Thursday, November 22, 2012

Like white on Rice: Republican critics say there's nothing racist in their digs

McCain says Susan Rice is "not too bright." She was a Rhodes scholar. McCain graduated from Annapolis 894th of 899.--SS  

Like white on Rice: Republican critics say there's nothing racist in their digs:

Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
The "not too bright" Rhodes Scholar gets dog-whistled.

Not us. No way. That's the message from Texas Rep. Michael Burgess and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham when it comes to their criticisms of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice. Some of those criticisms are being called racist by other members of Congress. And with good reason.

Republicans, Graham foremost among them, made a patriotically tinged denial of the charges:
“Well, when you can’t answer the question, you attack the questioner,” he said on Fox News’s “Fox and Friends.” “The only color I’m worried about when it comes to Benghazi is red—blood red, the death of four Americans.”

Rep. Burgess recently was one of the 97 Republican congressmen who signed a letter  to President Obama asking that Rice not be nominated as secretary of state to replace outgoing Hillary Clinton because she "willfully or incompetently" misled Americans about the lethal attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Rice made statements about the attack—that it arose out of a protest over an anti-Muslim film and that it was spontaneous, not premeditated—which later proved to be wrong. Right-wing politicians and pundits alike were soon charging cover-up and saying the administration hadn't acted to protect the Americans in the consulate. Although Obama was their real target since they saw Benghazi as a means of hurting his reelection chances, Rice became the surrogate. What's become clear in the past few days is that Rice's information was indeed wrong, but that wasn't because she was trying to trick anyone or because she is "incompetent." In the aftermath of the attack, she had repeated information that U.S. intelligence agencies provided her at the time. Since then, it's become clear that the attack didn't arise out of protest and that it was premeditated.

Rice's critics, said Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, were using terms like "incompetent" that are well known to any African Americans. Challenge her mistakes, sure, he said. But:
“You know, these are code words,” he said. “We heard them during the campaign … These kinds of terms that those of us, especially those of us who were born and raised in the South, we would hear these little words and phrases all of our lives and we’d get insulted by them. Susan Rice is as competent as anybody you will find.”
A dozen congresswomen also had objections, especially to the remarks of Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who skipped a classified Senate committee briefing on the Benghazi attack so he could stand in front of the cameras with Graham and Sen. Kelly Ayotte to deliver his vow to filibuster Rice, whom he has termed "not too bright."

On Friday, at a Capitol Hill press conference, a dozen female members of the House of Representatives slammed McCain and other Senate critics for sexist and racist remarks in their critiques of Rice:
"All of the things they have disliked about things that have gone on in the administration, they have never called a male unqualified, not bright, not trustworthy," said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, the next chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus. "There is a clear sexism and racism that goes with these comments being made by unfortunately Sen. McCain and others." 
"To batter this woman because they don't feel they have the ability to batter President Obama is something we the women are not going to stand by and watch," said Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis. "Their feckless and reckless speculation is unworthy of their offices as senators." 
Said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton D-D.C.: "We will not allow a brilliant public servant's record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state."
As for claims she isn't very smart, the women noted that Rice was a Rhodes scholar and McCain, the son and grandson of full admirals, graduated near the bottom of his class at Annapolis, 894th of 899. By Tuesday, McCain had backtracked somewhat on his claims about Rice, only asking that she admit she was wrong. By then the Twitter hashtag #ApologizeMcCain had gone viral.

But racism and sexism have been viral since long before the internet existed. Terms like "incompetent" and "out-of-his-depth" and "shirker" have been repeatedly applied to Obama himself. Some will argue that these descriptions are used against people of whatever color. But they have a history of being used against people of color just as the word "shrill" has typically been used to describe a woman who speaks plainly but sharply far more than it has used to describe a man who does likewise. The words resonate differently depending on their target. That may be surprising to some Americans. It's not news to people of color or women.

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