Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Many members of Washington, D.C.’s chattering class who are yammering and bobble-heading over the former name of presidential candidate Rick Perry’s family hunting camp in Texas were clearly rooting for the Washington Redskins last Monday night.

As the Redskins lost to the Dallas Cowboys my politics-heavy Twitter feed filled with casual commentary about Monday Night Football, and the beloved Washington team of many a pundit — which, as we all know, happens to be an ugly caricature if not outright slur of native Americans. Redskins.

Just interesting to note the simultaneous outrage over Perry’s camp’s onetime name — “Niggerhead” — and all the rooting for the NFL’s “Redskins.” By the same people.

It proves a long-running point in American politics and culture: any ethnic group that believes it is aggrieved must first talk to the Native Americans.

“We have a serious obligation to a lot of our Native Americans we have not fulfilled for a long time,” U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told me recently in connection with a story I was doing on suicide epidemics in South Dakota. “And we just keep ignoring it much to our national shame, I think.”

Still, the hunting-camp name issue is not good for Perry.

Perry, 61, the Texas governor, did grow up in a much different Texas, and can say times are changing, and so has he. I guess.

All of this reminds me of one the more disturbing sentences I’ve read in some time about race.

In the July issue of Texas Monthly, Jan Jarboe Russell writes about her hometown of Cleveland, Texas, a place where her mom taught school in 1967 when local education there desegregated.

“I can recall sitting in church and listening to the white people around me argue about whether black people had souls,” Russell writes. “That was a long time ago, but some of that old ugliness still hangs like smoke in the heavy boughs of the trees.”

Debating whether black people have souls?



On Sunday, several anti-abortion advocates held “life chain” rallies in places like Carroll, and in Maryville, Mo., which I happened to be passing though in the early afternoon.

One of the questions I’m known for asking anti-abortion candidates is this: If your position on abortion prevails, and it is again prohibited, what should the penalty be for a woman who has an abortion and/or a provider who performs one?

Obviously the actual answer matters, but what I also look for in the interview is something I can spot right away: has the pro-life candidate even considered the gravity of the issues, rolled them over as part of his or her worldview? That speaks volumes about both ideological and intellectual depth.

Candidates who clearly had given this a great deal of thought before I asked it and embraced the question are: U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa; former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and state Sen. Jerry Behn, R-Boone.

Some candidates who were thrown by it and didn’t seem to make the connection between the signs of the protesters and the potential outcome for women should Roe vs. Wade be overturned are: former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Iowa Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, both Republicans.

This said, conservatives often ask if I have a similar line of questioning for those who advocate abortion choice. There’s really a false equivalency here because the penalty-for-abortion query leads to a scenario in which a candidate or advocate, who embraces the “baby killing” or abortion-as-murder argument, must square up to whether they would favor execution for a teen-age girl who was raped and had an abortion. Could they pull the switch on the chair or push the needle on the deadly chemical cocktail?

There’s not really an equally compelling question for pro-choice pols. But here’s one that’s close: If I walk over to that pregnant woman on the bench, the one sitting in the middle of a crowd, and punch her in the stomach area as hard as possible, what will onlookers scream? Will they say, “You appear to have damaged a fetus.” Or will it be something more along the lines of: “The baby! You killed the baby!”

Another question surrounds the rape exemption many politicians call for in abortion debates. Should motivation for the procreation really matter? Doesn’t a child conceived by violence, a rape, deserve the same status as one created through love? Does the motivation behind the intercourse have any bearing on how we define its results, whether it’s a baby or a fetus?

My take is that the rape exemption has no place in the debate. Motivation doesn’t matter. A baby is a baby or a fetus is a fetus. Just as children of illegal immigrants had no say in their residency in Texas, the life forms inside of pregnant women weren’t consulted before the act. Whether you are the child of a rape or love you are the same.

Or are you?


Word is the trade pact supported by the Obama administration and advancing in Congress with South Korea could be big, big news for American agriculture.

The Wall Street Journal reports that farm exports to South Korea could double to $38 million.