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Monday, January 16, 2006

Amour Courtois

A trembling Sir Galahad comes to the defense of the Fair Deborah Howell over at the WaPo blog:
Writing as someone who was involved in researching campaign contributions for these stories, I'd like point out what the Post's reporting on this has demonstrated: according to Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service records, Abramoff himself never gave any money to Democrats. He did direct his tribal clients to contribute to both Democrats and Republicans, with Republicans getting the bulk of such funds
The links provided by this Derek Willis do in fact prove that the Post has been consistent in their attempts to tar Democrats all along.

This hardly works in his defense.

The quasi-hit piece co-authored by Mr. Willis in June of last year entitled "Democrats Also Got Tribal Donations: Abramoff Issue's Fallout May Extend Beyond the GOP" buries this bit at the bottom:
A spokesman for [Patrick] Kennedy said the congressman's donations from the tribes "have nothing to do with Abramoff." Kennedy traces the money's genesis to his family's long-standing commitment to Indian causes, to the fact that he co-founded the Congressional Native American Caucus in 1997, and to his personal relationship with Mississippi Choctaw Chief Philip Martin, whom Kennedy met in 1999 on a fundraising trip for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. "They just became close friends," said Kennedy spokesman Sean Richardson.
So let me ask Mr. Willis. If the Indian tribes had a relationship with Patrick Kennedy completely independent of Jack Abramoff, isn't it a bit patronizing to say that Abramoff would "direct his tribal clients" to give money to him?

Further at the bottom of Mr. Willis's co-authored article, it is noted that Harry Reid is "a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee with strong relations with Indian tribes."

Is Mr. Willis trying to assert that the Indian tribes were just too stupid to know on their own that giving campaign contributions to Harry Reid might be a wise thing to do? Is he saying that they needed Jack Abramoff to hold them by their little Indian hands while they wrote their big Indian checks?

More reliable news organizations are quick to point out that Indian donations to Democratic candidates dropped dramatically during the Abramoff era, and it does not take tremendous gifts of deduction to conclude that this was probably the direct result of Abramoff's influence. But there is consistently a strong current of anti-Indian condescension in the Post's reporting and in Mr. Willis's assessment of the situation, and they really need to either prove that the Indian tribes would not have given this money to these Democrats if Abramoff hadn't told them to or STFU.

The only people in the blogosphere that I'm aware of who write about this consistently are the folks over at Wampum, who articulate the situation quite succinctly:
The Republican strategy is regarding the Abramoff scandal is now quite apparent: 1) paint the story as "bi-partisan", so as to confuse the public, and 2) turn the victims into "villains" and then carefully remind Americans that those villains are part of an Other (Indian, Jew) known to be greedy, dirty and immoral.

Ask yourself if during the years the media covered Abramoff's relationship with the GOP, how many times was his religion/ethnicity even discussed? I can honestly say I never thought of him as anything but a Republican lobbyist, yet time and again in recent months, somehow his Jewishness is worked into a story, usually with the term "dirty" in close proximity.

Same now for Indians. More and more, Republicans are framing Abramoff's tribal clients not as victims, but as essentially co-conspirators, out to tempt the honest, white, Christian Congressmen. GOP operatives are engaging in outright Willy Horton-esque campaign - what's up next? Republican television ads with a "red" hand dropping a bag marked "casino money" into some white hands with Congressional cufflinks?
Ralph Reed is a professional dirtbag, yet implicit in all of this is the suggestion that he and his merry band of Christo-crooks and their morality extortion racket really just wanted to fight off the dirty Indians and their corrupt gambling habits. And on the other side we're supposed to believe that the Indians were too ignorant to tie their shoes and Jack Abramoff did everything but bottle feed them and burp them after breakfast.

I doubt this analysis will have much traction at the WaPo or anywhere else, really. But I feel compelled to keep pointing out the inherent racism that underlies these assumptions nonetheless.