders: you are screwed. Your candidate has boxed himself, and by extension you, into a corner by telling two conflicting stories about his “blah people” comment. Santorum has made it impossible for you to defend him without defending at least one lie. The problem is, Santorum doesn’t just have a “blah” people problem, which I blogged about Tuesday—he has an honesty problem. Just to recap:

1. Sunday, Santorum told a crowd in Iowa, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money.”

2. Monday, a reporter asked Santorum “You said you didn’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them someone else’s money. Why would you say that?”

3. At this point, Santorum does not dispute that he made this comment about “black people.” He doesn’t say, “I didn’t say that,” but explains (in a bizarre way) why he said what he did about black people: “I’ve seen that quote, I haven’t seen the context in which that was made. Yesterday I talked for example about a movie called, um, what was it? Waiting for Superman, which was about black children* and so I don’t know whether it was in response and I was talking about that.”

4. Wednesday, Santorum had an epiphany and realized he had said “blah” people, not black people: “[I] didn’t recall using that particular word.… It was probably tongue-tied moment.… In fact, I’m pretty confident I didn’t say ‘black.’ I sort of started to say a word and sort of mumbled it and changed my thought. I don’t recall saying ‘black.’ No one in the audience heard me say that.” (He probably also remembered that some of his “best friends are blah” too.)

What is a Santorum-positive person supposed to do? There are two possibilities, and both of them, well, suck:

1. Defend Santorum’s Wednesday claim that he never said “black,” which means he was lying on Monday when he admitted he had said it. I call this group Wednesday Santorum supporters.

2. Defend Santorum for saying “black” people, arguing that it’s either not a big deal or that what he said wasn’t racist. This, of course, means Santorum was honest Sunday and Monday and only lied Wednesday when he denied saying “black people.” I call this group Monday Santorum supporters.

Have fun, Santorum fans. No matter what you say, whether you’re a Monday or a Wednesday Santorum supporter, you’re saying your guy is a liar. To help you decide which route to go, I present you with video of the two different Santorum defense models. In the Colbertian (Wednesday) model, Stephen Colbert argues that Santorum never said black. And in the Cainian (Monday) model, Herman Cain argues that Santorum said “black” people, but just made a poor choice of words in demonizing poor black people instead of all poor people. I’ll let you decide which one is more laughable.

 

*The film is about students of all races, but I guess Santorum only remembered the needy black children.

Do Ron Paul Supporters Really Think a Racist Ad Helps Their Candidate?

It's not like Ron Paul doesn't have a problematic track record when it comes to race. He opposes the Civil Rights Act and is trying to distance himself (though half-heartedly) from hateful and vitriolic racist language spewed in his newsletters. So, I can't imagine why Paul's supporters would think a racist  ad, which goes after Jon Huntsman for adopting daughters from China and India, would help their candidate. Are they really that out of touch? Or really that racist? Or maybe they're equal opportunity advocates, diversity zealots, tired of racism against black people and working for a more inclusive bigotry that embraces Asian people. To its credit, the ad achieves a sophisticated, vintage flavor, complete with Chinese flute music, rarely found outside 1980's movies, such as Sixteen Candles

Seven Days of GOP Bigotry

These guys must be pooped! I don’t know how they do it. How do these GOP presidential candidates manage to pack so much racism into one week? They are prolific! You know who could learn a thing or two from Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich’s strong Catholic work ethic? The blacks! I mean the blahs.

Sunday: Rick Santorum tells supporters in Sioux City, Iowa, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better, by giving them someone else’s money.”

Monday: Santorum does some amazing damage control, explaining,

I’ve seen that quote, I haven’t seen the context in which that was made…. Yesterday I talked for example about a movie called, um, what was it? Waiting for Superman, which was about black children and so I don’t know whether it was in response and I was talking about that.

Wednesday: Santorum realizes that he was totally misunderstood—apparently by himself as well as by others! Who said anything about black people? He said “blah” people. I’m not making this up. Watch the video (at 2:09) and hear him actually say [I] didn’t recall using that particular word… It was probably tongue-tied moment.… In fact, I’m pretty confident I didn’t say ‘black.’ I sort of started to say a word and sort of mumbled it and changed my thought. I don’t recall saying ‘black.’ No one in the audience heard me say that.”

Thursday: Not to be outdone, Newt Gingrich comes up with his own nugget of racist condescension, saying, “And so I’m prepared if the NAACP invites me, I’ll go to their convention and talk about why the African-American community should demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.”

Friday: Newt responds with the humility and sensitivity for which he is known.

I think you would have to be nuts to read those two paragraphs and conclude anything except that I was saying that every young American deserves the right to pursue happiness. Every young American deserves chance to have a job. Every neighborhood in America deserves a chance to have pay checks instead of food stamp.… And for the life of me I can’t understand why having a conservative Republican who cares about young people having jobs should be seen as such a terrible idea or should be seen as somehow a racist characterization.

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