Is Rodney Glassman Having a Sarah Palin Moment?

Here’s my latest post over at Blog for Arizona, on a Tucson City Councilman running in the Democratic primary to challenge Senator John McCain: 

Tucson City Councilman Rodney Glassman

Like crabs in a barrel, the Democratic candidates competing for a shot at Sen. John McCain‘s Senate seat seem hellbent on dragging one another into the muck, much to the chagrin of fellow Democrats like myself. 

Last night, Rodney Glassman, former Tucson City Council Member, appeared at Drinking Liberally. This is nothing new — political hopefuls routinely make a showing at DL during the campaign season in hopes of increasing their public profile, and (since DL has the reputation of hosting one of the most difficult political audiences in Southern Arizona) showing off their mental muscle on the relevant issues. And, since Glassman is a relatively unknown local Tucson politician who has been criticized as being too “wet-behind-the-ears” to hold a U.S. Senate seat, he needs to do both if he hopes to make it out of this year’s primary. 

What was surprising about Glassman’s appearance last night was the drama surrounding the event.

It turns out that earlier this month, a blogger named Three Sonorans (who writes over at the Tucson Citizen and who volunteers for Glassman’s Democratic opponent, Randy Parrazwas planning to broadcast last night’s DL event live. Three Sonorans wanted to confront Glassman with “a yes or no question” based on a recent interview with Arizona Illustrated wherein Glassman refused to state whether or not he supported deportation of undocumented immigrants. (You can see the anti-Glassman attack video documenting the relevant parts of the interview on YouTube here.)

According to an email circulating the DL listserv, Glassman’s campaign — fearing a political ambush — requested that event organizers discourage the use of video cameras at last night’s meet-and-greet. This request translated into the owner of The Shanty (where the event was hosted) stipulating that Three Sonorans (and possibly other attendees) leave their cameras in their cars so that the bar didn’t become a political warzone.

At this point, I want to note how bizarre it was that cameras were barred last night. DL‘s mission is to increase politcal participation in part by facilitating access between voters and candidates — which video recording clearly does. Cameras have always been allowed at every meet-and-greet hosted by DL that I have ever attended, even when event organizers were aware of a potential political ambush. Heck, even Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — arguably one of the most high-profile guests DL has had — was not immune; she was videotaped at a DL event being put through the ringer by a number of anti-war protesters a couple of years ago. So, why was that policy changed for last night’s event with Rodney Glassman?

In any event, I tend to agree that staging a political ambush on a fellow Democrat is a questionable tactic, even in a hotly contested primary. True, primaries (sort of by definition) tend to have all the grace and sophistication of a barfight; this is the time when candidates — who frequently agree with one another on 99% of the issues — make political hay out of that other 1%. But muck-flinging and ambush tactics benefit no one but incumbents, particularly when the infantile finger-pointing results in the kind of inflammatory he-said-she-said drama exemplified by Three Sonorans’ anti-Glassman Tucson Citizen blog post wrapping up the events of last night. If Three Sonorans wanted a straightforward answer to his straightforward question, he shouldn’t have asked that question in the context of trying to catch Glassman in a “gotcha” moment. Let’s leave such underhanded tactics to the Republican party.

That being said, I’m disappointed by the Glassman campaign’s efforts to limit recording of last night’s public event. I can appreciate wanting to protect your candidate from being immortalized in embarassing video and audio, but Glassman is putting himself up for a national Senate seat. He has already made headlines by refusing to commit to debates against fellow Democratic primary candidates. That coupled with this latest flaptrap cultivates a perception amongst undecided voters that Glassman can’t handle unscripted situations — or, worse yet, that he isn’t interested in publicly interacting with colleagues and opponents who disagree with him.

Rodney Glassman may be campaigning to be the Democratic Party’s Scott Brown, but his attempts to control being caught unscripted in a “gotcha” moment is a little less Scott Brown and a little more Sarah Palin, who routinely barred press and pre-screened questions at her campaign events.

As a U.S. Senator, Glassman will have open mics contantly shoved into his face. He will have to debate Republicans and fellow Democrats in a cogent and compelling manner so as to best represent the interests of Arizonans on the Senate floor. Political opponents with greater clout and saavy than Randy Parraz will try to stage political ambushes with more dire consequences. I (honestly) have no opinion on whether or not Glassman is qualified to be our next senator, and as a hardcore Democrat, I support any Democrat over John McCain (or ultra-right-wing J.D. Hayworth). But, from a political strategy standpoint, if Glassman hopes to have a shot at the Senate this year, he can’t afford to appear ill-prepared for the rigors — and the unrelenting spotlight — of this job. 

Yet, sadly, even if we take nothing else from last night’s drama, we learn from his reluctance to be filmed that even Glassman has doubts about his own readiness for the big leagues. How, than, can he hope to convince the rest of us?

Cross-posted: Blog for Arizona

S. Carolina State Senator Calls Nikki Haley (and Obama) a “Raghead”

S. Carolina State Senator Nikki Haley

S. Carolina State Senator, John “Jake” Knotts, Jr., called fellow Republican State Senator Nikki Haley (and President Obama) a “raghead” on an Internet talk show on Thursday night. Haley is the GOP frontrunner in the state’s Republican gubernatorial primary, and Knotts supports one of Haley’s opponents. Knotts said:

“We already got one raghead in the White House,” John M. “Jake” Knotts Jr. said on the Internet talk show “Pub Politics,” according to the State newspaper. “We don’t need another in the governor’s mansion.”

(Knotts has since apologized, claiming that the remark was made as part of an “SNL”-style joke. As if, somehow, that makes it less racist and offensive.)

Haley has faced some seriously crazy opposition in her race, both as a woman and as a South Asian-American. She’s currently embroiled in a salacious smear campaign involving unverfiable claims that she cheated on her husband with men who support her political opponents.

And now, Haley is being labelled “raghead” — a racial and religious slur frequently lobbed at Muslim- and South Asian-Americans — based solely on the colour of her skin.

Really, I don’t know how the GOP could ever try to claim that they are the party of inclusion.

Act Now! This page contains a link to a contact form where you can let State Senator Jake Knotts know that his comments are racist. If you’re GOP, you can donate to State Senator Haley’s campaign.

Texas Attack Ad Plays on anti-Asian Stereotypes

Here is my latest post over at Change.org:

Texas Attack Ad Plays on Anti-Asian Stereotypes

Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas is running in a tight race for re-election this year, with recent polls finding that Perry is just 4 points ahead of his Democratic opponent, Houston mayor Bill White. And as with any heated election, attack ads are flying back and forth across the Texas airwaves. But one ad paid for by the Perry campaign is sowing anger and confusion among the Asian-American community.

In the ad (titled “Man on the Run,” a response to White’s biographical ad called “Man on the Move“), White is criticized for (supposedly) hiding a history of liberal politics. For example, the ad accuses White of “running from his support for Obamacare,” while showing an image of White juxtaposed against a similarly-posed one of President Obama. The ad goes on to accuse White of “running from his shady foreign business deals,” and shows images of him lunching with a group of Middle Eastern businessmen. Such imagery is clearly trying to portray White as untrustworthy and out-of-touch.

And then perhaps the ad’s weirdest moment happens. White is shown standing next to popular Houston Rockets basketball player and Chinese national, Yao Ming. Floating over this screen is the charge that White is “running from his support of cap-and-trade.”

What? How is a photograph taken with Yao Ming supposed to make White appear particularly sinister? And what does such a photo have to do with cap-and-trade?

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Lincoln Denounces Racist Attack Ad

Incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln says that her accusation that opponent Bill Halter supports outsourcing isn't racist, but that another group's making the same accusation is.

I wrote last week about a political attack ad airing in Arkansas (link contains video), criticizing senatorial hopeful Bill Halter who is running against incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln in this year’s Democratic primary. The ad, created and paid for by Americans for Job Security, picks up on one of the Lincoln campaign’s talking points and uses stereotypical caricatures of Asian Indians to accuse Bill Halter of supporting outsourcing to India.

Turns out that Lincoln’s campaign couldn’t handle the heat drawn by the ad. Over the weekend, Lincoln’s campaign joined Halter in denouncing the ad as “offensive”. Here’s the full story:

Halter, Lincoln condemn outside group’s TV ad
Associated Press – May 1, 2010 4:04 PM ET

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, her chief rival for the Democratic nomination, are condemning an advertisement that uses Indian actors and images to raise claims that Halter outsourced jobs.

Lincoln and Halter both criticized the ad, reportedly made by a Virginia-based group called Americans for Job Security. A telephone message left at the group’s office was not immediately returned Saturday.

The ad began appearing online on Friday, and has been condemned as featuring stereotypes of Indians. Halter’s campaign said the group has purchased more than $780,000 worth of airtime in the state starting Monday.

Lincoln called the ad offensive, and Halter’s campaign said it should never air.

Lincoln has raised the outsourcing claims against Halter over a company where he once served on the board of directors. Although the company said it saved costs by opening a Bangalore office, there is no evidence that it cut American jobs to do so.

Act Now! If you think this was pretty racist, I’m sure the Halter campaign would love to hear about your disdain in the form of a $5 donation.

Racist Political Ad from Arkansas Targets South Asians

Check out this racist political ad airing right now in Arkansas:

 

The ad was created, and is being aired, by Americans for Job Security, a group that claims as its focus issue the problem of American unemployment and outsourcing. This ad criticizes Democrat Bill Halter, the current Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, who is running against incumbent Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln in the Democratic primary to represent the state’s 1st District.

Now, I don’t blog about this ad because I’m supporting any particular candidate in this race. To be honest, neither Halter nor Lincoln were on my radar before today. As I wrote this post, I turned to the more savvy politcos that I’m currently hanging out with (one being electroman, and another being one of the bloggers of Blog for Arizona) and asked them the following question: “Do you have any particular opinion of Blanche Lincoln?” The unanimous, if relatively non-committal, answer was: “Well, she’s pretty conservative.”

Clearly, all of us in this room have virtually nothing invested in this particular race in Arkansas.

But, what I do have an issue with is this ad, which parrots one of the talking points coming out of the Lincoln campaign. Five years ago or so, Halter sat on the Board of Directors of a company called WebMethods Inc. This attack website charges that during Halter’s time on the board of directors, the company opened an office in Bangalore, India. Lincoln’s campaign is also using this issue to attack Halter; here’s an ad that she is paying to put up on Arkansas air waves:

So, what does all this have to do with race?

Well, first of all, the very idea that outsourcing is negative is steeped in race. While it is arguable that companies opening offices overseas limits American economic growth, the outsourcing hysteria is not based on this point. Instead, fearmongerers who talk about outsourcing in a negative tone draw upon an “Us vs. Them” mentality that falls directly along racial lines. They evoke images of White Americans who are jobless while people of colour find jobs: it’s the same kind of mentality I see here in Arizona when it comes to claims that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from legal citizens. The anger stems from the racist notion that White people are entitled to jobs over people of colour, wherever they may live.

While that idea is veiled in the official Lincoln ad, it is made blatant and obvious in the Americans for Job Security ad. Here, images of South Asians are coupled with stereotypical Asian mandolin music and stereotypical backdrops of India, all to emphasize the foreign-ness of South Asians. This Us vs. Them structure is further established by the juxtaposition of the South Asians thanking Bill Halter in haevily-accented English, while the narrator retorts an accent-free “thanks for nothing”.

The whole ad screams of racist caricature of South Asians, that blames not only Bill Halter, but Asian Indians for Americans’ joblessness. It amounts to a political hate crime against the Asian Indian community.

And beyond the racism, this Daily Kos blog discusses why the charge of outsourcing against Bill Halter may be disingenous and misleading. The long and short of it is that Hater’s company, WebMethods, expanded an international office. And in the same year, they made some money. As Daily Kos points out, WebMethods did not cut any American jobs when they expanded their Bangalore branch, so the charge of outsourcing is based on the notion that potential, not actual, American jobs were lost.

This is the dirty side of the outsourcing debate: the argument that any form of globalization and international business is somehow treasonous towards America. This isn’t based on worry for the American economy, it’s based on sheer xenophobia; further, it myopically ignores the fact that many American-based companies are turning towards foreign markets to expand their businesses. For a country that touts capitalism above all else, this fear of international markets is remarkably non-capitalistic; abject rejection of potential consumers by deliberately avoiding international business only hurts the bottom line.

That being said, my pal who runs Blog for Arizona remarks: “That ad is remarkably racist. But it’s going to work, because it targets fears that Americans (particularly those in Arkansas) have because of the rampang unemployment rate. If you’re going to be a racist Democrat, that ad is the way to do it.”

It’s sad but true that this ad will probably work to attack Bill Halter. If you don’t want it to, you can donate to Halter’s campaign here.