Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ask a Korean! News: Sen. Grassley Says Goodwin Liu has "Communist China" Mindset

Here is a bit of a background. Goodwin Liu is a professor and associate dean of Boalt Hall Law School at U.C. Berkeley. President Obama nominated him to join the bench at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where upon confirmation Liu would be the only Asian American judge in the circuit that includes such heavily Asian states as California and Washington.

Republicans have been filibustering Liu, and that's fine -- that's what opposition parties do. But apparently, Sen. Chuck Grassley from Iowa woke up this morning and thought: "Well, the bamboo ceiling has been a hot topic this week -- maybe I will bring on the ceiling to the Senate floor for a show-and-tell."


You heard the man. If you didn't, here is the text:
Does [Liu] think we’re the communist-run China? That the government runs everything? That it’s a better place when they put online every week a coal-fired plant to pollute the air, put more carbon dioxide into the air then we do in the United States, and where children are dying because food is poisoned, and consumers aren’t protected, and where every miner in the China coal mines is in jeopardy of losing their lives? That’s how out of place this guy is when he talks about “free enterprise,” “private ownership of property,” and “limited government” being something somehow bad, but if you get government more involved, like they do in China, it’s somehow a better place.
Daily Kos put it perfectly: "The racist old bastard isn't even trying not to be a racist old bastard." Now the Korean really wants to be nominated for a federal bench, if only to hear Sen. Grassley talk about how the Korean thinks North Korea is a better place than America. (Liu is a Taiwanese, which makes the comparison quite apt.)

Over-under on the number of comments before some idiot tries to justify Grassley's statement? The Korean thinks the line is 5.5, and the Korean is taking under.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

23 comments:

  1. Chuck Grassley is 78 years old, from Iowa. He probably still has the image of fu manchu when he thinks of Americans of Asian descent.

    Grassley is openly being racist because he thinks he can get away with it. He thinks he can push Asian Americans around without consequence.

    He doesn't realize that America and indeed the world itself is undergoing a fundamental realignment of power -- from a European controlled world to a multipolar world.

    The next step for Americans of Asian descent is to come together and become a political force.

    We are successful as individuals, but sometimes I find my fellow Asians lacking a more broader vision for our role, our place in America.

    There are a few groups such as Committee of 100. But their members are too established to dare to ruffle any feathers.

    I think the next step is up to us young Asian Americans. We are successful. We know the world. We are comfortable with who we are (unlike Wesley Yang). And we demand to be heard.

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  2. What's really ridiculous here is that most of the problems in China that he talks about (pollution, lack of consumer protection) result from a too-close relationship between the government and the people the government is supposed to be regulating. This is also a big problem in the U.S., because of our campaign finance system in which corporations and wealthy individuals are essentially allowed to give bribes to politicians. This is ironic, because Grassley's ideal judicial nominee is probably someone who would uphold judicial decisions like the Citizens United ruling; the reason he's filibustering Liu is because he isn't that type of nominee. This is an incredibly hypocritical argument by Grassley.

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  3. Full disclosure: I am more conservative than liberal, and not of Asian descent. I have never been a minority before living in Korea.

    Couple of questions:

    Would this still have been a racist comment were Liu not Asian-american? I don't think so. He didn't say anything bad about the Chinese people, just the Chinese government.

    You can argue that it probably wouldn't have been made without Liu's ethnicity being taken into consideration. But: many left-leaning people in America have been being compared to Communist Chinese for a while. And Marx. And Hitler. This happens on both sides, actually.

    In fact, the Obama Administration invites these sorts of comparisons, albeit unintentionally. Remember when Anita Dunn quote one of her favorite historical figures, Mao Zedong, a year and a half ago? That was pretty embarrassing for the Administration, right?

    Is Grassley's point stupid? Yeah, probably. Pretty clumsily made. Liu's words in his op-ed speak for themselves. Grassley's commentary certainly invites the charge of racism, if only because Liu is Asian-American.

    Is it racist? I don't think the comment itself is. The Communist Chinese are a good example of a large country with a huge government and a boatload of problems (many of them spurred by growth that the government is chasing.)

    I am willing to admit that Chuck Grassley might have seen an Asian man and thought, "China" sub-consciously, which might have led to this embarrassing testimony. But I do know that Grassley would happily vote for an Asian-American version of Alito/Roberts/Scalia. This is less about race and more about politics.

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  4. It might be me, but it would probably be more of the Berkeley thing than the Asian thing. Some people might not have a high opinion of Iowa, but I doubt outside of Iowa City most have a high opinion of Berkeley nor the Ninth Circuit of Appeals. Add a nomination by Obama, well you got yourself a typical polarized debate for a relatively highly visible floor debate for a judicial appointment.

    I might also add, old senators say the darnedest things. Give them a mic when they actual do have people watching and the fun begins.

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  5. I dont know either this politician or this Taiwanese American nominee. But ASSUMING the nominee never said or insinuated or quoted or did anything that suggests he invites the "Communist China" label, then this politician is racializing the topic.

    Is he racist? That is an explosive word that means different things to different people. TK's answer is: "yes definitely". My answer is: "from what little I know about either men...yes, probably."

    But note that is not the same as racializing an issue, of course. Malignant racism is harder to prove than racializing of a topic. This politician surely commits the latter, but *perhaps* commits the former.

    Racism is as subjective as it is explosive. Treat the word with the respect and caution it deserves, and you will not trivialize true malignant racism. (and please don't say I am defending the man....I'm not)

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  6. Phil: Uh, no. I think it's pretty obvious that Grassley was implying something about the MENTALITY of Liu, which is abhorrently ignorant because the political mindframes of Taiwanese people are vastly different from Mainland Chinese people. Also abhorrently ignorant because the American government, last I checked, actually approved of Taiwan...or something like it. If he mentioned something about fascist governments a la Chiang Kai Shek I'd give him some leeway, but this is just ignorant, and ignorance, especially as related to ethnicity and race in combination with discrimination (which I think this is), IS racism.

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  7. @Cornflakes:

    Honestly, I don't think racism should be an explosive issue. I think we should all just realize that ignorance + discrimination = racism, that it's a lot more widespread than we like to pretend it is, so that everyone can have honest conversations about it without making it sound like accusing a person of being racist is the same as accusing a person of eating babies.

    There is a wide spectrum of malignant racism, and honestly, what is malignant anyway?

    Racializing a topic WHILE obviously in conjunction with an attitude that is obviously meant to make Liu an outsider based on projecting negative traits, aka not one of us that commie pinko bastard, not an America (also known as...discrimination, maybe?), IS racist.

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  8. Racism in politics is not new anywhere. May I bring an example from my native country of Finland. One guy from the "redneck" party, term made up by the media not me (officially True Finns). Said while the cameras from the national TV network where on him: A n****r only has to come to the border and the only word of Finnish he knows assylum and he is let in, just like that. We have to put a stop to it. And all sorts of Muslims are loitering around here. Then the man proceeded to imitate the muslim call to prayer.

    Just giving some perspedctive here. Now that is racism. Not that the other was not...

    The behavior of these politicians is making it so that there is now a racially motivated attack on a foreign looking person about once a month to every fe weeks. They feel justified doing it.

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  9. B/c Grassley is 78 yrs old and from Iowa, most of middle America probably believes him over any of us on the cosmopolitan coastal cities, he IS doing a shameful thing by perpetuating racist ideas and wrong beliefs that every Asian is from Communist China. Heck, every Asian is Chinese, right?

    Actually, there are tons of old European/white/Caucasian people even living and working in NYC that think the same thing. I shit you not. About 2 years ago, I am at a medical conference in NYC (!!) and during lunch, I sit with a few colleagues I knew from school. I'm Korean, 2 were Taiwanese, and the other - Korean again. All of us born and raised in the US. Also at the table were some older Caucasian docs... the one to my right was this Hungarian or some European lady that had practice in NYC for quite some time. After some chit chat about insurance, where we work, etc...she leans over to me and says "I find it interesting that you ladies are all speaking in English amongst yourselves and not your native language." And she does this w/ such sincerity and genuine curiosity.

    So 1) Grassley probably does truly believe every Asian is from China and doesn't realize he's even saying anything incorrect in his speech and 2) being someone in power - it's a shame that most people in America probably believe the same - out of pure ignorance.

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  10. Comment #4. And TK wins for choosing under 5.5!!! I think it was rigged.

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  11. cici,

    I think what you wrote is exactly what's problematic of any racism discussion: one or more sides thinks they have the connotation of racism pat down and comes in with a fixed, already-established perspective, and does not stop to consider nuances and complexities of life. It basically comes down to "If it smells like racism to ME...then surely it must be racist."

    "everyone can have honest conversations about it without making it sound like accusing a person of being racist is the same as accusing a person of eating babies."
    That's what you all say, but no...people DO imply that the person is eating babies, and any "honest" conversation comes with heavy personal bias and too little attempt at understanding others' perspective.

    Again, I am not defending this politician, btw, who *probably* is racially prejudiced.

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  12. I do not know if Senator Grassley is a racist but I don't interpret these reported comments as being racist. He is responding to certain expressed opinions that Liu does not favor private property, free enterprise, and limited government in his personal beliefs and judicial actions. According to Senator Grassley's values these principles are the foundation of the Constitution and thus the reason for his vote against cloture for Liu as a federal judge on the Court of Appeals. Supposedly Liu's personal beliefs regarding the role of government in business and social engineering are that a more involved government overseeing private enterprise would result in a better environment for its citizens. As an example of a government that is opposed to private property, free enterprise, and limited government that has a worse record than USA in controlling pollution and consumer safety Senator Grassley cites Communist China, which is now the foremost poster child for communism. One would not expect him to cite North Korea or Cuba, as such comparison would be marginal and irrelevant to industrialized complications. He is trying to make the point that our system of government (private enterprise, personal property, less government intrusiveness) is better than the stark opposite alternative and belief. The mistake in this viewpoint is how do you then explain the same lack of environmental safety, pollution controls, and personal rights in India, a supposed democratic country or of our own history during industrialization, which is probably the prime reason we now have the FDA, EPA, etc. organizations in our government, which I might add Senator Grassley probably does not support. So, in this light I find Senator Grassley's comments regarding cloture for Mr. Liu no more racist in meaning than those comments favoring Mr. Liu's appointment based solely upon his race, as if racial characteristics would be more valuable than known judicial opinions upon nominating and appointing a judge.

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  13. TW,

    Are you saying those "certain expressed opinions" are correct that Liu is opposed to "private property, free enterprise, and limited government" in the same way as the governments of China? Because, come on. That's ludicrous.

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  14. @Sophie,

    I wasn't offering a defense of Grassley's statements, I just don't think it was racist. I stand by the original argument that he'd happily support any judicial nominee right of center, or with his judicial philosophy, asian, black, white, albino.

    I'm willing to admit that because Liu is an Asian-American, coupled with Liu's leftist op-ed, Grassley might have thought "Communist China." Yeah, it was a clumsy way to make a point. So what? These guys are elected to go on the floor and run their mouths, and as far as things said on the House/Senate floor, this is not the stupidest thing I've ever heard, not even close.

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  15. @ Nathan: not at all. I know little about Liu and I did not research his personal beliefs. After listening to his entire remarks I am offering my interpretation of Grassley's comments regarding his cloture vote on Liu's nomination. I wouldn't 'brand' the man as a racist merely because he philosophically disgrees with the other man's opinion. We are too quick to judge and we are polarized as a result. Seriously, after reading my interpretation would you absolutely condemn the man as a racist?

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  16. Nathan,

    Maybe he fully believes it, maybe he is using hyperbole, but ideologically speaking, I seriously doubt he wants him nominated. Judicial appointments can create this environment, which has cut both ways.

    I guess in general I might add to tw's point, he may very well know the differences in Asia. Being in a state where agriculture is important, a lot of the top office holders have traveled internationally to try to open up markets. Granted Grassley has other priorities than agriculture it is a concern

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  17. Sen. Chuck Grassley sounds like a fool. I do not know why the left always say racism when someone does not agree with them. It is really politics and what side of the fence you are on. The Koreans and Taiwanese in my area do not like Liu. They also do not think highly of Berkeley and the 9th Circuit Court. I find more liberals think highly of Berkeley and the 9th Circuit Court than most Republicans. Most Republicans like me do not think highly of Berkeley and the 9th Circuit Court. Your opinion really matters on what side of the political fence you stand on.

    The reason why Republicans are against Liu is because of his views. One of the reason why the republicans do not want him because of his outspoken opinion of the recent Republican appointed judges. Also “In addition to his academic work, Liu gained wide attention for his outspoken opposition to the nominations of John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodwin_Liu)

    The older generation of Chinese Americans in my area thinks of Liu's views as the views of the Chinese students during the start of Communism in China. The older Chinese Americans always tells me that the young forgets about the past.

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  18. Phil,

    Would this still have been a racist comment were Liu not Asian-american?

    Of course not. But that is not a relevant question, because Liu is an Asian American.

    TW,

    I wouldn't 'brand' the man as a racist merely because he philosophically disgrees with the other man's opinion.

    When the man expresses his philosophical disagreement by setting up a clear guilt-by-racial-association, the Korean has no problem calling the man a racist.

    Thomas,

    The reason why Republicans are against Liu is because of his views.

    Then why didn't Sen. Grassley simply say he disagrees with Liu's views?

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  19. @The Korean - I don't see it. Would you directly quote the part(s)of Senator Grassley's comments yoiu perceive to be racist so that I may better understand your allegation. I read his comments regarding Mr. Liu's beliefs not as a comparison to him being Chinese but rather a comparison to Communist China. In my opinion the former comparison would be racial based while the latter is a social/government based comparison.

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  20. TW,

    The quote is already in the OP.

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  21. @The Korean: I seldom take issue with the statements in your blog but in this we disagree. The cited quote in the OP is "Does [Liu] think we’re the communist-run China? That the government runs everything? That it’s a better place when they put online every week a coal-fired plant to pollute the air, put more carbon dioxide into the air then we do in the United States, and where children are dying because food is poisoned, and consumers aren’t protected, and where every miner in the China coal mines is in jeopardy of losing their lives? That’s how out of place this guy is when he talks about “free enterprise,” “private ownership of property,” and “limited government” being something somehow bad, but if you get government more involved, like they do in China, it’s somehow a better place." From an attorney's perspective there is nothing in this quote in support of the claim that Senator Grassley is a racist, as he is referring to Communist China as an example of a communist government. He is not comparing Mr. Liu to a person of Chinese ancestry. This is my opinion and I guess we shall just let it lay as personal interpretation.

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  22. TW,

    This is my opinion and I guess we shall just let it lay as personal interpretation.

    Agreed.

    But if the Korean may add one thing: the Korean thinks, in this instance, approaching Sen. Grassley's statement as an attorney would and attempting a textual analysis of the words within the quote causes one to miss the big picture. Under that type of approach, no one could ever be a racist unless s/he is dumb enough to say, "I oppose candidate XYZ because s/he is black" or a close equivalent of such statement. There are many ways to betray one's racist mind without precisely expressing it.

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