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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Groundhog Day

Or, it's deja vu all over again. Even Josh Marshall, evidently unable to spell "Dunkirk", is bracing himself for good news from Iraq. North Korea hints that it may bend to Bush's iron will and agree to multi-lateral talks.

Fortunately, amidst all this gloom, folks are still able to scream "racist Republicans ". The Washington Post wonders, "Where's The Outrage", and the reliable Mr. Marshall joins in.

A bit of scene-setting from the WaPo:

...another lawmaker, Republican Rep. Barbara Cubin of Wyoming, has out-Lotted Mr. Lott. Mrs. Cubin's remarks came not in a birthday tribute to a centenarian but on the floor of the House of Representatives, in the midst of a serious debate on a gun measure. No historical memory is needed to adequately appreciate their bald racism. And unlike in the case of Mr. Lott, Mrs. Cubin's remarks seem to have provoked barely a word of protest from her Republican colleagues. For fear that some may think they are taken out of context, we reprint the offending part here in its entirety: "My sons are 25 and 30. They are blond-haired and blue-eyed. One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does that mean if you go into a black community, you cannot sell a gun to any black person, or does that mean because my -- "

At this point, Rep. Melvin Watt (D-N.C.) demanded that her words be stricken from the record as inappropriate. "

As to "where is the outrage", a few points merit notice. Trent Lott was the Senate Majority Leader, whereas Ms. Cubin is a House backbencher; Mr. Lott had a troubling racial history, which Ms. Cubin seems to lack; Mr. Lott's comments seemed to be unspinnable, whereas Ms. Cubin's seem to be easily defended; and finally, Mr. Marshall himself notes a significant factor, telling us that "I've been so taken up with the war that I haven't had time to make any mention of this yet." Well, yes.

The WaPo gives a partial presentation of her defense, but more is offered in the must-read Star-Tribune:

Cubin said later that because Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina, who is black, interrupted her at that point, the meaning of her statement was distorted.

"The point I was trying to make was that because my sons look like the Columbine (High School) killers should they be prevented from buying guns and just because some black people sell drugs should all black people be prevented from buying guns?" Cubin said. "If I had not been interrupted it would have been clear."

The WaPo attacks this defense with this comment:

Mrs. Cubin said later that she was simply trying "to make the point that stereotyping is always wrong." If so, she chose an odd way to do so. The reference to her sons, she explained, was headed in the direction of asking if they should be kept from buying guns because they look like "the children at Columbine." But to argue analogously that the amendment would have kept dealers from selling guns in the black community is true only if you subscribe to a worldview in which "African American" equals "presumptive drug user."

Well, no. Her argument (which we can all agree was poorly presented) is true only if you subscribe to a worldview in which somewhere out there may be racist gun-dealers to whom "African-American" equals "presumptive drug user", and who will refuse to sell to black customers based on this rationale. Is it really the position of the WaPo that this notion is so outrageous as to be evidence in itself of racism? Ms. Cubin is racist for worrying that other people might be? I am struggling here.

The WaPo does not mention that eleven Democrats abstained, and four sided with the Republican majority. They were John Dingell, Mich.; Rick Boucher, Va.; Barney Frank, Mass.; and David Obey, Wis.

Loose ends: Ms. Cubin's troubling history of racial relations seems to be found in this comment, although this indictment may be incomplete:

Cubin previously ran afoul of minority groups nationwide in 1995 when she compared welfare recipients to pen-reared wolves that will not leave their cages.

"Just like with any animal of the species, when you take away their freedom they can't provide for themselves,'' she said during final debate on a welfare reform act.

And, since I am not a lawyer, I would be intrigued to know the answer to this question, posed during the debate, which revolved around restricting gun manufacturer's liability. Here we go:

I'm in favor of trigger locks and disagree with the N.R.A. on some issues," [Dem. Representative Artur Davis of Alabamat] said, "but I happen to think that the N.R.A. has a point on the issue of lawsuits. If you're hit by someone driving a car at 90 miles an hour, I don't think you should sue General Motors for making a car that someone else uses to break the law."

My question - why can't we sue GM under product liability laws? The Next Big Thing!

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