Not Comparable

I am honestly not getting what is so offensive about this story:

Republican Sen. Conrad Burns, whose re-election campaign is pressing for tighter immigration controls, referred to his house painter as “a nice little Guatemalan man” and suggested that worker as well employees of a roofing company he hired might be in the country illegally.

“The other day, the little fella who does our maintenance work around the house, he’s from Guatemala, and I said, ‘Could I see your green card?'” Burns said at a June meeting recorded by Democrats. “And Hugo says, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Oh gosh.'”

Burns spokesman Jason Klindt said the worker, Hugo Reyes, is legally in the United States, owns a painting company and the senator “never had any doubt” that Reyes is a legal resident.

“He was telling an anecdotal story about a time he took the extra step to make sure a worker was legal,” Klindt said.

Burns, who voted against a Senate bill this year that would have offered millions of illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship, also joked about the issue at a debate against his Democratic opponent, Jon Tester, earlier this year.

Burns said he was on the phone with his contractor when he saw an interview with an illegal immigrant on television. The immigrant said he was a roofer and was headed north.

“So I told my roofer, you better go out and get your help,” Burns said. “Or you won’t get my house roofed.”

Burns’ comments come on the heels of controversial remarks by Republican Sen. George Allen of Virginia, who called a Democratic staffer of Indian descent “Macaca.” Indian-American groups and others criticized Allen for his racially insensitive comments after a video was posted on the Internet.

I don’t think this is in any way comparable to the George Allen story, and from what I can tell, not only is Hugo in the country legally, have a good relationship with Conrad Burns, but he probably is, in fact, a “nice little Guatemalen man.” I honestly don’t see what the big deal about this is, and I see that Pat Buchanan is upset about it, so that leads me to believe there really is nothing to this.

About the only problem I can see is that any politician should know that their opposition is going to use whatever they say against them, so maybe we all should be on pins and needles about anything and everything having to do with race and immigration, simply because of the times. But I don’t see how what Burns (who I really have no love for) did that is so terrible here. Fill me in with what I am missing.

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33 replies
  1. 1
    Zifnab says:

    Just another case of “OMFG! Republican hypocrasy!”

    DailyKos is on a crusade against Conrad Burns and after the epic level “firefighters are overpaid and lazy” comment Burns dropped on us last month, Kos has been jonesing for another good swing at the Senator.

  2. 2
    Andrew says:

    Because he’s a patronizing, racist, inconsiderate ass, AGAIN.

  3. 3
    Pb says:

    It’s way funnier when Stephen Colbert does it. The Daily Kos take on it:

    The hate-on-immigrants crowd won’t be too happy about that one.

    But therein lies the problem — most people don’t care if undocumented immigrats perform labor as long as they get cheap goods. A cheap roof. Cheap fruits and vegetables. Cheap meats. Cheap lawn care. Cheap janitorial services. Cheap housekeeping and child care. And so on.

    Burns was just being honest about that. And for once, his honesty didn’t betray bigotry or hatred for out-of-state firefighters doing the best to put out wildfires in his state. This time, it simply betrayed that he’s all for illegal workers so long as it saves him a buck.

  4. 4
    Zifnab says:

    But if you think that critique is a bit weird, take a look at the GOP swing on Markos himself.

    http://www.gop.com/News/Read.aspx?ID=6508

    Daily Kos Blogger Markos Moulitsas Zuniga Back From “Relaxing” Vacation:

    Moulitsas Just Got Back From Summer Vacation: “I got back from El Salvador really early this morning, so I’m still catching up on the last week’s news.” (The Daily Kos Website, http://www.dailykos.com, Accessed 8/22/06)

    *
    Moulitsas: “I’m still playing catchup after my very relaxing, very nice vacation.” (Daily Kos Website, http://www.dailykos.com, Accessed 8/22/06)

    Now A Rested Moulitsas Is Focused On Electing Lamont Defeatocrats All Across The Country:

    Daily Kos “Netroots August Fundraising Push Update #1”: “Our goal is to amass 100 new contributions for each House candidate and 250 for each Senate candidate.” (Daily Kos Website, http://www.dailykos.com, Accessed 8/22/06)

    That evil bastard. People like Markos makes me sick.

  5. 5
    Andrew says:

    Well, that weird GOP shit makes a lot more sense when you realize that they think “relaxing vacation” means “underage sex tourism.”

  6. 6
    Ancient Purple says:

    Yes, Markos is evil. It turns my stomach that people like him take “relaxing” vacations. Makes. Me. Vomit.

    You would never see Bush doing something like that.

    Oh.

  7. 7
    neil says:

    Anyone who has taken a look at some comparative statistics on laborers knows that taking a vacation is _highly_ un-American.

    And since I’m someone whose IP address is not in the U.S., I can tell you that the GOP doesn’t even want un-American people to _look at their web site_.

  8. 8
    machs says:

    I don’t see the offense, either. But I am offended by Sen. Allen also calling Sen. Akaka a macaca! Reprehensible.

  9. 9
    Geek, Esq. says:

    Well, he’s called Arabs ‘ragheads.’

    Also, he replied “It’s a hell of a challenge” when someone asked him, regarding Washington D.C., “what’s it like living with all those n!ggers?”

    In short, he’s a repulsive racist. And a crook. And a moron.

  10. 10
    chopper says:

    true, it’s not like he used the term “back-door draft” or anything.

  11. 11
    ThymeZone says:

    Not offensive, maybe. But telling, after the “Firefighter” flap Burns created just a few weeks ago.

    A bigger flap, and of course, one that went unnoticed here.

  12. 12
    ThymeZone says:

    The report by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation said Burns pointed to one firefighter and said, “See that guy over there? He hasn’t done a g– damned thing.” The Forest Service dispatch log said, “Conrad Burns at BIL airport verbally attacking Augusta IHC crewmember.”

    Burns, a third-term lawmaker already facing questions about his ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is trying to turn back a challenge from Democrat Jon Tester. At least one likely Montana voter was offended by Burns’ confrontation with the crew.

    “I think it’s just terrible. Why in the world would he attack the firefighters who are the ones out there doing the work?” said Patricia Michaels, 71, of Montana City. Michaels said she had already planned to vote for Tester.

    Annabelle Richards, 72, a Democratic Party volunteer, said the issue has lingered with Burns.

    Last weekend, Richards was working a fair booth in Helena and had displayed a Democratic sign, “We support the firefighters.” Richards said she offered to shake Burns’ hand. As he did, “he kind of snorted or scoffed and just said, ‘You people, where do you people dig up this crap?'”

    “Where he gets with people who are maybe not his supporters, he blows the opportunity to make a few points,” Richards said. Burns would pick up some votes and more people would like him “if he wasn’t so antagonistic and insulting.”

    Burns’ comments have gotten him into trouble in the past.

    From the FORBES article I cited above.

    Burns is just a complete idiot. The kind of guy Darrell could defend, for example.

  13. 13
    mark says:

    I think the problem comes mainly from the diminutive “little man” sounds insulting to me.

  14. 14
    capelza says:

    Agreed Mark, that’s what I caught. I use the term “little man” talking to my lap dog and my husband’s grandsons…any other time, if I use it it is used in a negative way.

    Burns might not be getting so much flack for this if it wasn’t just another part of his “body of work”.

  15. 15
    bago says:

    Just as the assumption that that “makaka” had come from another country just because he was brown, so it is with the assumption that he has to ask his little brown laborer for a green card.

  16. 16
    tim maguire says:

    Another vote for “little fella.” It’s not a big deal, but it is condescending and obnoxious when used to describe an adult.

  17. 17

    Mr. Cole,

    The answer is nothing. There is nothing about offensive about what Conrad said, just as there was nothing truly offensive about what I said. We must stop playing the race card and return to doing the people’s business.

    Your son of the south,

    George “Fightin’ Felix” Allen

  18. 18
    neil says:

    I just assumed that this quote was being tossed around to prove that Burns is soft on illegal immigrants. Not really a bad idea, either.

  19. 19
    ThymeZone says:

    In 1999, Burns issued a written apology after referring to Arabs as “rag heads” during a speech while commenting on oil prices. In 1994, Burns repeated a story that included the word “niggers” and commented that living with blacks in Washington, D.C., was “a hell of a challenge.” He also onced asked a woman who was wearing a nose ring what tribe she belonged to.

    Last year, the senator denied a flight attendant’s claim that he told her she could “go home and be a mother” if her airline job were eliminated.

    Forbes.

    Apparently, this guy is a regular Bill Bennett.

  20. 20

    I totally agree.

    I mean the George Allen calling some dark skinned guy Macaca wasn’t indicative of any racism.

    And calling every dark skinned guy you meet an illegal immigrant isn’t indicative of any sort of bias either.

    So really, what’s the big deal here?

    Christ it’s not like he complained that a bunch of Virginia firefighters waiting for a plane to go back home after working on some Montana forest fires were lazy or something!

  21. 21

    Damn you ThymeZone!

    The report by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation said Burns pointed to one firefighter and said, “See that guy over there? He hasn’t done a g—damned thing.” The Forest Service dispatch log said, “Conrad Burns at BIL airport verbally attacking Augusta IHC crewmember.”

    Here I was agreeing with John that Burns is a Saint and an example to set forth before Children of all Ages, and you got to go throw ice cubes on my fire!

  22. 22
    RSA says:

    I use the term “little man” talking to my lap dog and my husband’s grandsons.

    Some men also use the term “little man” to refer to a part of their anatomy–just kidding. I don’t think that the expression is particularly racist, but it’s certainly condescending, and if the person using it has any association with racism (i.e., the Republican party is not very popular with minorities) he’ll get dinged for it.

  23. 23
    ThymeZone says:

    Some men also use the term “little man” to refer to a part of their anatomy—just kidding. I don’t think that the expression is particularly racist

    Well, it depends on whether you are describing a White Johnson or a Black Johnson. We could rule out the Black Johnsons, but that Would Be Wrong ™.

  24. 24
    Sam Hutcheson says:

    So, I think what we can take away from this, John, is that there’s nothing inately racist in Conrad’s comment, that he’s getting flak from the paleocons because he actually talks to people who might have non-European ancestry, and that in general he’s a complete idiot, a fact already previously known.

    That about cover it?

  25. 25
    EL says:

    Agreed that the “nice little” and “little feller” part is condescending, expecially repeating the “little.” It’s, well, belittling. Kind of “nice little lady, yore shore cute…” type of condescending. John, I suggest you consider the same comment substituting words and see if that trips your “this doesn’t come across well” meter.

    “The other day, the little lady who does our maintenance work around the house… ” “she’s a nice little woman”
    “The other day, the little black feller who does our maintenance work around the house…” “a nice little african-american…”

    Interestingly, it appears some conservatives are upset because he was taking lightly the possibility he was employing an illegal immigrant.

  26. 26
    Zifnab says:

    Some men also use the term “little man” to refer to a part of their anatomy-

    Maybe that’s because Burns’s Guatamaluan painter is sticking it to his wife. Ba-zing!

  27. 27
    Otto Man says:

    Well, I think the evidence is clear that Burns is a racist — see above — but I don’t see anything damning in this incident. No worries, though. Burns will be complaining about the goddamned Portugese or those smelly Paraguayans before the week’s out.

    What I do find interesting about this incident is that a right-wing politician in a western state would be dumb enough to say he’d hired an immigrant and didn’t know or care if he was legal. I can’t imagine that’s going over too well with the anti-immigration folks in his base.

  28. 28
    Otto Man says:

    Now A Rested Moulitsas Is Focused On Electing Lamont Defeatocrats All Across The Country

    “Defeatocrats”? Really? Was that a mailing sent to third graders?

  29. 29
    tzs says:

    It’s the “nice little man” comment that jerked my chain. Pat pat on head, EXACTLY.

    Condescending and snobbish.

  30. 30
    Pb says:

    Ugh. I just saw video of this on Countdown–and Conrad Burns comes off as being easily ten times stupider in the video.

  31. 31
    Otto Man says:

    Burns spokesman Jason Klindt said the worker, Hugo Reyes, is legally in the United States, owns a painting company and the senator “never had any doubt” that Reyes is a legal resident.

    Wait a second, it’s not this Hugo Reyes, is it?

    If so, a green card is the least of his worries.

  32. 32
    ThymeZone says:

    Ugh. I just saw video of this on Countdown—and Conrad Burns comes off as being easily ten times stupider in the video.

    OMFG.

    If we needed a reason to be worried that the American Experiment can fail in the near term …. how in the fucking world did this butthead ever get elected to any office … much less to the most powerful deliberative body in the world?

    I wouldn’t hire this guy to mow my lawn. I have a little guy who does it for me, anyway. Okay, the little guy is me, and he doesn’t do all that great a job, but he works cheap.

  33. 33
    Jay C says:

    Now A Rested Moulitsas Is Focused On Electing Lamont Defeatocrats All Across The Country

    “Defeatocrats”? Really? Was that a mailing sent to third graders?

    No, Otto: it was meant for mainstream Republicans – third-graders are considered too mature for this sort of stuff.

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