In March of 2000, Katie Hong, a Korean-American woman who worked for the Washington state government, wrote an article for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about Senator John McCain’s remark to reporters on his campaign bus.
He said, “I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.”
Although he attempted to explain he was referring specifically to his Vietnamese prison guards while he was a POW – his habitual justification for just about everything he does or says – he refused to apologize for his use of a racially offensive epithet generally regarded as applicable to anyone of Asian background. Ms. Hong was not only hurt by his comment, having committed to serving her country as a place where equal opportunity and justice for everyone regardless of their skin color could become reality, she was disturbed by how little reaction his remark generated from the media.
It is eight years later, and McCain’s second run at the White House. In that time, he’s dropped numerous F-bombs, called his wife the C-word, and used racially charged language in his campaign to refer to his opponent. There is no reason to believe that his attitude toward “gooks” has changed all that much, either. McCain’s unmanageable irritability and use of inappropriate and offensive language has generated serious questions “whether he has the temperament, and the political approach and skills, we want in the next president of the United States.”
But a deeper and far more troubling uncertainty concerns me. This particular McCain Macaca Moment is not excusable just because he was a POW, and it’s disconcerting that McCain himself is incapable of seeing it, saying, “Do I insult anybody or fly off the handle or anything like that? No, I don’t.” But far more importantly, this is indicative of a dangerous and intransigent racism that not only offends a large percentage of American citizens – and not all of them need be Asian to be offended – it has no place in a presidency that may well be called upon to negotiate with the aforementioned “gooks”, some of whom have nuclear weapons and others who own a good deal of our national debt. To “hate the gooks” is bad enough, but to declare “I will hate them as long as I live” demonstrates a pig-headed obstinacy that is antithetical to anyone aspiring to hold the most influential and powerful office in the country, if not the world.
But just how many more McCain Macaca Moments is it going to take?