We all know there are plenty of kooks out there – on both sides – who say repulsive, racist or bigoted things all the time. The Internet has given every vice a voice. And I also hate stupid guilt-by-association smears that merely try to discredit politicians or writers on the basis of views they do not share and supporters they have not chosen. But I simply cannot get Ted Nugent’s rant about the president as a “sub-human mongrel” out of my head. And I cannot believe that a major political party in this country would not just refuse to repudiate it, but actively embrace Nugent as an ally in campaigns.
And yet they are. Just for the record, here is the full quote from Nugent – which is no exception to his usual fare:
I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame enough Americans to be ever vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the United States of America.
This is the rhetoric of racist neo-fascism. It’s not legitimate criticism; it is an expression of white supremacy and the alleged evils of race-mixing. The fact that the GOP candidate for governor of Texas would seek to have Nugent join him on the campaign trail only weeks after these remarks were uttered should rightly disqualify him from holding any public office in this country. And yet Greg Abbott refuses even to address his endorsement of a white supremacist like Nugent.
The fact that Sarah Palin, a former candidate for the vice-presidency, would openly celebrate Nugent as her arbiter of what is good and true in politics, is equally horrifying even as it is completely unsurprising.
The fact that the former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, did not respond to this disgusting comment by condemning it immediately, but by reflexively deflecting the question back to Democratic extremists, is also appalling. The Republicans’ favorite rock star has called the president an animal. What would it take for a Republican to say he or she is horrified by that language and to defend the dignity and basic humanity of the president of the United States? Do they not hear the eliminationist racism in that phrase? Do they not even begin to imagine what it connotes for millions of Americans?
And now we have Ted Cruz also refusing to say, minutes after he just watched the full Nugent diatribe, that he would not have Ted Nugent on the campaign trail with him in the future. Money quote from the interview with Dana Bash, who asks Cruz his response to the Nugent rant:
CRUZ: “I think it is a little curious that — to be questioning political folks about rock stars. I got to tell you, listen. I’m not cool enough to hang out with any rock stars. Jay-Z doesn’t come over to my house. I don’t hang out with Ted Nugent.”
BASH: “Jay-Z doesn’t call the president a subhuman mongrel. Is this an appropriate thing to say?”
CRUZ: “I would be willing to bet that the president’s Hollywood friends have said some pretty extreme things.”
BASH: “The reason I played that for you is this week in Texas, he was invited to campaign with the man who may be your next governor in your party.”
CRUZ: “Those sentiments there, of course I don’t agree with them. You’ve never heard me say such a thing, nor would I.”
He then defended Nugent as a passionate fighter for Second Amendment rights, as if that required any assistance in an era with the most expansive interpretation of the Second Amendment by the Supreme Court in history and unprecedented levels of gun sales.
Look: there’s lots of crazy out there. The far left described George W. Bush as a chimp, and much worse, for Pete’s sake. But the phrase “subhuman mongrel” used against the first mixed-race president of the United States is an obscenity that should give every American pause. As Wolf Blitzer has pointed out, it reeks of Nazi terminology. But its origins are much closer to home, in the architecture of anti-miscegenation laws that came down to us from the era of slavery and Jim Crow. It’s the rhetoric of white supremacy deployed against the first African-American president.
Is that what the GOP now represents? Is that what it’s really come to?
(Photo: U.S. President Barack Obama and his daughters Malia and Sasha walk across the South Lawn of the White House after arriving by Marine One January 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. By Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images.)