McCain and the G-Word

“I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.”

John McCain was using the g-word unapologetically as late as the 2000 campaign. Then, heading into the California primary, he issued an apology. California, of course, has a large Asian population. Now, some people might be willing to excuse this because McCain was tortured in Vietnam, but many won’t.

His defenders will say that this is old news and that he apologized, but why did it take him so long? And why wait until it’s politically expedient? Imagine a man held hostage and tortured by Africans. Then imagine him using the n-word to describe them right up until, say, the South Carolina primary. It’s unimaginable, and deeply offensive. John McCain has every right to hate his former captors, but it is nothing – nothing – to change the word you use to describe them from one that characterizes their race to one that characterizes their morality. I suggest f**kers.

At any rate, this foolish insensitivity could well indicate an ingrained bias dating back to the less enlightened time in which McCain grew up. Is there a pattern of bigotry here? He didn’t vote for a national holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr. And he wouldn’t be the first Republican to have trouble respecting all Americans.

My feeling? Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

McCain is going to be burned on this issue come fall. In a demographically and attitudinally changed America, bigotry is the Republican’s Achilles heel.

Read: McCain’s Big Problems

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21 Responses to McCain and the G-Word

  1. Michael says:

    2008 Republican primary in California exit polls

    (asian voters)
    McCain: 66%
    Huck: 10%
    Giuliani: 10%
    Romney 8%

    The sky is falling! The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

    2000 Republican primary California exit polls
    (the exit polls were wrong, and understated McCain’s support, but nonetheless give a glimpse at McCain’s relative strengths among different groups).
    McCain overall: 36%
    McCain (asians): 33%

    That is easily within the margin of error (McCain did do badly overall, but remember this was over two weeks after the bottom fell out of his campaign, following his defeat in South Carolina).

    McCain overall: 36%

  2. Michael says:

    I should add that the legs of the g-word are very limited, as it is slur towards Koreans primarily, though also the Vietnamese. The broad category of Asians in the US includes south Asians, Chinese-Americans, Japanese-Americans, Filipinos and so on, meaning that the g-word applies to perhaps 20% of Asian-Americans.

    The 1.5 million Korean-Americans largely live in states that will go Democrat regardless of what McCain does – New York, Hawaii, Illinois, Washington and California. There is a sizeable Korean population in Atlanta too (here we are talking about a subsection of Georgia’s 3% asian population), but Georgia is also not a swing state.

    Thank you for your wonderfully inadequate analysis.

  3. Eli says:

    I doubt this will be a huge problem. Any other year, sure, but with a painfully racist opponent he will breeze through this and probably not offend more than a few older Vietnamese people. Especially with the impending release of the Michelle Obama “whitey” tape, which Republican strategists state confidently has just recently (within the last few days) been unearthed by networks preparing to run with it. Next to that, an old “gook” comment by a former POW will seem inconsequential. BTW, McCain voted against Federalizing MLK Jr. day because he is a stubborn Federalist, not because he is a racist, and he subsequently passed a state holiday for MLK Jr. in Arizona.

  4. mhr says:

    Liberal Democrat president Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order in 1942 that consigned 120,000 Japanese and Japanese- Americans to camps, ringed with barbed wire. Whatever unpolite word McCain used to describe his Asian enemy pales into insignificance when compared with Roosevelt’s act.

  5. nahnopenotquite says:

    FDR?

    Like it or not, this will be a big issue in fall, along with MLK (and whatever else is lurking in his past), because Repubs are going to make an issue out words that came out of the mouth of Jeremiah Wright (not Barack Obama). The Republican party has a bigotry problem and that is a political problem with mainstream Americans. Just ask George Allen.

  6. Cantle says:

    @Eli:

    I’d be fairly surprised if that “whitey” tape is anything more than smoke and mirrors. Do yourself a favor and don’t believe it until you see it; there’s too much incentive to mislead people in politics.

  7. Sean says:

    Interesting.

  8. oneiroi says:

    @mhr
    But…FDR isn’t running for president right now. At least I’m fairly certain he’s not.

    It was more than an impolite word, he referenced an ethnic group and said he would hate them forever, using a derogatory racial slur on top of it. While I can see how he probably was trying to refer to the people who tortured him, I am doubtful if the Asian community will give him a pass if this comes up during the general election.

    @Eli
    Oh and people aren’t offended by the term whitey. Sorry. There’s nothing behind it. This article references the disparity between a minority “racial slur” and one used against whites: http://www.raceandhistory.com/selfnews/viewnews.cgi?newsid1024893033,80611,.shtml

  9. wordsseldomsaid says:

    it won’t matter…it won’t even make a difference as he would not have gotten most of the asian vote anyway….

  10. Jane says:

    Whatever. Dems complain about personal attacks, but they engage in it all the time. McCain was tortured for years by the Viet-Cong. When has Obama fought for our nation ? Oh, that’s right, never.

  11. Jane says:

    @oneiroi: working class whites that are scraping to get by ARE offended by the word “whitey”. And using fancy liberal language and disingenuous logic to condone racism against whites isn’t gonna work either.

  12. Mike F. says:

    Soooo… the fact that McCain and his wife adopted a little girl from a Mother Teresa orphanage in Bangladesh in 1993 must also be counted among the “bigotry problems” then? McCain apologized unlike Obama’s “I’m sorry your offended that I called you a bitter xenophobe and degraded your religion as a product of your despair” non-apology.

  13. Josh says:

    Asian Americans are also a group that is among the most biased against African Americans (more so than whites), so it will probably be a wash. There are a lot of countries and cultures in Asia too, most probably won’t care, or may even agree with McCain’s description of certain Vietnamese. Vietnamese expats HATE the Vietnamese government too, so they may even be attracted to him.

  14. oneiroi says:

    I love the, “education is dumb argument”. But either way, I’m sorry I don’t think reverse racism exists. I mean whites will never truly be set at a disadvantage as minorities in this country, and really have not faced the same levels of persecution historically. I’ve never seen someone ever offended by the words honkey or whitey. And I think people will pretend this time just for the politics.

    Any ways.

    About the not serving the country, who cares? Bush didn’t either. Neither did Cheney. Kerrey did and Republicans still bashed him. But you know why? Being in the military doesn’t mean you should be the president. I get tired of the, “you can’t criticize McCain because he served in the military and was tortured” defense. He should be able to be criticized just like everyone else for the things they say and do.

    The personal attacks Democrats have are less sophisticated than the Republicans. Which really I think have cost the Democrats the past two elections. But that’s also because they don’t’ have the power of the government behind them as Republicans did. The ability for the administration to get out talking points across the board so well, is quite a feat.

  15. Michael says:

    Well, we’re obviously doing some mental stretching exercises to try and equivalence John Mccain with Obama style racism. Nice try but it wont work, b/c most Asians are hard working, caring and forgiving people, and can understand his use in context of the torture he underwent. They didn’t come here to cry and whine, but to get a chance, and even tho they were often mistreated and abused most of them did get a chance and they then worked to make the best of it. Its called determination, grit, heart, guts and perserverance, and most Asians have boatloads of it. That attitude is what drives their openness. I don’t think you understand that many. many Americans are not looking for a reason to be a victim or to be victimized by the media. They understand the difference between the unguarded use of a word on occasion and a 20 year history of association with ongoing, continual and destructive racism. Nuance. Be careful, you’re going to pull a brain ligament with all that stretching!

  16. calmixx says:

    Wow. That . . . is . . . retarded.

    Ever been tortured in an enemy camp?
    Ever been a POW?
    Ever been to War?
    Ever done anything for anyone other than YOU?

    I don’t love McCain, but this sort of thing is nonsense.

    Mr. MCain’s dislike is for those who held him prisoner. The army he fought against as an American soldier. Should he want to send them flowers?

    Amercians seem to want all of our leaders to be sqeaky clean. No one is. No One.

    If all you can say about McCain is that he harbors resentment for the people who tortured him – good luck with that.

    If you were trying to drive up blog traffic with this crap – congrats.

  17. chunque says:

    Racism and identity politics turn on the idea that one person is more “real” than another — usually because they have suffered more. To learn more check this out:

    http://www.stuffwhitedbagslike.wordpress.com

    Until this habit of mind is overcome no one will be safe from charges of not being persecuted enough to be “real”.

  18. Mr. D Paul says:

    hey to the one who said reverse racism does not exist…get a clue, dude…it is quite prevelent and not only so but the fact that many asian people and their businesses are assaulted in black communities, suffer grafetti with racial slurs(gok more often than not) scribbled on their property by BLACKS show any can act racist and do…and to say a person in the majority can’t suffer racism is ridiculous…

    honkey and whitey are racist slurs like it or not and it is offensive to many people…

    the n-word on the other hand cannot possible hurt anyone, because the black community uses it regularly in every sense of the word….so to say the word hurts them then they turn around and spew it more then any other word is laughable and shows they are being less than honest and only wishing to control others with tantrums…those days are quickly coming to an end….

    i think the reason some white people feel there is no reverse racism is because they have guilty feelings for things they are not responsible for and had nothing to do with but have been made to think it is their place to repay some for the actions of others…if they wish to do so fine…but to try to get those who know better to believe that is not going to work…the age of senseless guilt is over…deal with it…

  19. oneiroi says:

    You do know the idea of reclaiming the word? That is why it is acceptable within the culture.

    “To reclaim something is the political process and strategy consisting in re-evaluating and re-appropriating terms that in the dominant culture are used to oppress minorities. ” – Wikipedia

    It doesn’t make it okay for the dominant culture to still use that word and it still has the same negative connotation. It refers back to the time when people of color were being lynched and persecuted, by the dominating culture.

    And again racism is there, which is why reverse racism rings hollow. Look at the world, looks at the stats, there is an imbalance in the system that keeps minority people at a disadvantage. Most of the time it isn’t the personal bigotry and personal prejudice that you may be thinking, but more systematic. Which makes terms like whitey and honky ring hollow. Because again, white people, as a group, haven’t been “kept down”. You will always find whites in every level of the class system, as opposed to many minority groups who disproportional fall at lower levels. I will agree that much of it is also general class discrimination that affects people of all colors though.

  20. It is silly to state that the term “gook” refers primarily to Koreans. Sure, the work “guk” exists in the Korean language: Korea is “han-guk”; America is “Mi-guk”; one of my favorite soups is “deok-mandoo-guk”. But the term comes from the Vietnam war era, and was used as a derisive term for the Vietnamese (not for the Koreans, who fought along side American soldiers in the Vietnam war). I understand McCain’s bearing a grudge against his captors and torturers, and I don’t begrudge it of him one bit (no pun intended). But if he wants to be an actor on the American and the world stages, he needs to be a bit more attentive to the words he uses.

  21. […] never heard the “gook” story in the press? I can’t imagine why. From an earlier post on this issue: “I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I […]

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