Slime watch: Evaluating what Hoekstra said!


Does his basic claim make sense: Unfortunately, the terrible grimy Peter Hoekstra is running for the senate from Michigan.

On Sunday, during the Super Bowl, he aired a small, grimy ad. By now, you’ve probably read about its use of an Asian-American actress who speaks in broken English about Senator Debbie Stabenow’s “reckless spending.”

Last night, Lawrence O'Donnell was chasing around, trying to learn the actress' name so he could suitably maul her. We had a different question. Here goes:

According to the ad, China will soon take over the world thanks to Stabenow’s "reckless spending." Or something very much like that.

The liberal world has spoken out about the ethnic sliming. We're sometimes skilled at doing such things in ways which help perpetrators like Cap'n Hoekstra, although our guess would be that this type of politics may be nearing the end of its road.

(Did you see Clint Eastwood Sunday night? Did you see him in Gran Torino?)

We thought it might be worth your time to see the role the New York Times assigns to this ad’s basic policy claim. Is Senator Stabenow engaged in “reckless spending?”

This morning, in our hard-copy Times, the report on the ad is seven paragraphs long. In this, paragraph 6, we see Steven Yaccino's sole attempt to evaluate Hoekstra’s assertion:
YACCINO (2/7/12): Ms. Stabenow’s office declined to comment but issued a statement from Mark Brewer, the chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, which described the ad as “shameful” and “deceitful” regarding Ms. Stabenow’s record.
In the hard-copy Times, that was it! Essentially, the paper makes no attempt to evaluate the ad's basic claim.

The ad is awful in many ways, including the way it refers to Stabenow by a stupid, demeaning new nick-name.

But does the ad make a sensible claim? People! Your politics doesn’t turn on such questions! Questions like that are dull.

Does Hoekstra’s basic claim make sense? The New York Times doesn’t seem to care. This is not a new policy.

On-line: On-line, Yaccino’s report is much longer. Just click here.

Did Hoekstra make a sensible claim? What “reckless spending” does the ad have in mind? Even at roughly double length, the New York Times still didn’t care.

In these ways, your “political discourse” turns into a long rolling joke, driven along by wild accusations.

You can say any damn-fool thing you want. No one in the "press" cares.


  1. Last night Chris Hayes, filling in for Rachel Maddow, did an excellent job on the Hoekstra ad, though on a slightly different aspect of it. Instead of evaluating the ad's claims about Stabenow's "reckless spending," Hayes examined its claims about US indebtedness to China (which resonante nationally, given the widespread notion that China owns us). Hayes presented the arguments and kind of pie chart I've seen already on Krugman's blog and a few other places. (About 9% of our debt is to China, followed closely by Japan and Great Britain; we Americans hold most of our own national debt.) Anyway, a clear and thorough report on that subject.
    I don't recall Hayes making any defense of Stabenow; instead, he concluded by looking at Hoekstra's expensive habits when he was a congressman and voted for unfunded projects like the Iraq war and the Medicare drug prescription bill. Hayes (too neatly?) concluded that the amount of debt those votes put us into was about the amount (1 trillion, I think) of our current indebtedness to China.
    By this point, any explicit defense of Stabenow seemed unnecessary.

  2. "Reckless" is not an objectively defined word. By my standards, every Republican and Democrat in Washington is guily of reckless spending. YMMV.

  3. That ad was bait for the media, plain and simple. I wish just once they wouldn't fall for it, but I think that's too much to hope for. He sure did get a lot of mileage out of it, didn't he?

  4. Bob, did you miss Big Ed? He ranted about how racist this ad was,
    And Chris Hayes? He must have spent the first 20 minutes on how undeniably, unequivocally racist this ad was, and using a young woman too!

    I thought it skipped about 13 years of Presidential, Congressional, Corporate, and financial sector policy, and blamed it on one hapless Democrat, but hey, what can you do in a few minutes?

    At least Hayes referred to how much debt was held by and owed to Americans. I believe it was VP Biden that pegged it at 85%, but FactCheck says it's closer to 69%. Biden's figure was total American assets owned by US citizens.

    Clearly, China doesn't own us yet, but they have been taking our jobs on a grand scale.
    So have Indians and Indonesians, and though Chinese merchants have great deal of influence in both of these countries, the populations are not predominately Asian.
    The ad is anti-Democrat, anti-China, but I don't see the anti-Asian racism.

    1. Really, you don't see the racism? Why do you suppose they chose to have an actress speaking heavily accented English? It ain't because there are no actresses of Chinese descent that speak "American-accented" English.

    2. So portraying a foreign person with an accent is automatically racist? It sure seems like the definition of "racist" is expanding. Perhaps the reason the actress used an accent was to show that she was not an Asian-American.

    3. "So have Indians and Indonesians, and though Chinese merchants have great deal of influence in both of these countries, the populations are not predominately Asian."

      Indians and Indonesians are Asians, too. In fact, when Brits talk about Asians, they specifically mean Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi peoples of South Asia.

      The flat terrain covered with rice paddies looks more like Vietnam than China, not that most viewers would notice the difference, and villagers in southern China/Vietnam aren't tall and willowy either. The ad is so cheesy it's almost a parody.

    4. John, it was not just the accent, it was the pidgin English.

      Good grief, when I saw this my first reaction was of an Asian Stepin Fetchit.

    5. in the first place, indians are Caucasian. Pakistanis are Caucasian. The Asiatics in Indonesia are immigrants, the natives are not Asiatics.

      Are you seriously suggesting the BRITS are fair and balanced experts on race? Seriously?
      They have more derogatory terms for peoples they subjugated than Newt Gingrich has for liberals.

      Why don't you look up how anthropologists define different groups?

      The ad was an attack on Democrats and China, not "Lemon Colored Characters".
      The message was "Democrats Sold America to China."

      The woman's accent? She was supposed to be a Chinese national, not Amy Tan's daughter. The ad was ham-fisted because its intent was emotional, not factual. John Powell gets it.

      Of course the terrain doesn't look like China, and the cast look like actors.
      To me, those paddies look more like Sacramento than China or Vietnam.

      No wonder the Republicans are kicking liberal's asses.
      Get this; the target audience will embrace the message, no matter how liberals howl in indignation.

      The message is this: Obama is all bad. All good has come from conservatives, and always will. Obama takes credit for things he had no hand in.

      Somerby is right. Liberals have an irresistible compulsion to use the R word,
      And conservatives sneer at us in contempt when we do it.

      Yes, many Republican candidates are race-baiters, but many well meaning white liberals wash their hands of responsibility or blame for discrimination today.

      BTW, I read some elitist stereotyping in your words, but I don't think stereotyping and elitism mean racism.

  5. I could not comment on a thread below, but the way in which religious prejudice against Mormons is being used in the New York Times to destroy Governor Romney is sickening.

  6. Hoekstra's ad should really piss off Stabenow's constituents there in Michigan as they waddle to their local Wal Mart or Target to pick up the latest sweatshop produced crap from Asia.

  7. sons of flubber = pure gold

    Thanks Bob

  8. It was not "broken English," it was not "pidgin English" and it was not all that heavily accented. Dropping the terminal esses is typical accent, and the English was structurally and gramatically correct. How would the producer convey the origin of the speaker without the ethnicity and the accent?

    "Hello. I am speaking for China. I know I don't look Chinese and I sound like I'm from Kansas, but I am speaking for China." Please.

    Far more ridiculous is the implication in the ad that spending is bad, and that not spending is good, and that what the money is being spent for is irrelevant to the discussion. That goes unnoticed because it is the nature of our dialog. Paul Krugman says the government should be spending, he never indicates what that spending should consist of, merely that the government should shovel money out the door. So we never argue about the merits of what is done with them money, merely about whether or not it should be "flung at the economy" or not. Baboons make more sense.