The "new tone" in politics apparently doesn't apply in Cullman, Alabama. You'll remember that city as the place where an infamous Jim Crow-era sign warned, "N****r Don't Let The Sun Go Down On You In This Town." Brown is the new black; maybe lynching and peonage will make a comeback next?
For those who haven't heard, Alabama Senator Scott Beason invoked the Wallace tradition of lies and bigotry at Saturday's Cullman County Republican Party breakfast, where he ended a talk on illegal immigration by asking the crowd to "empty the clip and do what has to be done." Pressed for an apology, Beason doubled down instead. Gadsden Times:
“I talk about people who ignore the problem and people (who) won’t take a shot at the problem and then those who continue to shoot until it’s fixed,” Beason said Monday in a telephone interview. “You can’t just say you’re going to do something. You have to work at it until you do so effectively.”
Beason said his reference to “empty the clip” was taken out of context. He said he had told his audience an Internet-circulated joke about how you can tell the political beliefs of a liberal, a conservative, and an armed Southerner who are confronted by a mugger in New York City.
Much more after a video and the jump...
Beason, to the Birmingham News:
"I began telling the story about a family visiting a big city when some guy with a knife or gun jumps out from behind some bushes and comes at them," Beason said. "The story talks about how a Democrat handles the situation, I think I said the Democrat tells the guy he'll put together a charity basketball league or something to raise money to help him. The second family, that father has a gun but takes only one shot. The third family, and that father also has a gun, but he empties the clip. He solves the problem."
Get that? Only the armed Southerner has the right idea, which is not to fire his weapon until the attacker drops (as taught by every sane pistol instructor on the planet), but to extra-murder him with all the bullets available. It makes perfect sense; we're just taking it out of context, is all. In the Gadsden Times again:
“If it’s all taken in context, it makes perfect sense,” Beason said. “Anyone sitting in the meeting completely understood it and I’m a little bit surprised that it left it hanging out there.”
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Mike Hubbard said extemporaneous speakers sometimes can “phrase things better,” but he was sure Beason “meant no harm with his comment.”
And that's the thing about vile, violent, eliminationist rhetoric, isn't it? Extemporaneous speakers mean no harm, they just pile stupid viral email clichés on top of tinfoil-hat hate radio nonsense as loud and as often as possible and then act shocked that anyone is shocked. Some other comments in Beason's speech:
“Democrats do not want to solve the illegal immigration problem because they know, this is a fact, that when more illegal immigrants move into an area, when their children grow up and get the chance to vote, they vote for Democrats,” he said. “They like big government, they like programs, they’ve benefited from the day they were born because the child was born into poverty because mom and dad are poor.” (Emphasis mine)
Generally, the more often a politician insists what he says is true, the less true it actually is. Beason's speech is no exception. In fact, immigrants tend to be very family-oriented and conservative -- a fact that might attract them to the GOP if only they weren't being chased out from under the "big tent" by authoritarian ignoramuses. And you have to love the fact-free framing here: Congressional Democrats voted to spend $600 million on border security last year. The White House has raised deportations to an all-time high. In fact, the rate of illegal immigration has been cut by two-thirds in the time since Republicans(!) blocked George Bush's immigration bill. But it's the Democrats who don't want to do anything about the "problem." See how that works?
It's hard to overstate the amount of crazy in one paragraph of this nonsense. Beason posits a paranoid world in which undocumented immigrants are sucking up social services (they're not because they can't). Nor does Beason stop when his lies smack head-on into previous Republican lies going the opposite direction:
“The illegals are always praised for sending money back home, ‘they are so great’, ‘such family people’,” he said. “But why is it right for them to send billions of dollars home, before they even try to buy some health insurance here that you and I pay for— it doesn’t make them sound so wonderful does it? They’re basically saying, no we’re going to keep the money and you’re going to pay for what I need.” (Emphasis mine)
Gee, it seems like just yesterday that Joe Wilson yelled "you lie!" when the president stated (truthfully) that the Affordable Care Act would not allow undocumented immigrants to buy their own health insurance. Indeed, the horrifying spectacle of brown people buying insurance coverage was a constant theme of health care town halls in 2009. Beason might have noted that immigration advocates have been talking about the "undocumented" part of the problem for years: no driver's license, no bank account, therefore money gets wired instead of saved. But that would be an example of solving an actual, real, not-imaginary problem. The goal here is to hate and fear
Emmanuel Goldstein black people Muslims brown people. After all, immigration is an issue constitutionally-appointed to the federal government. So why else would Beason have aimed his rhetorical fire at passing Arizona-style "papers please" laws?
The senator discussed immigration laws that have been passed in the state so far, but said that the have been inadequate and poorly enforced. He focused mainly on Alabama’s enforcement of the 287(g) program, which is a federal program that allows local law enforcement agencies to enforce federal immigration laws. The program’s purpose is to allow officers to detain immigrants who are arrested for non-immigration offenses and transfer them to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
“We have more 287(g) officers than any state in the nation, we’re dealing with it,” he said. “But here’s the rest of the story, our 287(g) agreement that was entered by the Governor’s office doesn’t allow our State Troopers to go on any job site anywhere or to stop somebody anywhere and check to see if they’re legal.” (Emphasis mine)
Mind you, the Alabama Department of Public Safety has been understaffed since the 1970s. In 2000, a study of our State Troopers' highway deployments determined that less than half the requisite number of officers were on patrol at any given time, and the problem hasn't gotten much better since then. Beason would add immigration enforcement to the portfolio, but there's nothing here about paying for better trooper coverage. That's because Beason isn't actually interested in fixing anything.
To our credit, Alabama's press has reacted swiftly. Perhaps the Tuscaloosa News put it best:
If an office worker suggested problems in the workplace should be fixed by 'emptying the clip,' he likely would find himself in a tough conversation with his boss. School administrators might take even sterner action against a student who made such a suggestion.
The sick part? I'll bet anything you like that Beason becomes a tea party darling for this incident. As a strategy for attention and money, it will work on a national scale. For all our progressive and liberal hand-wringing, his next electoral opponent will not benefit one iota and Alabama Republicans will learn exactly the wrong lesson.