The return of the ugly American

National Review makes childish China jokes. Plus: What they're saying, or not saying, about the Florida recount; is Bill Clinton stealing from the White House again?

By Anthony York

Published April 4, 2001 6:59PM (EDT)

Anger management

Here at Red vs. Blue, we've been aware of old charges of racism levied by some Asians at the conservative National Review. The first complaints stemmed from the caricatures of stereotypical Asian figures on the cover of the March 1997 issue of the magazine, which many people said were racist and offensive.

Four years after that controversial cover image comes this latest post from National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg:

"Chinese President Jiang Zemin says, 'The U.S. side should apologize to the Chinese people,'" Goldberg writes. "Well, I will be in favor of apologizing the moment they apologize for all of those menus they keep leaving outside my front door."

Goldberg's rant continues: "I've got considerable sympathy for the Red Chinese -- despite the fact that if my dog were a member of the American crew Jiang Zemin would have eaten him by now." He went on to criticize the Chinese for other outrages against civilization including the fact that "they put MSG in everything."

Indeed, the ugliest strains of the Cold War xenophobia appear to be making a comeback. Even as diplomatic negotiations continue to free the 24 Americans currently trapped in China, the National Review and their cronies appear ready for war.

Goldberg offered Salon this defense of his puerile humor: "The problem with making insensitive jokes about Chinese communists is that an hour later you want to make them again."


Andrew Sullivan: "The Dimpled, Hanging Truth" "Message to Moderate Republicans: Abandon the Toxic President" "Authority Gets No Respect"
American Politics Journal: "The Truth Conservatives Cannot Spin"
Opinion Journal: "Meet Bill Clinton's New Speechwriter -- George W. Bush!"

Big buzz

Shh ... do you hear that? What you don't hear is the clamor from left-leaning Web sites about the tally in the Miami Herald/USA Today recount of Florida's undervotes. According to the Herald, counting all dimples and pinpricks, George W. Bush would have defeated Al Gore by more than 1,600 votes. Ironically, if the more conservative standard that the Bush campaign was urging had been used -- counting only chad that had two or more corners removed -- Gore would have won Florida, according to the Herald.

There were scattered liberals spinning the recount tally as a Gore victory, but they were few and far between. "The Herald headline is just propaganda intended to obscure the fact that Governor Bush is illegally occupying the White House," writes one Table Talker.

Much more prevalent were the choruses of "I told ya so" from Web-savvy conservatives. "Oh," goes the sarcastic opening to Rich Galen's Mullings column Wednesday. "Remember that election situation in Florida? Remember how the GOP stole the election? Remember how the U.S. Supreme Court ruined its reputation for all time?"

"What is this? The sixth or seventh time President Bush has won now?" asks one Free Republic poster. "I can't even keep track."

"The rules for the Florida election were agreed to by all before the actual election occurred. After Gore lost and lost and lost, recount after recount, Gore wanted the rules changed to benefit him," writes another.

"Gore forced the Republicans into the courts and he lost there also. President GWB is the President fair and square. Now it's time to move on and let President GWB go on working for the American people," the poster adds.

Andrew Sullivan says the recount basically proves what we already knew: The Florida vote was essentially a tie. But he used the recount news to take a swipe at Gore. "His Clintonian win-at-all-costs mentality led him to believe that if he could rig the re-re-recount and finesse the public relations, he still had a chance," Sullivan writes. "When that failed, he could always sit back and preen that he was robbed, stolen, etc. The only good news from this is that it means that Gore will never be able to say that again with any credibility. Nor will Barbra Streisand. Nor will all the other partisans who still preposterously insist their election was 'stolen.'"

But Sullivan obviously wasn't reading, where there are signs that the battle over Florida will never die. Witness today's headline: "Miami Herald Claims Bush Would Have Won (Does Not Include Overvotes) ... But There Is Still Another Big Media Recount Going on, and Signs Are They Will Have a Different Conclusion."

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Anthony York

Anthony York is Salon's Washington correspondent.

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