“It is a shame that anytime something goes wrong, they pick on women and minorities..All of the things they have disliked about things that have gone on in the administration, they have never called a male unqualified, not bright, not trustworthy. There is a clear sexism and racism that goes with these comments being made by unfortunately Sen. [John] McCain and others . . . How do you say that a person with Susan Rice’s background is not qualified? I wonder what your qualifications are for your job. Where did you finish in your class? You know, I know one of them finished in the bottom of their class. Susan Rice was a Rhodes scholar. How do you say a person like Susan Rice is not qualified?…I mean, Susan Rice’s comments didn’t send us to Iraq and Afghanistan. Somebody else’s did. But you’re not angry with them.”
—-Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), accusing GOP Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Kelly Ayotte (a woman) of sexism and racism for their harsh criticism of UN Ambassador Susan Rice for her repeated assertion on multiple news shows that the Benghazi attack that killed the American ambassador in Libya was a spontaneous demonstration over a YouTube video after the Obama Administration had been told otherwise.
It must be comforting to be able to rationalize all criticism arising from your own conduct and to attribute it to the biases of your critics. Crippling, but comforting. If one cannot regard criticism as legitimate, then one can never assess one’s own mistakes and weaknesses and work to improve.
Fudge is one of the habitual race-card players in Congress: earlier this year, she accused the bi-partisan House ethics committee of racism because a disproportionate number of the Congressional Black Caucus’s members were under investigation. (This was, of course, because a disproportionate number of the Congressional Black Caucus’s members, like Fudge, have engaged in dubious practices that indicate a weak grasp of ethics.) This time, she had lots of company, including Rep. James Clyburn (D-NC), who later said that the word “incompetent” was racist code. Brilliant! This means that no black public official can ever be called incompetent! Sure to be added to the code book if this theory sticks: inept, ineffective, corrupt, careless, irresponsible, and unqualified. Fudge, Clyburn and their colleagues propose to make legitimate criticism of black and female officials—those who are Democrats, that is—impossible, one word at a time.
Fudge’s statement is really jaw-dropping in its audacity. Ambassador Rice was criticized for what Ambassador Rice did and said. One can argue that what she did and said is defensible (though I don’t think it is), but one cannot plausibly argue that if Rice had been a 70-year-old white male Ambassador and went on five Sunday Morning talk shows to deceive the public (See the take of female, progressive, Democrat, presumably non-racist Times columnist Maureen Dowd here) or, in a more charitable analysis, assert what she didn’t know was true, no criticism would be forthcoming. Fudge’s real meaning is not that Rice was being criticized because of her gender and race, but that officials of her gender or race should be exempt from criticism.
Then Fudge flies off the ethical rails entirely, not to mention abandoning common sense:
- “How do you say that a person with Susan Rice’s background is not qualified?” How? You can say it when she has exhibited habits and traits that are antithetical to being effective in her job, that’s how. (See the assessment of Rice’s qualifications by Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, progressive, left-biased columnist and presumably a non-sexist, non-racist commentator, here.)
- “I wonder what your qualifications are for your job. Where did you finish in your class?” This is Tit for Tat, and a particularly foolish version of it. Sen. McCain is charged with voting on a Presidential appointee’s fitness to serve, and Fudge argues that he can’t hold her to a higher standard than Arizona voters hold him? One is never prevented by ethical principles from holding others to standards one cannot meet personally, and the qualifications for U.S Senator—a mouth and a functioning brain—are not remotely similar to the qualifications for a Secretary of State.
- “You know, I know one of them finished in the bottom of their class.” Nice. Call McCain dumb—of course, if he did that to Fudge, Clyburn would say it was “racist code.” And what does McCain’s academic record have to do with whether Rice should be Secretary of State, or whether she used poor judgment when she kept insisting that the Benghazi attack was caused by a video? Nothing at all.
- “Susan Rice was a Rhodes scholar. How do you say a person like Susan Rice is not qualified?” Gee, Kris Kristofferson was a Rhodes scholar—does that mean he’s qualified to be Secretary of State too? Bill Clinton was a Rhodes Scholar…is that why the Senate didn’t convict him of lying to a grand jury?
- “I mean, Susan Rice’s comments didn’t send us to Iraq and Afghanistan. Somebody else’s did. But you’re not angry with them.” Look! The bottom of the barrel rationalization, “It’s not the worst thing.” So Rep. Fudge thinks that sufficient qualification for being Secretary of State is that one not be Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell, who, by the way, did not “send us to Iraq and Afghanistan” by their “comments.” Indeed, they didn’t “send us to Iraq and Afghanistan” at all. Susan Rice’s comments didn’t kill anybody, so they aren’t worth getting upset about. I would call Fudge’s statement spectacularly stupid, but that would be sexist and racist, right, Rep. Clyburn?
- “But you’re not angry with them.” Who isn’t? Representative Fudge’s whole party is and has been for years. Does that make them all sexist and racist?
After reading, watching and hearing this sort of thing for four long years, and after a wincing through a campaign that used similar race-baiting gender-baiting tactics shamelessly, I assume that Democrats like Fudge will continue this until it stops working. Until that occurs, it will continue to be an embarrassment to the country and an indictment of the party’s ethics.