Patterico's Pontifications


R.S. McCain Responds; UPDATE: Appears in Comments, Claims I Am Somehow Misquoting Him

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:59 pm

R.S. McCain has responded to my post from last night, in which I stated that he was the one who wrote this:

As Steffgen predicted, the media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sisterinlaw, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us.

If anyone was wondering whether he really wrote this passage, McCain’s post ought to put that question to rest. While he doesn’t specifically acknowledge the quote or specifically explain what he meant, nowhere do I see the phrase: “I didn’t say that.” I assume that, if those weren’t his words, he would have said so clearly.

Here’s the closest he comes to an explanation:

Whom have I wronged, that I should seek their forgiveness? Granting that people have been offended, this was when they were led to believe (by the framing of the narrative) that I was expressing some personal doctrine of my own, rather than discussing the attitudes of others.

OK. He was talking about the “natural revulsion” of others at seeing interracial images. And he was telling us that when others feel this “natural revulsion,” it is “NOT RACISM.”

That this discussion has been fairly criticized, I cannot deny, but I wasn’t writing for publication, I was trying to prevent Wheeler’s attempt to hijack the League as a vehicle for his own purposes. That this preventive engagement was successful ought to be counted to my credit, rather than being cherry-picked in an effort to discredit me.

I assume that McCain is not accusing me of cherry-picking, since I put the entire quote of his in my post, with a link to the entire debate to see how that quote fit in context.

McCain says other things that, while not about the quote in particular, relate to his intentions in participating in that debate. I don’t want to be accused of mischaracterizing it so I won’t summarize it. It’s best to draw your attention to it and let you read the whole thing.

Also, Dafydd ab Hugh has written me by e-mail a defense of McCain, and I invited him to blog it or post it in a comment. He has offered to make it a guest post here, and I accept that offer. [UPDATE: Here it is.]

That’s all I plan to say about this for now. I’m not interested in getting in a blog war. I am happy to see the quote addressed, to the extent it has been — and to let you make up your minds as readers as to whether you think it has been addressed to your satisfaction.

UPDATE: Also, McCain has this post, which can also be considered responsive. Again, rather than summarize it, I ask you to simply read it all.

UPDATE x2: Here is my best stab at a representative quote from the second post:

Here, however, I can briefly say that I understand man to be a tribal creature by nature, prone to appeals of group interest.

While we today may identify ourselves by such labels as Republican or Democrat, Catholic or Protestant, Redskins fans or Cowboy fans, the underlying impulse is tribalism, and it is rooted in a basic sense of affinity that Edmund Burke addressed in his famous discourse about “little platoons.”

But read it all.

UPDATE x3: A commenter asks why I consider it a limited success that McCain now appears to have admitted that he wrote this passage. It’s because he previously denied saying it, in an interview with Alan Colmes.

UPDATE x4: McCain is now in the comments, and he’s apparently saying I’m misquoting him somehow:

You seem to be making the same mistake other people have made, supposing that what you think I said is the same thing as what I said.

This is coupled with some claims of victimhood and such, but I’m more interested in whether he is denying the quote or not. I have put the question to him directly in a comment: did he write the passage quoted at the outset of this post? I have never seen him directly in his own words answer that anywhere — but as I noted in my comment, he hasn’t been very clear about it. He denied it to Alan Colmes. He admitted it to Founding Bloggers. He failed to deny it in his latest post (when you’d think he would deny it if it weren’t his quote). Now he is accusing me of misquoting him.

Did he say it or not? Stay tuned to see if he answers the question directly here. I hope so.

I’m bumping this post to the top so that people will see this update.

UPDATE x4: Upon reflection, maybe he’s saying I’m misquoting him when I say he denied the statement in his interview with Colmes. But as my comment (and transcript) make clear, I’m not misquoting him there either.

Whatever it is he’s saying, he can clarify. I await his answer on whether he wrote the above passage.

The Right Way, the Wrong Way, and the Buckley Way — Post by Dafydd ab Hugh

Filed under: General — Dafydd @ 11:58 pm

This post is written by Dafydd ab Hugh, who is no longer related by embryonic stem-cell therapy to Patterico…


Followup to my last post here, Racial Ratiocination: I object in principle to examining a single paragraph, or even a single essay, and concluding that it constitutes “racism.”

Racism implies intent; even if the speaker is racist merely through ignorance, he must at least believe that one race is inferior to another race, even if he doesn’t understand why that belief is wrong.

But such an attitude should show up again and again in speech and writing; if a person believes in a heirarchy of races, it will permeate his world. Therefore, if the snippet you are investigating is unique — if there are no other examples of alleged racism from the same author — it’s almost certainly not racist, but rather clumsy phrasing at worst, or perfectly reasonable, but misunderstood by the reader, at best.

The proper way to examine whether such and such is racist is to determine whether the author (so and so) is racist; if so, and if such and such walks and quacks like a duck, it probably is. But if so and so cannot be shown to be a racist himself, it’s unlikey he has written something intentionally racist.

For the proper way to hunt for racism, I recommend the William F. Buckley, jr. essay “In Search of Anti-Semitism,” which originally appeared as an extended article in the National Review in 1988 (I can’t find the exact number). He expanded it to book length, and you can buy it used from Amazon.

Buckley examines whether either Joe Sobran or Patrick J. Buchanan is antisemitic; contrary to the Publishers Weekly book review, I distinctly recall Sobran being found guilty and sentenced to banishment from the pages of NR, while Buchanan was acquitted by the master. PW announces just the opposite, but I suspect its author was driven more by his own Buchanan hatred than anything Buckley wrote.

(Since then, Buchanan has gotten even more radical; and I believe his radicalism has finally pushed him from merely being anti-Israel to full-blown antisemitism; but this was not so 21 years ago.)

In any event, if we wish to examine whether Robert Stacy McCain (no relation) is an antisemite, or whether his article or e-mail was antisemitic, we really should look at the totality of the man and his writing… not just a single paragraph in a single monograph.

“That’s just the f-ing way it is.”

— Dafydd ab Hugh

UPDATE BY PATTERICO: I agree entirely (and have said throughout this contretemps) that McCain should not be evaluated by one statement. However, I think McCain ought to be clear about whether he said it or not. As the updates to this post show, he has not been entirely clear about it — and is still muddying the waters to some degree.

Racial Ratiocination — Post by Dafydd ab Hugh

Filed under: General — Dafydd @ 11:15 pm

[As Dafydd indicates, he sent me a defense of R.S. McCain’s quote by e-mail and I invited him to post it here as a guest post. — Patterico]

Guest post by Dafydd ab Hugh of Big Lizards infamy…

I believe this is my first post on Patterico’s Pontifications since 1952, when I wrote a piece here defending Democrat Harry S. Truman’s staunch defense of South Korea against the marauding commies from the north. As I recall, Patterico was in favor of detente with Puerto Vallarta at the time. Of course, I could be mistaken; it was a long time ago.

I sent the following to Mr. P. earlier today, after reading the long McCain quote (the other McCain) on Patterico’s Pontifications — one of my two favorite blogs!

The issue at hand is a short quotation by conservative Robert Stacy McCain (no relation, so far as I know); you can read Patterico’s original post here.

He expanded upon the quotation in a later post, wherein he gave us the complete context of McCain’s remarks.

The question is whether the paragraph originally quoted by the owner of this blog constituted racism; Patterico says it does, while I disagree. My reasoning follows…


Now that I have read the full context, I am quite satisfied that McCain’s statement was not, repeat, not racist, racially separatist, or racially prejudiced. I truly believe Patterico has misread the man — though his inartful phrasing certainly contributed to the confusion.

Let’s look at the paragraph that causes most of the cringies:

As Steffgen predicted, the media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sisterinlaw, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us. [Caps in original]

I don’t know how many paleocon writers Patterico has read, but many tend to write in an expansive and verbose, quasi-nineteenth century diction akin to a book like, say, That Hideous Strength (C.S. Lewis) or the Father Brown stories of G.K. Chesterton. In particular, they often use archaic forms of speech — and very old-fashioned, hard-right concepts that sometimes don’t translate well into 21st century English.

It’s irritating when one first encounters it; but after a while, one slips into that mindset and is able to understand what’s being said… much like the lag time between the start of a Shakespeareian play and the point, a few minutes later, when one abruptly begins to parse the cadences of 17th-century English drama.

With this in mind, let’s look at the term “natural.” To an old-right writer like, say, Chesterton, “natural” does not mean good, lovely, free & easy, or admirable; that meaning of natural is really post-hippie era… when hippies appropriated Earth-related terms like natural, earthy, letting it all hang out, and suchlike precisely in reaction to the rejection of the natural by many religious conservatives. Many Christian writers would say, for example, that it was natural for a man to feel the impulse to sexually savage any attractive woman he meets — and “natural” in that sentence is to be considered bad, savage, bestial. The opposite would be our higher selves, which are UN-natural, being gifts of inspiration and conscience from God. (Compare the famous quotation by Thomas Hobbes, 1588-1679, that in the natural state of Mankind, “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”)

McCain is about my age, a year older; but I guess he learned to write by reading conservative philosophers of the Chestertonian era; I know several others in McCain’s age group who did the same.

Thus, to someone who writes and thinks in contemporary English, saying that a “revulsion” felt by many people to miscegenation was “natural” means only that it’s a very common thing and not to be marveled at; it emphatically does not mean that the writer necessarily shares that revulsion, nor even that he excuses it. McCain makes this clear in the very next paragraph:

And so when we see an overreaction to this programme, with people urging a return to Jim Crow or even advocating the formation of separate racial nations, the first thing we must understand is that we’re looking at a reaction that is not entirely illogical. What is necessary is to realize what is causing the reaction and to realize how emotionalism may prevent us from properly combatting the programme. WE MUST BE RATIONAL AND PRAGMATIC, for our adversaries are extremely rational and pragmatic in pursuing our destruction. [Caps in original; and note the archaic, English spelling of “programme;” McCain grew up in the American South, not Great Britain… Brit spelling is an affectation.]

To me, it is quite clear that McCain is saying this “revulsion” is an overreaction, and that such irrational emotionalism plays right into the hands of what he calls “communism” (lowercase c, unless Patterico typoed it), and what I would call liberal fascism, after the Jonah Goldberg thesis in his book of that title: We must not react by getting revolted by every interracial marriage; that is an irrational response to the provocation. Instead, we should fight (McCain argues) against the deliberate program of racial provocation by our national enemies — which today is the Hollywood/Berkeley Left alliance.

The next statement also appears to arise from a paleoconservative outlook: that a white man might have a high NTF (“Negro tolerance factor,” a very useful phrase invented by black activists) in dealing with black men in everyday transactions… but still feel panic when his brother wants to marry a black chick. And McCain is correct that this is not racism: There is no hint that blacks, as a group, are inferior, or that they should be treated differently as a group. The same man may have the same reaction to his brother wanting to marry an Italian or a Pole — both of whom are of course white.

It’s not racism; it’s more like tribalism or xenophobia. It’s similar to a blonde family being upset if their beautiful, blue-haired, blonde-eyed daughter decides to marry a swarthy southern-European with dark brown hair; the reaction flows from preservation of the sub-subspecies of blonds, not a belief in the superiority of the yellow-hairs, which would be required for true “racism.”

To me — as to most of the paleo-Right, of which I am not a member, of course — the term racism has been egregiously expanded, and not just by leftists. In addition to being used as a political (or sexual) bludgeon (cf. McCain’s example of the sexual extortion by the black character in the play McCain imagines), it’s used as a sloppy catch-all for any expression of distaste for any element of a person’s looks or behavior that the sloppy speaker considers to be unchangeable. Thus, if someone doesn’t want his daughter to marry a blind man, that father may be called a “racist”… as if the handicapped constitute one of the races of Mankind.

McCain draws the same distinction I would: That father is not racist for not wanting his daughter to marry a blind man; he is stupid, irrational, prejudiced, and unreasonable for a very different reason: because the important components of a marriage are a sense of decency, moral uprightness, loyalty, shared interests, sexual desire, and the willingness to love (v.t.) the partner — none of which depends upon being able to see.

That’s how I read the lengthy McCain quotation, most of which appears to be McCain quoting Kent H. Steffgen, whoever he was. (Steffgen wrote at least a couple books attacking Ronald Reagan as a socialist, of all things.) R.S. McCain is not exonerating or praising those who recoil in revulsion from a biracial marriage, but he is acquitting that person of being driven by a belief in the inferiority of one race to another — at least on the evidence presented at trial.

Let me take it out of the context of race, and perhaps you will see the paragraph as I read it. I could easily write the following words (that is, apart from the run-on sentences, juvenile capitalizations, and antique diction; please note this is a paraphrase, not a quotation, despite using the blockquote style):

As Steffgen predicted, the media now force warrior-woman images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion. The male who does not mind transacting business with a female bank clerk may yet be averse to his daughter joining the Marines, and THIS IS NOT SEXISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us.

I could write this despite the fact that I do not share that prejudice; I would love it if my little niece Madison grew up and became a Marine Corps sniper. I would worry about her safety but feel no “revulsion.” However, such revulsion is certainly natural; it’s the natural outcome of emotional, irrational, insufficiently enlightened minds reacting negatively against a conscious attempt to mold them into what they see as a liberal mindset. Such thoughtless revulsion is natural, but it’s not optimal.

That is, I think, what McCain was getting at; and I agree with him.


Take it for what you will.

I can shorten my reasoning above to a single sentence: Patterico, I think, took the word “natural” to mean proper or correct; but I think McCain used it to mean understandable given the provocation of a conscious policy to reprogram Americans to think a certain way — a way of thinking I actually share, given that my wife is a different race than I. Still, I understand why Americans generally would resent being manipulated in such a way.

I look forward to 6,322 comments here telling me I’m full of beans; but I assure you, I’ve been called so many names that I’m immune. So it goes.

This has been a Big Lizards production. So there.

— Dafydd ab Hugh

The Ethics of Legal Hiring

Filed under: Law,Politics — DRJ @ 10:23 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

In law firm and law school hiring, is it fair for a conservative hiring committee member to ban a liberal applicant if he knows liberal hiring committee members have banned conservative applicants?

Prof. Bainbridge says “No” for several good reasons.

I say “Yes” … and only my ladylike upbringing keeps me from answering “Hell, Yes.” While conservatives stand on principle, liberals will fill the faculty’s endowed chairs and law firm’s corner offices.


Wanted: Chamber of Commerce President

Filed under: Politics — DRJ @ 8:58 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

A liberal group called the Velvet Revolution is upset that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes President Obama’s policies. However, instead of contesting the Chamber’s message, they’ve decided to attack the messenger:

“Velvet Revolution launched the StoptheChamber campaign in October and started offering a bounty for information on [Chamber of Commerce President Tom] Donohue a month later. A $100,000 reward was increased to $200,000 early this month, thanks to what Zeese called a “handful of larger donors” whom he would not identify.

A full-page print ad that looks like a “wanted” poster out of the wild West began to run in the Washington City Paper this week. It features a head shot of Donohue and offers a tip line for “insiders and whistleblowers possessing information not already in the public domain.”

The tip line is live. When called, the operator asked for “criminal” information about Donohue.”

This reminds me of’s General “Betray-Us” ad that candidate Barack Obama refused to condemn. Now that he’s in the White House, I hope President Obama will have the courage to stand up to liberal groups like the Velvet Revolution and demand they stop destructive and unwarranted personal attacks such as this.


Harry Reid Speaks (Updated)

Filed under: Health Care,Politics — DRJ @ 7:59 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

Apparently Democratic Speaker of the House Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid thinks he can say whatever he wants about Republicans and there won’t be any consequences:

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took his GOP-blasting rhetoric to a new level Monday, comparing Republicans who oppose health care reform to lawmakers who clung to the institution of slavery more than a century ago.”

The 2010 Nevada Senate poll already shows he’s the underdog. I doubt calling out your opponents with this kind of rhetoric will help.


UPDATE: Eric Blair reminds us of this current Democratic Senator‘s role in the Civil Rights Act:

“I see that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took a swipe at Republicans this morning, comparing them to those who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for filibustering health reform legislation. It’s worth remembering that the longest filibuster of the 1964 act was conducted by a still-sitting senator, Robert C. Byrd, who personally spoke against the legislation for 14 hours and 13 minutes on June 9 & 10, 1964.”

Politico: NPR Summons Mara Liasson

Filed under: Media Bias,Obama — DRJ @ 1:46 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

MD in Philly points out today’s Politico report that NPR asked Mara Liasson to reconsider her appearances on Fox News:

“According to a source, Liasson was summoned in early October by NPR’s executive editor for news, Dick Meyer, and the network’s supervising senior Washington editor, Ron Elving. The NPR executives said they had concerns that Fox’s programming had grown more partisan, and they asked Liasson to spend 30 days watching the network.

At a follow-up meeting last month, Liasson reported that she’d seen no significant change in Fox’s programming and planned to continue appearing on the network, the source said.

NPR’s focus on Liasson’s work as a commentator on Fox’s “Special Report” and “Fox News Sunday” came at about the same time as a White House campaign launched in September to delegitimize the network by painting it as an extension of the Republican Party.”

Both NPR and former White House communications director Anita Dunn denied that there was a relationship between the Liasson request and the White House’s criticism of Fox News.


Chicago Terrorism Suspect Charged in Mumbai Attack

Filed under: Terrorism,War — DRJ @ 1:36 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The Chicago man charged with planning an attack on a Danish newspaper has also been charged in the Mumbai, India, attack:

“David Coleman Headley was charged with 12 counts, including six counts of conspiracy to bomb public places in India, to murder and maim individuals in India and Denmark and other offenses. He could be sentenced to death if convicted on the charges involving the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
The charges filed in U.S. District Court on Monday said Headley had attended Lashkar-e-Taiba training camps in Pakistan earlier this decade and conspired with members of the group to launch terrorist attacks in India.”

Headley previously changed his name so he could travel without raising suspicion:

“Prosecutors said Headley changed his name from Daood Gilani in 2006 so that he could pass in India for an American who was neither Muslim nor Pakistani. They said he later made five extended trips to Mumbai from September 2006 through July 2008, taking pictures of various targets.

Among the targets he allegedly scouted were the Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels, the Leopold Cafe, the Nariman House and the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station — each of which was attacked with guns, grenades and other explosives in the November 2008 attacks.”

This war isn’t over.


ObamaCare: Is the GOP helping pass it?

Filed under: General — Karl @ 11:51 am

[Posted by Karl]

With Pres. Obama giving a pep talk to Senate Dems Sunday (yet not mentioning the “public option” or abortion), it may be that ObamaCare is less than a done deal. But is the GOP taking pressure off the Dems by allowing votes on amendments, or helping to fix the bill? Senior GOP Senate staffers tell NRO’s Robert Costa:

No way… “The idea is to make Democrats walk through glass everyday until the final vote on this puppy,” says one. “Make them take the kinds of stands that will be tough to explain to the media today — and to their constituents come election time. McCain’s Medicare amendment is the perfect example of that.”

Bloggers at RedState disagree:

Top GOP leaders have mistakenly convinced themselves that the key to defeating the bill is to process a number of Republican “messaging” amendments while letting Democrats offer whatever amendments are necessary to buy 60 votes.

There are three fatal problems with this strategy: 1) leadership insists on pushing its own too-clever-by-half “message” instead of listening to the clear message faxed, e-mailed and phoned to every elected official in Washington (”KILL THE BILL!”), 2) as evidenced by the articles above, the current “messaging strategy” is an abysmal failure, and 3) by allowing amendments to be processed at no cost to the majority party, GOP leaders are merely greasing the skids for government-run health care.

Quite apart from the issue of whether the GOP “messaging” gets picked up in the establishment media, when I look at the current list of 91 amendments (about half of which come from the Dem caucus), it is not clear to me that the GOP is proposing amendments that would make it more difficult to pass the bill. (I cannot be definitive about this, as the texts of these amendments are generally not online yet.) For example, none of the amendments looks to be the “doc fix” that would force Dems to admit that they have not accounted for hundreds of billions of dollars they plan to spend. None of the amendments appear to address the “pay or play” employer mandate that is hated by both Right and Left.

However, obstructing on every amendment is probably not a feasible overall strategy. It would probably result in more of the action moving into Harry Reid’s office, where necessary amendments would get bundled into a “manager’s amendment” with a 60 vote guarantee. The silver lining is that the list of amendments is getting larger all of the time. The aforementioned list of 91 does not include the tort reform offered by Sen. Ted Kennedy in 1995, but rejected by the Senate on Sunday, or Sen. Ben Nelson’s pro-life amendment, which may be considered on Monday. It may be that the GOP is holding more damaging amendments in reserve.


MayBee Schools TIME and Obama

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:46 am

Obama whines about the news media’s allegedly unfair treatment of him:

I mentioned that I was in Asia on this trip thinking about the economy, when I sat down for a round of interviews. Not one of them asked me about Asia. Not one of them asked me about the economy. I was asked several times about had I read Sarah Palin’s book. (Laughter.) True. But it’s an indication of how our political debate doesn’t match up with what we need to do and where we need to go.

TIME quotes his whine.

MayBee sets them both straight:

UPDATE: Over Twitter, reader MayBeeTweet points out that Obama did not accurately characterize his interviews in Asia. Fox News’ Garrett asked both about the jobs bill Obama has proposed and the South Korean trade agreement. NBC’s Chuck Todd asked about the jobs summit and Chinese relations on human rights.


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