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Joseph A. Palermo

Joseph A. Palermo

Posted: September 8, 2008 10:07 AM

Congressman Lynn Westmoreland Calls Barack Obama "Uppity"


I'm sure you've heard by now that Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, who represents Georgia's 3rd district, when asked to comment on John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin for vice president and contrast her with Michelle Obama said: "Just from what little I've seen of her and Mr. Obama, Senator Obama, they're a member of an elitist-class individual that thinks that they're uppity." [sic] When the reporter asked if "uppity" was really the word he wished to use, Westmoreland said: "Uppity, yeah."

Last year, Westmoreland was one of only two members of Congress (422-2) to vote against a bill named after the slain 14-year-old African-American boy, Emmett Till, which would provide funds to the FBI to investigate killings during the civil rights era. He sponsored a bill to post the Ten Commandments in the House and the Senate but can't even name all ten of them by memory. He recently held vigil in the House with other Republican dead-enders demanding that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi call the chamber into session to appease their "Drill here, Drill now!" demands. Said Westmoreland: "This is about Nancy Pelosi versus the people of the United States. She's elected by the San Francisco mentality." Westmoreland apparently considers Californians "uppity" too because we don't want to sacrifice a $6 billion-a-year tourist industry that employs 2 million people so that oil conglomerates can rake in more record profits and good ol' boys in Westmoreland's district can pump gas into their trucks and hummers that is a few pennies cheaper in 10 years (while the planet continues to heat up).

The Honorable Lynn Westmoreland probably chose not to follow up the word "uppity" with the N-word when he was jawboning about Obama because he was in front of Yankee reporters on Capitol Hill and not at a Council of Conservative Citizens barbeque back home.

The "uppity" smear came at roughly the same time the Republicans were ridiculing Obama at their convention for being a community organizer as a young man in the impoverished South Side of Chicago. The whole tacky scene reminded me of 2004 when Republicans sported band-aids with tiny purple hearts on them to mock John Kerry's war record. Their attacks this time on community organizers were revealing; Rudy Giuliani couldn't even utter the words without sarcastic laughter. Given the fact that it was community organizers who established labor unions in this country and that Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Americans who are revered today for their heroic struggles against social injustice were also "community organizers," these barbs tended to undercut the Republicans' folksy homilies about health care, education, and economic relief that crept into some of their speeches. Sarah Palin even tried to pawn herself off as a "union" family member because her husband, Todd, the "First Dude," once belonged to one.

In between their acerbic attacks and sneers, the Republicans clucked on about helping the "common man" in language that made them at times sound like Democrats. It's an old trick. A gathering of the whitest, richest, meanest, most plutocratic, and fundamentalist delegates ever assembled under one roof sounding like Populists so they can squeeze out one more election victory and keep their corrupt gravy train rolling along for at least four more years. Call it "compassionate conservatism" without the compassion. After watching three days of the Republican National Convention I needed to take a long, hot, soapy bath to try to cleanse myself from the filthy hypocrisy I had been subjected to.

I heard Republicans invoke the inevitable applause line in countless affectations about Obama calling rural folk "bitter" who "cling" to their guns and religion. From Fred Thompson to Rudy Giuliani, Sarah Palin to John McCain, everyone seemed to want to level the "elitist" charge against Obama and the only arrow in their quivers to drive home this point came from the Huffington Post's own Mayhill Fowler who is immortalized for bringing the world that gem. I've already heard Republicans on TV using the "bitter" line to defend Westmoreland's use of the word "uppity," and in a bizarre redefinition of the word, Westmoreland claims that what he really meant by "uppity" was "elitist." I think the 2008 presidential campaign has now officially entered the crazy, irrational stage, which always serves the Republicans well.

Can a White Man Be "Uppity" Too?