In 2008, Arkansas Republicans were unable to field any challenger to Democratic Senator Mark Pryor. In the 2010 cycle so far, the AR-GOP has been scrambling to find a credible Senate candidate to challenge Senator Blanche Lincoln as several third tier Republican candidates audition for the role. A big problem for the AR-GOP, though, is that several of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Arkansas have recently made racist, anti-Semitic, or otherwise bigoted comments.
The pattern of bigoted comments by Arkansas Republicans running for Senate began in May with the Arkansas state Senate's Republican leader, Kim Hendren, when he notoriously referred to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York as "that Jew." As inappropriate as the comment was, Hendren's explanation was even more jaw-dropping:
"I was attempting to explain that unlike Sen. Schumer, I believe in traditional values, like we used to see on 'The Andy Griffith Show,'" Hendren said.
I must have missed the episode of The Andy Griffith Show where Andy taught Opie the "traditional value" of anti-Semitism.
That was May. Then June rolled around and Republican businessman Curis Coleman, while campaigning for Senate, decided to open his mouth:
"You go from here to southeast Arkansas, and you might as well get a visa and shots because I'm telling you the world changes," he said, talking about the differences across the state.
Southeast Arkansas contains a sizable African-American population; and, Curtis Coleman joked that people might need "a visa and shots" before visiting the region. I suppose this is the Arkansas Republican version of racial sensitivity. Like Hendren's incident the previous month, Coleman's explanation only compounded the idiocy:
Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Curtis Coleman said today his comment that traveling to Southeast Arkansas one "might as well get a visa and shot" was not meant to be derogatory, but rather as a metaphor for the diversity of Arkansas. ...
Coleman said he was trying to "accentuate or maybe even celebrate the enormous diversity we have in Arkansas."
"I've done a lot of international traveling since the 70's, and when going to a new and different land, you had to have a visa and shots. I only meant it to show the tremendous differences you see from one corner of the state to the other. I love Southeast Arkansas and meant it only as a metaphor," he said.
"Maybe even" celebrating Arkansas' diversity by suggesting that a heavily African-American region of the state is a "new and different land" requiring "a visa and shots." Way to keep digging your own political grave, Mr. Coleman. (By the way, Mr. Coleman, the "digging your own political grave" line, that is a metaphor.)
That was June. Then July rolls around and Arkansas Republicans give us a two-fer. First, Kim "that Jew" Hendren was back in the news as he referred to U.S. District Judge Brian Miller, an African-American judge who coincidentally happened to be working on a desegregation case at the time, as "this new minority judge." (Seriously, Hendren must either be uncontrollably bigoted or the dumbest person on the planet.) Second, Republican Senate candidate and retired Army officer Curtis Reynolds offered the following statements, highlighting the "other-ness" of President Barack Obama and, I suppose, President Obama's supporters:
"When I joined the military I took an oath to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic," Reynolds said. "I never thought it would be domestic, but in today's world I do believe we have enemies here. It's time for people to stand up. It's time for us to speak out."
He added: "We need someone to stand up to Barack Obama and his policies. We must protect our culture, our Christian identity."
When he got to the Q&A session, he said that he would be careful with his answers, "I don't want to do a Kim Hendren," and later clarified that he was not categorizing President Obama as a domestic enemy.
Wow, it's sure swell that he wasn't calling President Obama a domestic enemy, only implying that his policies don't do enough to protect "our Christian identity," because Heaven forbid if a non-Christian tries moving into our neighborhood! At the very least, Mr. Reynolds beats out both Hendren and Coleman for the most veiled bigoted commentary.
I suppose that the Arkansas Republican Party is lucky that Karl Rove protege Tim Griffin decided against a Senate bid. Griffin has long been regarded as expert when it comes to the racist campaign tactic known as "voter caging," which seeks to block African-Americans from voting or having their votes counted. That wouldn't have helped the AR-GOP against suggestions that Republican candidates in Arkansas are less than racially sensitive.
These comments are just from May, June, and July of 2009. We're not yet halfway through August. I wonder what comments we can expect next from the Republicans running for U.S. Senate in Arkansas. At the very least, we have a very disturbing pattern.