Monday, December 15, 2008

Specter's Polish Stereotype

To the Washington Post's Anne Kornblut, it was "a sour note" and "downplaying the significance of Obama's impending win, casting it as a function of the state's demographics and the Illinois senator's heavy African American support." To the New Republic's Jason Zengerle, it was among "their efforts to pigeonhole Obama as the "black" candidate. That said, I never thought they'd do it this explicitly." And Jake Tapper of ABC News couldn't resist being sarcastic: "Boy, I can't understand why anyone would think the Clintons are running a race-baiting campaign to paint Obama as "the black candidate."

Perhaps the mainstream media over-reacted when on the day (1/28/08) of the South Carolina primary, Hillary Clinton's husband told reporters "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in ‘84 and ‘88. And he ran a good campaign, and Senator Obama's run a good campaign here." Or perhaps not, given that the name "Jesse Jackson" strikes fear and loathing throughout the white community. And it was, at least, a (minimal, insufficient, and superficial) effort to deal with issue of ethnicity and politics.

Not so the (thus far) near silence of the mainstream media to an extraordinary appearance by Senator Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) at the annual luncheon of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania at the Commonwealth Club, which took place in New York City, New York. The New York Post describes:

A witness reports Specter began by asking if anyone in the room was Polish. About 10 guests out of hundreds there raised their hands. Specter deemed the number insignificant and forged ahead with some supposedly funny Polish jokes, including the old one about the man who interrupted him once, saying, "Hey, careful. I'm Polish!" Specter said he responded, "That's OK - I'll tell it more slowly." Specter also told two other tasteless jokes in the same Polish vein. "No one walked out, but it was offensive," said our source. "I was offended, and I'm not Polish."

Apparently, approximately fifteen weeks after Barack Obama was nominated by the Democratic Party for President and six weeks after he was elected President by the American people, ethnic bias lives on. Whether it's a different standard for individuals of European background, for Republican Party functions, or simply for a guy who no longer should be a United States Senator, it is a reminder that hypocrisy has not been banished from American politics.

It was eight months since Obama's comment at a fund-raiser in San Francsco, before the Pennsylvania primary, about some residents of small towns in Pennsylvania and the midwest: "it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations...." Prominent Repubs echoed the criticism leveled by John McCain senior adviser Steve Schmidt, who contended "It shows an elitism and condescension towards hardworking Americans that is nothing short of breathtaking." A major theme developed, typified by the remark by Karen Tumulty of Time Magazine "maybe the cringe factor would have been less had Obama not been speaking in San Francisco...."

It was the return of the "San Francisco Democrats," those liberal elitists from the coast, not from the "pro-America areas" Sarah Palin would so smugly enlighten us about 24 years later. Yet, here it is a media favorite- a.k.a. a "moderate Republican"- suggesting from New York City's Manhattan (never a borough with an inferiority complex) the stupidity, the inferiority of a whole class of Americans.

We await the shocked reaction of the mainstream media, the Pennsylvania Republican Party, and uber Republican Rush Limbaugh.

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