Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for February 6th, 2012

US Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) Approves of Racist, Polarizing Ad

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Pity former United States Representative Pete Hoekstra (R-MI).  He recently approved of an ad that, to put it charitably, is both racist and xenophobic.  This ad aired on his campaign’s behalf in the state of Michigan during the Super Bowl, which just goes to show that there’s no accounting for taste.

The ad, featuring an Asian-American girl speaking broken English while biking through a bunch of rice paddies, is an extremely tone-deaf way to say that current US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) spends too much money (as the Chinese girl says, “Thank you Debbie SpendItNow” and there’s an associated Web site, to boot).  Here’s the text of what this young woman actually says in the ad:

“Thank you, Michigan Senator Debbie Spenditnow. Debbie’s spent so much American money. You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie Spenditnow.”  (Transcribed this evening while listening/watching to it on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” and Current TV’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann.”)

Do I even need to start in on how wrong this ad is?  (Or will you just go look at it for yourself in order to see how a candidate for the high office of US Senator can waste his money while offending nearly everyone in the process?)

Please see this link from Real Clear Politics, which has an embedded link to the commercial in question:

As the Detroit News put it, “Hoekstra Super Bowl ad Raises Sensitivity Question:”

GOP consultant Nick De Leeuw flat-out scolded the Holland Republican for the ad.

“Stabenow has got to go. But shame on Pete Hoekstra for that appalling new advertisement,” De Leeuw wrote on his Facebook page Sunday morning. “Racism and xenophobia aren’t any way to get things done.”

Good for De Leeuw.  I’m glad he stood up and called this ad exactly what it is: racist and xenophobic.

Going on (still from the Detroit News article sourced above):

A media consultant who has advised Democrats also thought it could prove problematic.

“Some Asian-Americans may be offended by the stereotype that is portrayed in the spot,” said Robert Kolt, who teaches advertising part-time at Michigan State University and had previewed a number of Sunday’s Super Bowl ads. “Pete seems like a nice guy in the ad, but I think he is wasting a lot of money now. … It’s just not Super Bowl-worthy. It’s not cute, it’s not funny and it’s not memorable.”

Ah, but I beg to differ — it’s memorable for all the wrong reasons, which is far worse for Rep. Hoekstra than if it were simply a mealy-mouthed, wishy-washy ad of the type we’ve all seen many times before.  (And if you think “some Asian-Americans” only “may be offended,” I have some prime real estate in Antarctica for sale.)

Hoekstra is not the only one running against Stabenow, mind you; Gary Glenn, of Midland, MI, is also vying to become the Republican general election candidate for the US Senate Seat.  And according to the same article sourced above from the Detroit News, Glenn is most unamused:

“Saving America from the Washington, D.C., politicians who gave us this crippling debt and deficit crisis, Republican and Democrat alike, means Hoekstra and Stabenow should both get benched,” Glenn said in a release.

And Michigan Democratic Party Chairman was equally unamused (quoted again from the Detroit News article):

“Hoekstra’s ad is nothing more than a hypocritical attempt at a Hollywood-style makeover because the fact is, Pete spends a lot,” Michigan Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said. “Hoekstra voted for the $700 billion Wall Street bailout and voted for trillions more in deficit spending before quitting Congress to get rich at a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm. Hoekstra is using the big game to play games with Michigan voters.”

So let me get this straight.  We have an ad that some members of the GOP have condemned roundly, along with some members of the Democratic party.  We have an ad that’s meant to “make a big splash” (why else be so offensive?).  And we have an ad that, on the offensiveness meter, is totally off the charts.

And, of course, it’s an ad that Hoekstra and his campaign defends; they call it “satirical” (they must not be using the word the same way I would, then), and say that their real meaning is that Stabenow simply spends too much money, that’s all.  (Any racism that might be present — pshaw!  How can we think it?  We’re all Americans here, right?  Or so Hoekstra and his campaign prays.)

About the only good thing I can say for this ad is that it has brought disparate segments of the population together — the Ds and the Rs — who normally wouldn’t touch each other with a ten-foot pole.  But that’s the only silver lining in an otherwise dark and offensive cloud.


Further thoughts . . . otherwise known as, “After further review:”

As for what I’d do, were I Hoekstra?  (Inquiring minds wanted to know.)  If for some reason I’d been stupid enough to make this ad in the first place, then have been even more stupid in putting it on the air to cause big-time trouble, I’d first apologize.  Then I’d pull the ad.  And finally, I’d do whatever I could to put this behind me as quickly as humanly possible. 

But because Hoekstra apparently isn’t very smart, he’s standing by his “I didn’t mean any harm!” and “It’s satire!” defenses.

Nothing says Hoekstra must be intelligent, now, is there?  (But if he has even two brain cells together, he really should pull this ad because it is beyond offensive.  It is disgusting.)

Sen. Wanggaard Recall News: Wanggaard will not debate former Sen. Lehman

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Last week, former Senator John Lehman (D-Racine) said he would take on current Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) in an upcoming recall election.**   Lehman, who lost to Wanggaard in 2010, says he wants a series of public debates; however, Wanggaard says he has “no interest” in debating Lehman whatsoever and will “stand on his record.”

Please see this link for further details:

About the best Wanggaard says he’s able to do is this; if Lehman is willing to attend one of Wanggaard’s weekly town halls out in the Town of Yorkville (a very small, rural part of Racine County):

“If (Lehman) wants to attend one of my town halls, he can sure ask questions,” said Wanggaard.
This doesn’t seem extremely forthcoming, to my mind; worse yet, it seems a tad bit cowardly on the part of Wanggaard.  But to Lehman, apparently this is par for the course:
In Lehman’s announcement Tuesday that he will run against Wanggaard in a likely recall, he said when he ran against Wanggaard in 2010, and was defeated by him, “Mr. Wanggaard never once would agree to an on the ground debate in Racine.” 

There was a television debate and The Journal Times hosted an online forum, but no public debates where people could ask questions in person. 

“They just avoided a discussion,” Lehman said in his announcement. 

Lehman said he would like to see a series of debates. “I think people deserve that,” Lehman said. 

When Lehman ran against former County Executive William McReynolds in 2006 for the Senate, he said there were about 10 debates.

. . . which just goes to show you how much McReynolds respected the public, and how much Wanggaard disrespects the public now.

Look.  There are good Republicans in Wisconsin who currently hold high office (Sen. Dale Schultz, R-Richland Center, is one such Republican), and there are good Republicans who’ve held office in the past, including McReynolds.  These are responsible people who believe in public debates, and want the public to be well-informed as to the nature of the decisions facing them.

For that matter, all six of the Republican state Senators who faced recall in 2011 allowed for public debates; one, Robert Cowles (R-Green Bay), didn’t have a debate, but that’s because his opponent, Nancy Nussbaum, had to deal with funeral arrangements due to the death of her mother on the day the debate had been scheduled.  For obvious reasons, the debate was called off.  (Let the record state, however, that Cowles was willing to debate.  Wanggaard is not.)

So why is it that the 2011 Rs were willing to debate the D candidates who were running in recall elections against them, but Wanggaard is unwilling to debate Lehman now?  (And for that matter, why was Wanggaard unwilling to debate Lehman back in 2010?)

Methinks Wanggaard knows that debates or no debates, he will be out on his ear — the first one-year Senator in the history of Racine politics.  (Former Senator George Petak, R-Racine, held office from 1990-6, and was successfully recalled during the middle of his second term.)  And that’s why his public stance — i.e., “No debates!” — is so wishy-washy at absolute best. 

Were I Wanggaard, I’d want to go down fighting, so the constituents I’d represented knew that I’d at least tried to do my best by my own lights.  But nothing says he must be smart or courageous, now, does it?

Anyway, as I’m one of Wanggaard’s constituents — not that he’s ever listened to me before, mind you — I want to say this to Senator Wanggaard:

Senator, it’s time to stop ducking the issues.  Debate former Senator Lehman in a public forum.  Take questions from your constituents.  And be prepared to explain why, oh why, you voted against collective bargaining when you, yourself, have benefitted handily from collective bargaining in the past (and continue to benefit from it in the here-and-now due to your police retirement).

It’s not that you’ve benefitted that’s so upsetting, Senator — it’s that you don’t want anyone else to benefit now that you have.  (Otherwise known as, “I have mine, so who cares about you?”)  That, sir, is hypocrisy at its finest, and that is why we are so upset with you.

We don’t like hypocrisy in Racine, Senator.  We don’t like it at all.

But you’re still allowed to explain yourself, and your actions, in a way that makes more logical sense than you’ve done thus far.  So do yourself a favor, and debate Lehman; it can’t hurt, might help, and will at least make those of us who oppose you appreciate your willingness to stand up and face the music.


**Note that while Wanggaard’s upcoming recall election isn’t a 100% lead-pipe cinch, I would put it at 99.9% likely due to the fact that over 24,000 signatures were turned in while approximately 15,400 were needed to recall Wanggaard.  Not all of those signatures will be valid, but most will be; Wanggaard is headed to a recall election and he well knows it.