Tuesday, July 18, 2006

J.D. Hayworth's Racist Blast From The Past

Finally, finally, this story made its way from the blogs to the mainstream media. The Jewish News of Greater Phoenix picked up the story in its editorial in the issue published two days before my column appeared in The Tribune. But the credit on this one goes to the blogs, which are linked below.

And if to prove my final point, so far there's been nothing but silence from ADL on Hayworth's book. Absolutely nothing on the ADL website. Just to make sure, I called today to the Phoenix regional director, who says he's emailed national HQ, but hasn't heard back. After all, there's a crisis in Israel and ADL's mission statement may have it working on issues of prejudice and such, but apparently the crisis in Israel takes precedence over what's ostensibly ADL's actual mission. So it sure look like that as long as Hayworth votes for foreign aid for Israel, there's no real problem here, move along, they might issue a press release--after the November elections. So it's time for my usual ADL rant; once again, IOKIYAR.

East Valley Tribune, July 16, 2006

One of the more tiresome tropes of American life is “the good old days” -- but always with some selective editing. In reality, “the good old days” weren’t that good, and by almost every statistical measure, today is better. Usually, the only thing that was better in the past is the speaker. Back in the day, those cranky old guys probably were a little less cranky, and they certainly weren’t as old. Everything else, not so much.

The “good old days” folks always disclaim any intent to restore, or even knowledge of, the bad stuff from the past. What they really want, they say, is only the good stuff while keeping all the ways today is better. Of course, that only creates a new argument, because in a lot of situations, what’s better for me is worse for you.

So the “greatest generation” myth requires that we credit them with winning World War II and an economic boom, but segregation and poverty were existing conditions for which they bore no responsibility. A top GOP Senator saying we’d have “avoided a lot of problems” if Strom Thurmond had been elected president on his segregationist platform was merely a desire for less raunchy lyrics in popular music, and had absolutely nothing to do with keeping blacks down.

The latest prematurely cranky old guy to put his foot into one of the less appetizing puddles of the past is Rep. J.D. Hayworth, whose anti-immigration-but-not-anti-Hispanic-even-if-that’s-what-his-supporters-really-want book, Whatever It Takes, lauds Henry Ford and his campaign for “Americanization.” As noted on numerous blogs -- wait, there's one more (and thanks to Howie Klein for the graphic at left) -- Hayworth salutes Ford as a leader, lauding his call that immigrants “must be taught American ways, the English language, and the right way to live.” Hayworth says Ford “had a better idea” than today’s “liberal elites” and “must be spinning in his grave.”

What Hayworth doesn’t say is that Ford had a very specific program in mind, which he outlined in his screed, Jew Objection to Americanism:

To ‘Americanize’ means, in our ordinary speech, to bring into sympathy with the traditions and institutions of the United States, but the Jews do not mean only the United States when they say 'America.' They mean also South and Central American -- where so many revolutions have occurred. There are large numbers of Jews in Argentina, and many are found in other countries. It would probably give a wrong slant o the fact to say that the Jewish leaders are wholly anti-America, but it is true to say that they are against the ‘Americanization’ of the Jewish immigrant stream. That is, that the trend of ‘Americanism’ is so different from the trend of ‘Judaism’ that the two are in conflict.

Maybe if you’re not Jewish, you never learned that Henry Ford was a notorious anti-Semite, that he published the fraudulent Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, and that in 1938 he received the Grand Cross of the German Eagle, the highest “honor” that the Nazis could give a non-German. But if you were writing a book and were casting about for historical analogies, you might want to do a bit of research on just what Henry Ford meant when he said what he said.

Hayworth might have done a quick Google search, because searching for “Henry Ford” and “anti-Semitism” yields about 88,000 hits. It’s a bit trickier searching for “Henry Ford” and “Americanism,” which gets some 25,000 hits -- but 2 of the top 10 are from the website jewwatch.com. To most people, that might have been a clue.

So if your alternative to today’s “liberal elites” and “multicultural and diversity” advocates is Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic rants from the “good old days,” I’ll stay with today, thank you very much.

Hayworth, of course, won’t suffer any for his invocation of notorious racism (for which Ford later apologized repeatedly -- but, naturally, Hayworth hasn’t). He’s learned the Republican’s route to survival in the Jewish political world. Just vote for $3 billion in foreign aid to Israel each year, and you’ll be amazed at what you can get away with.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Two Arizona Political Clichés That Have Outlived Their Usefulness

It's the summer doldrums, so I'm reduced to complaining about some of my political pet peeves, triggered by a letter to the editor the week before. Hey, I can resist my audience only for so long. My suggested title is above, but the substitute editor (the quippier regular guy was on vacation) went with something even less zippy, if you can imagine that. Well, you don't have to imagine, you can read it.

Election 2006

East Valley Tribune, July 9, 2006

One of the “evergreens” of Arizona political commentary is hackneyed complaints from Republicans that some Democrat isn’t putting the donkey symbol on his or her campaign signs, nyah nyah. (That’s the level of the argument, too.) The Tribune published just such a letter to the editor last week attacking Democratic U.S. Senate challenger Jim Pederson for not having the symbol, thereby giving the writer a chance to link together a bunch of falsehoods he heard on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show between the Viagra jokes.

It’s an extremely odd complaint against Pederson, because Jon Kyl’s campaign signs have never had the Republican elephant symbol in his past two campaigns, and don’t have it this year, either. Logic might indicate that attacking the challenger for not trumpeting his party affiliation on signs might not be the best argument available when the incumbent doesn’t display his party on his signs, either. But it does demonstrate that having sufficient brainpower to blow your own nose without training wheels isn’t a prerequisite to getting a letter to the editor published.

There’s also a cultural explanation; we’re Democrats, so we’ve never agreed on one uniform donkey symbol. It took us years just to accept the color blue, so the donkey thing has just never jelled. There isn’t even a donkey symbol on the Democratic National Committee home web page. It’s not like Republicans; when Karl Rove tells them to use this elephant logo, nobody complains and everybody does it.

But this year, to my surprise, there seems to be more Republicans than usual not displaying the elephant. Of course, it’s merely anecdotal evidence; as far as I know, there’s no data tracking whether candidates display the party logos on their signs, but with President Bush’s popularity mired in the 30’s (even after the latest illusory “bounce”), the brand may not be as powerful as in the past.

Besides Kyl, a three-time serial non-displayer, all the GOP candidates with signs at the major intersection closest to my home have opted not to display party registration. Signs for Jan Brewer, running for re-election to Secretary of State, and Corporation Commission candidate Gary Pierce, don’t have an elephant. Neither do signs for Laura Knaperek, running for reelection to the State House in LD-17, a swing district centered in Tempe that (unlike virtually all the others) readily can elect either Ds or Rs.

This elephantine absence isn’t true if you go two miles east, which puts you into a solidly GOP district where the primary (absent a Jeff-Groscost-style alt-fuels meltdown) determines the winner. Those candidates all have their elephant, as do the GOP gubernatorial candidates, who face winning a GOP primary before the general election.

But GOP candidates not having a primary, or running in swing districts or statewide, don’t necessarily highlight their party registration. Whether or not it’s a trend, it sure seems more prevalent than usual, and it looks like Pederson is doing just what Kyl, Brewer, and Pierce are doing: Candidates without a primary tend not to put a party symbol on their signs.

This won’t stop the GOP complaint that Democrats aren’t displaying party insignia, anymore than it will stop the hardy perennial hack reporter jape at a Democratic candidate for holding a high-dollar fundraiser in too nice a venue. Of course, these same hacks invariably look the other way when a Republican assumes the mantle of a “man of the people” fighting against the “elite.” It’s a great deal for Republicans; they can pretend to be faux populists, and still hold fundraisers at the Biltmore without fear of being made fun of. But it’s getting really, really tedious.

These complaints aren’t the most important thing in the world -- except that compared to constitutional amendments banning gay marriage, flag burning, and singing The Star-Spangled Banner in Spanish, hasn't the bar on “important” been set pretty darn low?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fourth of July Special

Apparently, according to our current rulers, freedom isn't indivisible after all, and all men aren't created equal and endowed with certain inalienable rights, if the unitary executive classifies them as enemy combatants. Just thought you'd want to know.

East Valley Tribune, July 2, 2006

Not only did President Bush get put in his place by the Supreme Court’s decision on military tribunals last Thursday but, in an interesting local sidelight, so did Sen. Jon Kyl.

The decision, as ably and rapidly summarized by Marty Lederman, held first, that the president’s authority is subject to statute and treaty, and second, that what Congress does should be construed to comply with the international laws of war.

That these ideas are controversial shows how far we’ve come in so short a time. The president’s conduct is subject to existing law. The president is not above the law, and can’t ignore existing statutes and treaties.

This is apparently subversive stuff. So-called “conservatives” claimed that 9/11 changed everything, including the Constitution, or our government of laws, not men. They argued that fighting the war on terror required ignoring, or superseding, or impliedly overturning statutes, treaties, and the laws of war. The president has the power to detain anyone -- aliens, U.S. citizens, doesn’t matter -- indefinitely and never bring them to trial, and needn’t disclose any of the “evidence” because of national security. Could be you, could be anyone, because we have to trust the president -- even President Hillary Clinton.

This “inherent power” stuff came along a few years too late (or, for Hillary, too early). If only Bill Clinton had argued that he had the inherent Article II power to fool around with an intern and nobody -- not Congress, the courts, and certainly not The New York Times -- had any right to question him. See, it’s the Republicans’ lawyers who really are willing to say anything.

The Supreme Court also has ended the sickening debate over exactly how outrageously we can treat detainees without “torturing” them -- because we may waterboard, or keep men in cells the size of filing cabinets for three days, but we only fake drownings and don’t keep them locked up for five days. That would be “torture,” and President Bush says we don’t “torture.” But the Court said that the Geneva Convention applies, even in this amorphous “war” fought through tax cuts, keeping Terri Schiavo on life support, and banning gay marriage.

Imagine that. The United States can’t inflict “cruel treatment and torture,” or “outrages upon personal dignity,” or “humiliating and degrading treatment.” That’s almost un-American, isn’t it? It’s judicial activism at its worst, insisting that the president is not above the law. How does the Supreme Court expect us to win the War on Terror if we can’t sell our souls?

As for our junior senator’s little role in Hamdan, it’s in an understated footnote. The Court had to determine if Congress, in late 2005, had taken away jurisdiction over pending habeas cases. Trying to set up that argument (which wasn’t clear in the bill itself), Kyl and Lindsay Graham (R-Ga.) inserted a scripted “debate” into the Congressional Record, complete with supposedly live interjections. (Kyl claims to say at one point, “I see that we are nearing the end of our allotted time,” and another senator’s statement begins, “If I might interrupt.”)

There’s only one problem -- the entire exchange never happened. (Hat tip: Emily Bazelon in Slate, here and here.) It’s not on the C-SPAN tape and instead was a written script inserted into the Record after the vote. But Kyl didn’t have the text marked as having been inserted after the fact -- and then tried to pretend to the Court that meant it was live.

In his amicus brief to the Court, Kyl stated that “the Congressional Record is presumed to reflect live debate except when the statements therein are followed by a bullet…or are underlined.” (Italics in original) His brief then discusses the scripted, after-the-fact written statement as if it had been live. Kyl forgot to mention that the Senate’s bullet-or-underlining business is strictly discretionary. It’s the honor system, but Kyl came up a bit short in the honor department, and it’s there for posterity in footnote 10.

Jon Kyl accomplished something few politicians can do. He was able to lie -- without his lips moving.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Obsessed by Whale-Like Non-Issues

The editor went with my suggestion for the headline; wonder if any of the GOP legislative leadership knows what the obscure literary reference means?

East Valley Tribune, June 25, 2006

Remember all those legislators who used to rail against “government by initiative”? Turns out that they now have to put their hopes on “campaigning by initiative” instead.

That’s what the GOP Legislature has been reduced to -- putting multiple bizarre initiatives on the November ballot in a desperate attempt that maybe one of about a dozen just might gin up the base. Because, heaven knows, there’s nothing that the Legislature has done that will get anybody excited.

The Republicans have big problems in fighting Gov. Janet Napolitano’s re-election bid. The governor just signed a state budget that funds her top priorities (including funding for teacher raises, for all-day kindergarten, and for science and innovation initiatives) as well as replenishes the rainy day funds and accounts tapped during the last recession. The new budget also happens to contain the largest tax cut in state history.

Some GOP types will complain that Napolitano shouldn’t get credit for the tax cut, because she had other ideas (rebates rather than permanent cuts, property and business taxes rather than income taxes) and initially proposed a smaller cut than she approved in the final budget deal. Some voters in November actually may remember this soon-to-be-ancient history, but the number is probably going to be about as miniscule as the number who recalled that President Bush vigorously fought creation of the Department of Homeland Security right up to the last minute, when he became for it after he had been against it.

Most people never remembered that Bush opposed forming DHS until it looked like a done deal, at which point he jumped in front of the parade and gladly took credit for the whole thing. And he even got to beat Democrats over the head (and accuse them of failing to fight terrorism in a dispute over, of all things, what types of employment protections workers should have) with the department that he fought creating until he caved and took the credit instead.

Well, Napolitano now gets her own chance to lead a parade just as voters first start watching, to Republicans’ incredible frustration. She signed the new budget last month, calling it a “good ultimately balanced package” and a “fair compromise.” That’s hardly overly effusive rhetoric -- but she signed it, so she gets to take the credit.

There are few things in politics more enjoyable than being governor during a real estate boom. And the really nice thing about being governor is that your one voice, even if mild, carries a lot farther than the cacophony of 90 legislators. Just watch the Republicans fume as Napolitano gets credit for the largest tax cut in state history, probably while standing in an all-day kindergarten class, with a teacher who just got a raise, explaining to the kids how investing in bioscience and technology will help position Arizona’s economy for the future. The woman surely knows how to multi-task.

With taxes, and fiscal responsibility, and initiatives like all-day K now firmly in the governor’s corner, the Republicans are reduced to hoping their base will come out to vote to make English the state’s official language, or to prevent local governments from enacting so-called “sanctuary” policies, or to prevent illegal aliens from being able to recover punitive damages in lawsuits. Now there’s something that people have been talking about for years, an issue that has galvanized public opinion, our incredibly fierce national obsession over undocumented migrants recovering punitive damages. Modern conservatism finally has its rallying cry, I guess.

In a year when California Gov. Schwarzenegger went 0-for-5 in high-profile initiatives -- and in California, you had a celebrity governor trying to work around an unpopular legislature -- what are the chances that an unpopular legislature can use initiatives to trump a popular governor? Certainly not any better than Ahnuld’s were.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

A One-Lobed Barbell, Not a Donut

This is the long-promised "there shouldn't be a plague on both houses--only one has gotten extreme" column. After writing the column, I realized that I needed to specify for my literal-minded readers (and editor) what is the correct metaphor if a donut is wrong, and came up with a barbell--with only one dumbbell.

In Arizona, the current Democratic legislative leadership (Sen. Linda Aguirre and Rep. Phil Lopes, who is Arizona's third most famous bow-tie wearing politician) are more conservative than back in the days of Bruce Babbitt, when it was Sen. Alfredo Gutierrez and Rep. Art Hamilton.

And nationally, what's extreme on the left needs a microscope or a megaphone (usually provided by the right) to be seen or heard, but what's extreme on the right is pretty much all there is and gets a seat at the table every week on Meet The Press. But I ran out of time for visual metaphors, and that was before Republicans decided their shiny new toy was to accuse The New York Times (but not The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal) of treason.

East Valley Tribune, June 18, 2006

Don’t give me that blame-both-parties nonsense. Right now, in Arizona and in DC, it’s the Republicans running the show and setting the rules -- and their two top rules are first, don’t let any Democrats have any say, and second, the most important thing is playing politics.

So despite the headline-writing artistry of the Tribune’s current (and thus absolutely best ever!) editorial page editor, politics today isn’t like a donut. The center may not exist anymore, but it’s not because everybody drifted away uniformly. Instead, one side -- the Republicans -- decided to go ever farther to the right. Democrats actually have shifted toward what used to be the center, but the GOP (and the media) moved so far that the center disappeared.


There’s apparently some sort of black hole quality that forces even public-office-holding Republicans to go even more extreme. This shift creates a real problem for those who love the tired, old "rising above partisanship" meme, because they have plenty of examples of Republican extremists drawing public paychecks, but for Democratic extremists, they’re forced to cite anonymous callers to talk radio or incredibly obscure academics. That’s "balance" for you.

If Jim Pederson is supposed to apologize for Ward Churchill, why isn’t Jon Kyl supposed to apologize for Ann Coulter? That’s the problem with these "plague on both their houses" types; both parties aren’t equally extreme (or expected to apologize as often).

Let’s visit a couple of examples. The top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), is pro-life. What are the odds that the GOP would select a pro-choice senator as either their #1 or even #2 leader?

Now imagine Barry Goldwater running today as a first-time candidate. He’s pro-choice, says that gays should serve in the military, and insults the religious right. In a contested GOP primary, does he finish third, or fourth?

Compare the state budget agreed to by the GOP legislative leadership with the governor’s initial budget plan. When Gov. Napolitano issued her budget in January, lots of people could argue with her assumptions or priorities, but nobody could claim that it wasn’t a serious, comprehensive document. You could disagree on the merits of her policy decisions, but you couldn’t complain that the governor had submitted a content-free political ruse.

Not so with the legislature’s budget plan. Both neutral observers and Republican legislators have called the leadership’s plan simply a political tool, "gotcha politics" trying to make the governor look bad. The GOP leadership’s prime goal is making life more difficult for the governor -- instead of better for their constituents.

House Speaker Jim Weiers committed that he’d make public support of science initiatives a top legislative priority. But in the GOP budget plan, the promise got low-balled -- probably in hopes of putting the squeeze on Gov. Napolitano. The leadership might want to force the governor to ask, for money to be matched by private contributions dollar-for-dollar, money that Weiers himself promised, so that the legislature can claim to have compromised.

But the larger lesson is that anyone who believed Weiers in the first place blew it. When he called Science Foundation Arizona a top priority, you should have realized that he really meant "after trying to play political games first."


The basic problem is the GOP leadership insists that any budget pass with only Republican votes. This interesting concept doesn’t appear in the Arizona constitution, but it’s a more fundamental tenet of GOP governance than, say, the Bill of Rights.

So it’s the Republicans imposing a political litmus test, and refusing to allow Democratic legislators any say whatsoever. This isn’t any sort of "both parties" playing politics; the only people playing politics here are the GOP legislative leadership, which decided to freeze out not just Democrats, but most rank-and-file Republicans as well.

What, that’s a surprise? Do you really think that the most pressing issues facing America really are gay marriage, flag burning, and the estate tax? Somebody’s serving up this offal, and it ain’t the Democrats.
Eric Rofes

My college classmate, and friend, Eric Rofes died last month. (It's not enough to be a classmate; if you lived in Pennypacker Hall freshman year, now that's a connection.) His obituary in the Boston Globe captures part of his humor, commitment, and endurance.