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Federal Judge Forwards Racist Joke about the President to Friends, Press Eventually Gets a Copy

Via the Great Falls TribuneChief U.S. District Judge sends racially charged email about president

Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull on Wednesday admitted to sending a racially charged email about President Barack Obama from his courthouse chambers.

[...]

The subject line of the email, which Cebull sent from his official courthouse email address on Feb. 20 at 3:42 p.m., reads: “A MOM’S MEMORY.”

The forwarded text reads as follow:

“Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.

“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?'” the email joke reads. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!'”

Cebull admitted Wednesday to sending the email to seven recipients, including his personal email address.

The judge acknowledged that the content of the email was racist, but said he does not consider himself racist. He said the email was intended to be a private communication.

“It was not intended by me in any way to become public,” Cebull said. “I apologize to anybody who is offended by it, and I can obviously understand why people would be offended.”

Note the standard non-apology apology.  He also appealed to the fact that it was “private”:

“This is a private thing that was, to say the least, very poor judgment on my part,” Cebull said. “I did not forward it because of the racist nature of it. Although it is racist, I’m not that way, never have been.”

Of course, the privacy claim is undermined by the fact that he sent it via his official e-mail account and, really, private or not does not erase the content of the e-mail.

The joke is clearly racist as it makes a direct comparison between interracial sex and bestiality and, at a minimum, suggests that the main way the white mother in the story would have had relations with a black man in the first place was by being drunk at a party.  After all:  it isn’t possible that, you know, two human beings of different hues might actually fall in love and have a child together.  No:  it takes a drunken orgy that may or may not involve canines for such a coupling to take place.

Not only, by the way, is it racist, but it also paints the president’s mother as a slut who got knocked up at a party and casts the president’s conception as illegitimate (which is, of course, one of the lines of attack on Obama from various directions).  The illegitimacy issue also has racist undertones as it gets to the ongoing “otherness” that some of Obama’s opponents continually point towards (the Kenyan anti-colonialists bit, the birthers, etc.). These are attacks that are not leveled at white presidents/politicians.

Not only is the joke racist, but it is demeaning, disrespectful, and sophomoric.

It is bad enough that there are private citizens who hold such views, but it is positively shameful for an educated individual, let alone a federal judge, to think that such things are funny.  It also shows incredibly poor judgment for such an individual to think that sharing such a “joke” is appropriate.

Cebull may claim, as is usually the case in these types of situations, that he is not a racist.  However,  this kind of situation points to the fact that being a racist is not a) a constant act, and b) does not require wearing a sheet and burning a cross.  Racism is considering persons of other colors to be in some way inferior to one’s own race and this can manifest in very subtle, yet significant, ways.   It certainly would make me feel very uncomfortable were I a person of color in Cebull’s court room.   Such actions do raise serious questions about his suitability for office given that his judgment and impartiality can now be legitimately questioned—characteristics of some key significance for a federal judge.  I don’t think it is unreasonable to suggest that Cebull should consider resignation.

A related clear lesson:  don’t mass e-mail something you don’t want to show up in public, especially if it is a “forward” that invites broader sharing.

Update:  Scott Lemieux correctly notes:  ”How racist emails become less racist if they were intended to remain private remains unexplained.”

Scott’s post also reminded me about something I meant to comment upon.  Again, from the judge:

“The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan,” Cebull said. “I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is. I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama.”

Consider the fact that the “joke” was not about policy or politics but about race and parentage, what does this say about the basis for Cebull’s anti-Obama position?

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor and Chair of Political Science at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. He is the author of Voting Amid Violence: Electoral Democracy in Colombia and is currently working on a comparative study of the US to 29 other democracies. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging at PoliBlog since 2003. Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. EddieInCA says:

    Imagine being a black defendant in front of this judge.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 1

  2. @EddieInCA: Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  3. Rob in CT says:

    Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.

    That really makes this one special.

    The rest of it is pretty standard, boring hate (passed off as a “joke”). But the bit about it touching one’s heart is priceless.

    Crying about “PC” in 3… 2… 1…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  4. Latino_in_Boston says:

    Excellent points, Steven.

    It still boggles the mind how often this occurs. You’d think that after, oh I don’t know, the 865th time of the press reporting on a case like this, the individuals prone to forwarding an e-mail like this would think twice. Somehow it never occurs to them, and I think it’s at least in part because they do find it funny and see nothing offensive about it–until the predictable media firestorm materializes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  5. Anon says:

    Many private-sector employees would lose their job over something like this. Of course, we shouldn’t hold our judges to such high standards.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 1

  6. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Sometime around 2000 or 2001, a former coworker printed out an off-color joke email and then didn’t pick it up off of the shared printer. It was found about a half-hour later. About a half-hour after that, said co-worker had a security escort out the front door and our manager was putting her stuff in a cardboard box.

    If something like that gets you fired in the private sector, it sure as hell should be a disqualifier from controlling the fates of other human beings.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  7. @Latino_in_Boston:

    Somehow it never occurs to them, and I think it’s at least in part because they do find it funny and see nothing offensive about it–until the predictable media firestorm materializes.

    Indeed–and the fact that it does not occur to them until said firestorm erupts underscore that claims that “I am not a racist” are not so convincing. It certainly points out, as I noted above, that many people don’t really understand what racism is.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  8. rodney dill says:

    A related clear lesson: don’t mass e-mail something you don’t want to show up in public, especially if it is a “forward” that invites broader sharing.

    A better lesson: don’t e-mail something you don’t want to show up in public. If the one person you send something to mass e-mail’s it, your email address could still be in the thread.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  9. rodney dill says:

    @EddieInCA: I don’t suspect we’ll have to imagine it. I suspect every black defendant that ever appeared before him (and was found guilty) will be having a lawyer review their case and the judges record on racial grounds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  10. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    For Judge Cebull resignation is the only proper course of action. Given the content of that e-mail it would be a travesty if he stayed on the bench.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  11. David says:

    If I am representing a minority in this guy’s court, the motion for a different judge writes itself.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    Evidence if any were needed that racism isn’t confined to redneck working class Republicans. I had a house on the GA coast for years and it was fairly widespread amongst upper middle class Republicans with whom I came in contact. This was totally egregious by a judge who obviously is completely lacking in judgement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  13. rodney dill says:

    A reference to the incident appears prominently in the Judges Wikipedia entry. I wonder how long the entry was previously if it existed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Not that it justifies this sort of “humor”, but let’s not rewrite history to idealize the relationship between Obama’s parents. His conception very clearly was not the result of some sort of commited relationship, nor a concious decision to pursue a family, particularly for the father.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 25

  15. @Stormy Dragon: Are we really going to take this opportunity to do a pscyho-history of the president’s conception?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. To be clear: the president’s parents were married for a time. That the marriage failed is a different issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Not that it justifies this sort of “humor”, but let’s not rewrite history to idealize the relationship between Obama’s parents.

    Would like to show us where anyone here has been “re-writing history” or “idealizing” Obama’s parent’s relationship.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  18. Jim Henley says:

    @Tsar Nicholas II:

    For Judge Cebull resignation is the only proper course of action. Given the content of that e-mail it would be a travesty if he stayed on the bench.

    Plus he needs to get on to the next phase of his life as an AEI fellow or Fox News commentator. Or both.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  19. PD Shaw says:

    Exhibit 24 in the case against lifetime appointments for judges.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  20. Hey Norm says:

    “…Consider the fact that the “joke” was not about policy or politics but about race and parentage, what does this say about the basis for Cebull’s anti-Obama position?”

    The same thing it says about the so-called right’s basis for their anti-Obama position.
    The Tea Party didn’t care about debt until the President was black.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  21. @Steven L. Taylor:

    A marriage that occured only after Anne Dunham discovered she was pregnant, forcing her to drop out of college for two years. A marriage which ended less than three years later, when she discovered the marriage wasn’t even valid because her husband was already married and had children in Kenya. A marriage in which the couple weren’t actually living together after the first eight months.

    This wasn’t a case of two people who fell in love and decided to get married and raise a family. It’s two college kids that had an unwanted pregancy and tried to do what you were expected to do in 1961 when that happened. This doesn’t make them bad people (although the father not disclosing he was already married does), but neither does it make them “people who fell in love and had a child together”, as though the whole thing was their plan from the beginning.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 19

  22. PD Shaw says:

    It looks like he might be eligible for senior status, depending on whether his years as a magistrate judge count. If they don’t he may be no more than a year from eligibility. (Rule of 80: Age 68 Plus 11 years on Bench = 79)

    I predict that the judge will “resign” to senior status some time this year, collecting a full wage and working as much or as little as he wants.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. @Stormy Dragon: So what’s your point?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 0

  24. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    A marriage that occured only after Anne Dunham discovered she was pregnant, forcing her to drop out of college for two years. A marriage which ended less than three years later, when she discovered the marriage wasn’t even valid because her husband was already married and had children in Kenya. A marriage in which the couple weren’t actually living together after the first eight months.

    This is what Hitchcock used to call a McGuffin, it has nothing to do with this judge’s conduct. You claimed there had been an attempt here to re-write history and idealize this marriage. I’m still waiting for you to provide some examples of where this has happened.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  25. @Stormy Dragon:

    And I was kinda getting off on a tangent there. My point is that we can condemn this judge and his disgusting innuendo without going to the other extreme, which is in it’s own way an implied comdemnation of Obama’s mother (“A US president simply couldn’t start life as an unwanted pregnancy, so we have to pretend his parents were in a deeply commited relationship that went bad”). Indeed, part of what makes Ann Dunham’s story so inspiring is that she didn’t let the misfortunes that occured earlier in her life permantly stop here from pursuing her career as an anthropologist, nor did she let the problems of being a single mother stop here from raising her son well. By trying to clean up the beginning of the story, you’re also taking away some of her achievment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 6

  26. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    My point is that we can condemn this judge and his disgusting innuendo without going to the other extreme,

    Which other extreme? I’m still waiting for you to provide some examples where anyone here has gone to the other extreme you describe.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  27. Franklin says:

    Okay, look: the joke was racist. And simply bad. (I can see the humor in some ‘racist’ jokes that would undoubtedly offend somebody, but I guess I just don’t “get it” this time, even with Steven’s explanation.)

    Mass-mailing from his official e-mail address: also bad.

    But I have a question for you guys, if the situation was different. Can I tell a funny joke that would be offensive to somebody, somewhere, in the privacy of my own home to a friend? Am I automatically a bad person to you guys? Because seriously, somebody gets offended about everything these days. What if I’m a so-called ‘important person’, like a judge? Can I really not say anything, anywhere? Just curious.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 16

  28. @Brummagem Joe:

    I’m still waiting for you to provide some examples of where this has happened.

    Ja wohl, herr Commandant!

    My problem comes down to two lines in the original piece:

    After all: it isn’t possible that, you know, two human beings of different hues might actually fall in love and have a child together.

    No, because this clearly isn’t what happened with Obama’s parents. Taylor creates a false dilemma here, suggesting one must either chose the judges drunken orgy or this equally inaccurate portrayal of what happened, rather than what actually happened.

    Not only, by the way, is it racist, but it also paints the president’s mother as a slut who got knocked up at a party and casts the president’s conception as illegitimate

    Again, the parents were married in February and Obama was born in August. What’s more the father was already married to another woman. The conception clearly was illegitimate, and again Taylor seems to be suggesting that the only two choices are to side with the judge or pretend things happened differently than they actually did.

    We can reject people like the judge, but still accept the world as it is.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 20

  29. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Franklin:

    What if I’m a so-called ‘important person’, like a judge? Can I really not say anything, anywhere? Just curious.

    I suppose this depends on if you think this was anything. It obviously depends on a host of variables.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. gVOR08 says:

    Whenever I read one of these ‘I did something racist, but I’m not a racist’ defenses, I’m reminded that I have, over the years, met a number of people who were to some degree racist. I don’t believe I have ever met anyone who regarded himself as racist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  31. Rob in CT says:

    It’s not about being allowed to say something or not being allowed.

    But, having heard it, people will judge what you say. So if you tell a joke others find offensive and they hear it, well, they’ll be offended.

    Is that hard to figure out?

    So here we have a guy who gave us a window into his mind. The view is ugly. Furthermore, he’s in a position of power.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  32. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The conception clearly was illegitimate, and again Taylor seems to be suggesting that the only two choices are to side with the judge or pretend things happened differently than they actually did.

    Taylor is suggesting no such thing. That you think any equivalence whatsoever between a singularly unpleasant joke about the president’s mother having sex with a dog and Taylor’s passing references to Obama’s parent’s relationship (the circumstances of which are hardly uncommon) suggests a very warped system of value judgment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  33. @Brummagem Joe:

    If Taylor accepts that the conception was in fact illegitimate, then in what sense is it this joke that “casts the conception as illegitimate”? You can’t cast something as it actually is. So again, this sentence explicitly denies a verifiable fact, and the implies anyone who asserts the fact is true must be in league with people like the judge.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 6

  34. @Stormy Dragon:

    No, because this clearly isn’t what happened with Obama’s parents. Taylor creates a false dilemma here, suggesting one must either chose the judges drunken orgy or this equally inaccurate portrayal of what happened, rather than what actually happened.

    No, I was commenting on the logic of the “joke,” not the biography of the president. The only way the “joke” works is for interracial sex to be only something either like bestiality or, at best, the result of mind altering substances. this is true even if the “joke” is about a generic white mother and a geneic black son.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  35. James says:

    I don’t really have anything to add here, other than to pass along Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thoughts:

    What stuns you about this “joke” is the sheer embrace of cruelty. Here is a woman who lost her life to cancer. And what touches your heart is imagining her son as the product of bestiality.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 0

  36. Gustopher says:

    I think you can find the joke funny for entirely non- racist reasons, as bestiality jokes are often enjoyed. And, forwarding it was not a great idea. I’d expect this was more enjoying the joke for its bad taste than anything.

    That said, the apology should have been a lot more heartfelt. And he should have apologized directly to Obama.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 7

  37. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    If Taylor accepts that the conception was in fact illegitimate, then in what sense is it this joke that “casts the conception as illegitimate”?

    Sophistry to rationalise what is obviously a warped value judgement system.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  38. Curtis says:

    I agree with the sentiments expressed throughout that this is just horrible, racist, inflammatory. There is no excuse for it, and I hope he is off the bench before the day is out.

    All that being said, I do quibble with the point that “these are attacks not leveled against white politicians/presidents.” I spent some time this summer at Springfield and visited the Lincoln Museum, and they have a room dedicated to the most vicious, sophmoric, and disgusting attacks upon him. This joke would not have been out of place there. The attacks against and by Andrew Jackson would fit in just fine as well, though to the best of my knowledge those were not racist attacks.

    The judge is a racist jackass unworthy of his position of public trust. But he is neither the first nor will he be the last entry on that list….

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  39. Liberty60 says:

    @Steven Taylor:
    Steven lets not get sidetracked into irrelevant discussions about whether the judge displayed bitter racisim and poor judgement in his email.

    Lets stick with the subject of parsing the details of Anne Dunham’s relationship with Mr. Obama.
    There’s work to be done-

    Sluts don’t shame themselves, y’ know!

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 1

  40. cian says:

    Okay, look: the joke was racist. And simply bad. (I can see the humor in some ‘racist’ jokes that would undoubtedly offend somebody, but I guess I just don’t “get it” this time, even with Steven’s explanation.)

    Yeah, it is possible for a racist joke to also amuse, but this is racist and sick, not just bad. I mean, really, Obama’s mother was a slut who may or may not have had sexual relations with a dog? And one of societies pillars’ passes it on to another five pillars of the republican community who (don’t bet against it) pass it on to another five or so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  41. @Liberty60: Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  42. Brummagem Joe says:

    @James:

    I don’t really have anything to add here, other than to pass along Ta-Nehisi Coates’ thoughts:

    Be under no illusions there are some exceptionally ugly people people out there. The question is how do they get appointed to the federal bench.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  43. Christopher Osborne says:

    @ Stormy Dragon

    “The conception clearly was illegitimate…”

    so you’re saying that the President is a half-bastard? That’s witty. Or maybe just half-witty…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  44. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Curtis:

    All that being said, I do quibble with the point that “these are attacks not leveled against white politicians/presidents.” I spent some time this summer at Springfield and visited the Lincoln Museum, and they have a room dedicated to the most vicious, sophmoric, and disgusting attacks upon him. This joke would not have been out of place there. The attacks against and by Andrew Jackson would fit in just fine as well, though to the best of my knowledge those were not racist attacks.

    We are supposed to have moved on since 1850.

    Steven Taylor says:
    Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 12:42
    @Liberty60: Indeed.

    Indeed.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  45. rodney dill says:

    @Hey Norm:

    The Tea Party didn’t care about debt until the President was black.

    Care to show me an instance that the Tea Party didn’t care about debt, or didn’t care about debt before we had a black President?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  46. James says:

    @rodney dill: Well, how about George W. Bush?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  47. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @rodney dill: Other than the fact that polling shows that the majority of those who identify as Tea Party members also identify themselves as older white Christian (often evangelical) Republicans, and that there was no anti-deficit outcry by these same folks between 2001 and 2008?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  48. Herb says:

    Why should I be surprised that this stuff is still bouncing around inboxes? I don’t get it anymore after a few unfortunate “reply all” incidents (dropped from the Rightolist, I guess) but when I did, this was par for the course.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  49. @Steven Taylor:

    The problem is that it’s not a generic white mother and black son, it’s a specific white mother and black son, which has a specific counterexample to the judge’s claim. By going with the generic, you cast it as a choice between two alternatives, neither of which applies to the specific case, creating a false dilemma. Now I’ll accept your word that this wasn’t your intent, but then those two paragraphs could be written better than they were.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 10

  50. James says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    By going with the generic, you cast it as a choice between two alternatives, neither of which applies to the specific case, creating a false dilemma.

    I’m not seeing any dilemma here. Barack Obama Sr. and Anne Dunham had a child together. The specifics of their relationship have absolutely no bearing on the atrocity of equating a racially mixed relationship with bestiality, and trying to pass off the equivalency as a “joke”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  51. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Now I’ll accept your word that this wasn’t your intent, but then those two paragraphs could be written better than they were.

    That’s big of you. Now I wonder if it was your intent to deliberatelhy mispresent when you claimed the bankruptcy laws were ignored in the auto bailout. Or was that just bad writing?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  52. rodney dill says:

    @James: George W. Bush was with the Tea Party, while he was with the Republican Party, and while he was President? (As after he was no longer President we had a black President, i.e. Obama), Really?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  53. @Stormy Dragon: I will readily admit that almost anything can be Improved via a re-write and I can fully understand the potential confusion over the word “legitimate” but since you seem to be the only commenter who is having such a hard time with my meaning here is it not possible that at least some portion of the problem here is your interpretation?

    I still remain a bit confused over the issue of what your actual point is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  54. James says:

    @rodney dill: You’re suggesting Tea Partiers just magically sprouted up are started railing against the federal budget deficit on January 20th, 2009? Really?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  55. rodney dill says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: Hey Norm used a specious comment to ascribe a derogatory behavior to THE Tea Party, at a time the tea party didn’t exist. He didn’t say just some members didn’t care about the debt until we had a black President, he said the whole party didn’t care. I don’t believe the Tea Party came into existence until after Obama was elected.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 4

  56. Rob in CT says:

    @rodney dill:

    The “Taxed Enough Already” [snort!] “party” showed up at the tail end of ’08 into 2009. They were pissed that they might have to pay for all the debt that had been racked up (mostly by their side), and pissed about the economic debacle that was happening at the time (a feeling shared by many). They needed someone to blame, and it sure as hell wasn’t going to be them. They have since spent years trying to pin it on Obama and the Dems, while pretending they gave a sh*t about debt while the GOP was in power.

    The entire thing is about avoiding the consequences of the past, especially the policies pursued by people they voted for (and still like). It’s about shirking responsibility, frankly. We have debts. Some of those debts are the result of policies I really, really, really didn’t like. We must, however, pay those debts. The TEA party is all about refusing to do so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  57. rodney dill says:

    @James:

    Tea Partiers just magically sprouted up are started railing against the federal budget deficit on January 20th, 2009? Really?

    I think those that became the Tea Party, whatever their previous disposition, were concerned with the debt all along, Hey Norm is the one that said they (the tea party, which didn’t exist then) didn’t care about the debt until we had a Black President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  58. James says:

    @rodney dill:

    I don’t believe the Tea Party came into existence until after Obama was elected.

    I imagine that would be Hey Norm’s point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  59. @Steven Taylor:

    I have a lot of respect for what Ann Dunham went through to raise Barack Obama, and part of that comes from acknowleding the rather unfortunate circumstances which lead to her pregnancy. That this judge wishes to pass that off as a drunken orgy offends me. But to a lesser extent, your characterization (or at least what I perceived as your characterization) also offended me. Trying to cast the diverse range of human families into a simple boy meets girl->boy marries girl->boy and girl have children template is in its own subtle way a condemnation, making people like Ann Dunham invisible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  60. rodney dill says:

    showed up at the tail end of ’08 into 2009. They were pissed that they might have to pay for all the debt that had been racked up (mostly by their side)

    So I’m wrong about when they actually came into existence, and Hey Norm is wrong that they didn’t care about the debt until after Obama was President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  61. James says:

    @rodney dill: First, I’d like to repeat that the biggest drivers of the federal budge deficit are Bush-era polices.

    So, if Tea Partiers we’re legitimately concerned about the federal budget deficient, then why did George W. Bush get a free pass from conservative activists (proto-Tea Partiers?) for all his budget busting initiatives?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  62. rodney dill says:

    @James:

    I imagine that would be Hey Norm’s point.

    and yet the way it was worded could lead one to believe he meant the tea party only formed to protest the debt because we had black President.

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  63. @Stormy Dragon: I appreciate your attempt to explain. No must confess, though, that I am having a hard time seeing how what I wrote led to your interpretation.

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  64. Make that “I must confess”

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  65. rodney dill says:

    @James:

    So, if Tea Partiers we’re legitimately concerned about the federal budget deficient, then why did George W. Bush get a free pass from conservative activists (proto-Tea Partiers?) for all his budget busting initiatives?

    Why the non-tea partiers that were concerned about the debt didn’t call him on the carpet earlier is a valid concern (and one that I wasn’t really addressing at all). Though according to Rob in CT they (the tea party) were already doing that, before Obama was President.

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  66. James says:

    @rodney dill: If you want to hold the the “Tea Party” is a legitimately grounded in a serious concern for the budget deficient, that’s your business.

    But I’m fairly convinced the timing and evidence shows that the “Tea Party” is a re-branding of (overwhelmingly white) conservative activists who are more concerned with using the federal budget deficient as a cudgel against our first black president, alongside abominable racially-motivated insults couched as jokes, in order to sow political brinkmanship and dysfunction.

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  67. Franklin says:

    @Rob in CT: That’s all fine and dandy, but if you’re going to judge other people you better make damn sure that you know the full context (and no, no amount of context could save the judge in this case). A large amount of today’s “uproars” are taking an out-of-context statement and using them as a political attack.

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  68. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @rodney dill: But that is *exactly* the point. The people who would become the Tea Party (the Fox News crowd, not the initial libertarian/youth crowed) only started caring about the deficit after the black dude became president. From 2001 – 2008, they were perfectly content with whatever Bush did to jack up the deficit, *and* they were among his most ardent supporters.

    Shorter version: Old white conservatives didn’t care about the deficit until they did. And timing for their newfound concern was after a black dude entered the White House.

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  69. rodney dill says:

    @James: You can probably support your claim (or fail to support it) based on things the Tea Party actually has done or is doing. There is no need to make up a ficitious history to do so. (this is not what you are doing, but what I started to address at the beginning of this). If the original claim of Hey Norm was as your last paragraph states, I probably wouldn’t have responded. I don’t necessarily concur with that view, I think the economic crises that pre-dates Obama and the projected deficits were enough for the tea party to form. No doubt any organization that is anti-Obama will attract a racist element (where else will they go), but I don’t believe that necessarily means race becomes the driving force.

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  70. Kylopod says:

    The attacks against and by Andrew Jackson would fit in just fine as well, though to the best of my knowledge those were not racist attacks.

    Jackson was Irish-American, and there was more than a fair amount of bigotry toward that group in the 19th century.

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  71. James says:

    @rodney dill: A respectable position. I’d like to commend you for being a sir.

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  72. rodney dill says:

    The people who would become the Tea Party (the Fox News crowd, not the initial libertarian/youth crowed)(Certain conservatives and certain Republicans) only started caring (making more noise) about the deficit after the black dude (from the more liberal and opposing party) became president.

    FTFY

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  73. Rob in CT says:

    Oh, make no mistake: much of the noise would’ve been made if Hillary had won instead. Look at the 90s. Bill was white. They hated him too.

    Obama winning just amped it up a little further is all. From 10 to 11.

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  74. Kylopod says:

    >Obama winning just amped it up a little further is all. From 10 to 11.

    I agree, but I’d also add that it influenced the nature of the attacks. An awful number of the attacks on Obama either implicitly or explicitly invoke his racial and ethnic background in some way. Birtherism and the “Kenyan anti-colonial” business are the most obvious examples, but Fox News and other right-wing outlets are full of these sorts of attacks, from the Black Panther brouhaha to “deep-seated hatred of white people” to “food stamp president.” Republican politicians and right-wing commentators have engaged in race-baiting for decades, but only now have these sorts of attacks been directed at the actual president, as opposed to anonymous welfare recipients.

    Even when no obvious reference to his race is present, there’s often a subtle feeling that the attacks are attempting to make him sound alien. Even the worst attacks on Clinton generally didn’t create that feeling. Clinton was called a murderer, a rapist, a drug addict, sometimes a subversive, and a lot of it was as nasty and personal as one could imagine, but there just wasn’t the same obsession with making his very identity sound sinister–the way paranoid right-wingers today talk about how we don’t “know” who Obama “is.”

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  75. @Kylopod: Agreed. And it fits in with the narrative that Obama is radically changing the country in some profound and potentially irreversible way.

    He is deemed “illegitimate” in some quarters in every sense of the word (and why I used that word in the post). The question of whether he is a legitimate president and a legitimate American are raised by birtherism, for example.

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  76. Also: not a legitimate Christian.

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  77. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Kylopod:

    Obama winning just amped it up a little further is all. From 10 to 11.

    I’d broadly agree with this. After all it doesn’t get much worse than suggesting the president and his wife conspired to murder a member of their staff. The fact Obama is black just gives these haters another peg to hang their malice on. A sizeable segment of the Republican party is tainted by racism (we can argue about how big a segment but not its existence) so this fits comfortably with their worldview.

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  78. anjin-san says:

    Obama winning just amped it up a little further is all. From 10 to 11

    I would say from 10 to 14. I know otherwise fairly rational people who are damn near psychotic about Obama.

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  79. Kylopod says:

    It’s also worth remembering Toni Morrison’s 1998 essay “Clinton as the First Black President.” This was a widely misunderstood piece at the time, and for many people, all they took from it was the idea that Clinton was popular among blacks. (One of the more cringe-worthy examples was when John Kerry boasted that he’d be the “second black president.”) The part of Morrison’s argument that most people missed was the idea that Clinton’s adversaries treat him almost as if they view him as a stereotypical black man. In her words:

    Years ago, in the middle of the Whitewater investigation, one heard the first murmurs: white skin notwithstanding, this is our first black President. Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children’s lifetime. After all, Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald’s-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas. And when virtually all the African-American Clinton appointees began, one by one, to disappear, when the President’s body, his privacy, his unpoliced sexuality became the focus of the persecution, when he was metaphorically seized and bodysearched, who could gainsay these black men who knew whereof they spoke? The message was clear “No matter how smart you are, how hard you work, how much coin you earn for us, we will put you in your place or put you out of the place you have somehow, albeit with our permission, achieved. You will be fired from your job, sent away in disgrace, and–who knows?–maybe sentenced and jailed to boot. In short, unless you do as we say (i.e., assimilate at once), your expletives belong to us.”

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  80. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @rodney dill: Keep your revisionist history to yourself.

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  81. James says:

    @Kylopod:

    the way paranoid right-wingers today talk about how we don’t “know” who Obama “is.”

    Personally, I think this is going to be part of the GOP’s downfall this electoral season. It just gets more and more transparent as it gets repeated. I can’t imagine how it attracts independent voters.

    @rodney dill: Only you didn’t really “fix” anything, you just give it the veneer of you’re own spin.

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  82. James says:

    *your

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  83. rodney dill says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: Not likely

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  84. My problem comes down to two lines in the original piece:

    After all: it isn’t possible that, you know, two human beings of different hues might actually fall in love and have a child together.

    No, because this clearly isn’t what happened with Obama’s parents.

    Stormy Dragon: Can you explain to me, please, how the hell you could possibly a thing like this? How do you know Obama’s parents did not fall deeply in love? How do you know the child they conceived was not conceived in love? What does the intent to conceive a child have to do with the emotions and feelings of the two people who conceived the child when they conceived it?

    Love does not always last forever, and sometimes it is very short-lived (trust me, I know) but it’s still love for the time that it’s… well, love.

    Really and truly, Stormy Dragon, you are not making any sense.

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  85. rodney dill says:

    @James:

    Only you didn’t really “fix” anything, you just give it the veneer of you’re own spin.

    …true to some extent, but as opposed to letting someone else trying to tell me the “The Point Really is” I find it far more in line with my view of the events.

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  86. James says:

    @rodney dill: That’s fair enough. I do think you understate the crucial role Fox News played.

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  87. @Kathy Kattenburg:

    Can you explain to me, please, how the hell you could possibly a thing like this? How do you know Obama’s parents did not fall deeply in love?

    Obama was born at the beginning of August, 1961, which means he was concieved sometime in November of 1960. Since Ann Dunham had only started as a student at the University of Hawaii that fall, that means she knew Obama’s father for at most three months.

    Are you honestly suggesting she purposely had an out of wedlock child with someone she’d only know for three months?

    And while it’s hard to put a timeline on how long it takes to get to know someone, I would personally be hard stretched to describe two people who only knew each other for only three months as “deeply in love”.

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  88. rodney dill says:

    @James: That could well be.

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  89. James says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Are you honestly suggesting that your chronological inferences in any way allow you to pass judgement on other people’s feelings?

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  90. anjin-san says:

    I would personally be hard stretched to describe two people who only knew each other for only three months as “deeply in love”.

    Don’t know about anyone else, but I have fallen in love in a hell of a lot less than three months. Although we were not able to make our relationship work, several decades later we are still pretty close. It’s not a good idea to judge the life experiences of others through the lens of our own. People are different, and they can live very different lives.

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  91. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I would personally be hard stretched to describe two people who only knew each other for only three months as “deeply in love”.

    Well you’d obviously be hard stretched to know much about human nature. I was crazy about my old lady after two or three weeks and I’m still married to her after 46 years. Move over Sigmund you’ve got competition.

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  92. @James:

    @Stormy Dragon: Are you honestly suggesting that your chronological inferences in any way allow you to pass judgement on other people’s feelings?

    Apparently, he thinks he can. Besides it being a rather bizarre, if not absurd, claim, I still can’t figure out what his point is apart from the fact that he thinks he is arguing against a false dichotomy that he claims I made (a claim, btw, that I think derives from a misreading of what I wrote).

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  93. An Interested Party says:

    This has been quite an amusing thread, even more amusing than the racist joke that spawned it…we have a mind reader who is telling us what dead people were thinking over 40 years ago and we have an amnesiac who seems to have the same memory problems of those in the Tea Party crowd…

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  94. mantis says:

    Stormy, your argument is basically that it was impossible for Barack Obama’s parents to have loved each other.

    Stop digging, fool.

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  95. @Stormy Dragon:

    Huh? I never said Obama’s mother either “purposely” or unpurposely had a baby out of wedlock. I asked you how you knew the baby they conceived was not conceived in love. What does a couple’s feeling for each other when they have sex have to do with whether they intend to have a baby or not?

    And while it’s hard to put a timeline on how long it takes to get to know someone, I would personally be hard stretched to describe two people who only knew each other for only three months as “deeply in love”.

    In other words, you have no way of knowing what was in the hearts of Ann Dunham and Obama’s father when they conceived him, or at any time in their relationship.

    Speaking for myself, I know it’s quite possible to develop strong feelings for another person after much LESS than three months. I thought I had hinted at that, but maybe it wasn’t broad enough for you. If it happened to me it could happen to someone else. You just, simply, are talking out of your hat, so to speak, based on absolutely nothing, and even you don’t know what you’re trying to say.

    “It’s hard to put a timeline on how long it takes to get to know someone.” You can stop there.

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  96. @James:

    Exactly. Thank you. (And more concisely than me, too!)

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  97. @Brummagem Joe:

    Wow, you’re lucky. That’s really wonderful.

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  98. WR says:

    @Brummagem Joe: “Be under no illusions there are some exceptionally ugly people people out there. The question is how do they get appointed to the federal bench. ”

    Do you really have to ask? The answer is obvious: Republican presidents.

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