Imagine an exalted academic, author and Washington political adviser spouting — and for public consumption — any of the following phrases: "Those truly repellent New York Jews," or "Those truly repellent Detroit Negroes," or "Those truly repellent Los Angeles Mexicans."
Imagine the media hullabaloo, the orgy of indignant squawking, the affected frowns, the finger pointing, the gasps. Trent Lott, Earl Butz, Jimmy The Greek and John Rocker all caught hell for less. Would a "professor emeritus" at prestigious Georgetown University utter such insensitive blasphemies in a media interview?
One has, the eminent professor Norman Birnbaum (Ph.D., Harvard), whose credentials truly stagger. Besides his Georgetown gig, Dr. Birnbaum has professed his wisdom and erudition as a visiting scholar at Oxford, the London School of Economics, the ├?Ô?░cole des Hautes ├?Ô?░tudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and the Universities of both Frankfurt and Bologna. His scoldings of American society and his prescriptions for its betterment have appeared everywhere from the New York Times to The Nation, where he also sits on the board. He has also served as adviser to the National Security Council, to numerous Democratic congressional candidates and to three presidential ones.
Last week during an interview by Maryland’s Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, Kevin Zeese, Birnbaum referred to an American ethnic group as "truly repellent." Among other media outlets, the interview has run on Al Jazeera — yet not a peep of protest has been heard from the usual bloodhounds and watchdogs in these matters.
"Those truly repellent Miami Cubans," was Birnbaum’s phrase, and now you understand the discrepancy. Now you comprehend the utter silence from professional sniffers and snouters in matters regarding "ethnic sensitivity." Now the rock-like insensitivity of the usually ultra-sensitive in matters ethnic — from Abe Foxman to Jesse Jackson, from Teddy Kennedy to Nancy Pelosi, from CNN to Univision – -becomes clear. Unsurprisingly, Birnbaum was an adviser to the presidential campaign of John "Bay of Pigs Betrayal" Kennedy, Jimmy "The Cuban embargo is the stupidest law ever passed in the U.S." Carter, and Jesse " Fidel Castro is the most honest and courageous politician I’ve ever met! Viva Fidel!" Jackson.
I say U.S. political discourse would be greatly enlivened by more such talk. The Europeans are much saltier than we in their political dueling and haggling, and so their campaigns are much more entertaining as spectator sport. Benito Mussolini’s granddaughter, for instance, recently snapped at a TV interviewer of uncertain sexual orientation, that she’d "much rather be considered a fascist than a fag**t!"
How refreshing! But in the U.S. she’d have been crucified, media wise. So again, I don’t object to the doctor’s comment in the slightest. I actually wish we had more of it. I simply point to the media double standard.
It’s actually an old story regarding Cuban-Americans. Bryant Gumbel referred to the demonstrators in front of Elian Gonzalez’s uncle’s house as "disgusting!" OK, fine. But let’s hear some commentator say the same about the demonstrators in Jesse Jackson’s New Orleans march last week, or about the ones in Los Angeles this week. Then let’s see him keep his job, or escape a mandatory course in "sensitivity training," or a "hate speech" rap.
Among Birnbaum’s manifold complaints against U.S. foreign policy, is that (because of our bullying) we "terminated any chance of converting Castro into a Caribbean Tito … independent of the USSR." Is there something in Harvard water that turns brains to mush — at least regarding Castro/Cuba? Based on their powers of observation children eventually discard their belief in the tooth fairy. No such powers seem to grace Harvard’s long list of Best and Brightest. First they botched the Bay of Pigs.
Then on the October 14, 1962, edition of the TV program "Issues and Answers," a disdainful McGeorge Bundy (JFK’s national security adviser and former Harvard dean) made himself very clear on national TV. "Refugee rumors," he called the eyewitness reports from Cuban exiles about those very missiles — reports the exiles had been giving the State Department and CIA for months by then, after risking their lives to obtain them. "Nothing in Cuba presents a threat to the United States," continued Bundy, barely masking his scorn. "There’s no likelihood that the Soviets or Cubans would try and install an offensive capability in Cuba."
Exactly two days later JFK had the photos — taken by a U-2 spy plane, of those "refugee rumors" nuclear-armed and pointing at the U.S. — sitting on his desk. The solution from the Best and Brightest was to team up with the Soviets and grant the Cuban Communist regime (though not necessarily Castro himself) its Mutually Assured Protection.
Shortly came CIA honcho Desmond "Des Fitz" Fitzgerald (Harvard Law, LL.D.) who was appointed by Kennedy to head the Cuba Task Force in 1962. "Des Fitz" promptly sneered at his Cuban exile charges as "militantly childish" and "genuinely stupid." He also concocted the schemes to off Castro with exploding seashells, poisoned wet-suits and hypodermic inkpens. Remember, it was the Cubans who balked at these Austin Powers-like plots who were "militantly childish."
Best of all, the crafty "Des Fitz" entrusted the Castro assassination to his "inside man" in Cuba Rolando Cubela, a Castro double-agent. Remember, it was the Cuban exiles who repeatedly warned him against trusting Cubela and who insisted Castro would retaliate who were "genuinely stupid." "Des" was immensely proud of his gadgetry and was himself handing over a pen with a poison hypodermic tip to Rolando Cubela on November 22, 1963 (look at the date closely.)
Now Dr. Norman Birnbaum, another Harvard alumnus, holds forth on Castro. Doesn’t Birnbaum know that as early as 1958 when the U.S. was actually easing his way to power by embargoing Batista, Castro wrote that "war with the U.S. is my true destiny"? Doesn’t he know that a dozen different back channel attempts to mend fences with Castro were made from 1959-1961? Or that the first anti-Castro rebellion, planned and staffed completely by Cubans who despairing of any help from the U.S. turned to Rafael Trujillo, was tipped off to Castro by the liberal U.S. ambassador to Cuba at the time Phil Bonsal?
The Boston elite’s belief in witches eventually dissipated. But the belief in the: "we bullied poor little Castro into the arms of Mother Russia" fable persists up there. Given professor Birnbaum’s long romance with liberal Democrats, his exasperation with Cuban-Americans is easy to understand. These insufferable people have never sought admittance into the Democratic plantation. They’ve never squatted attentively at the Democrats’ feet and looked longingly upward for a little doggie treat and a nice little pat on the head like good little "Hispanics."
In fact, these insufferable people persisted in looking at Democrats with a fishy eye and standing afar while holding up one hand. Close inspection showed it wasn’t the peace sign they were giving. Indeed, only one finger was upraised.
Even more infuriating, the 1998 census shows that second generation Cuban-Americans have higher educational and income levels — not only than the groups who dutifully punch-the clock at the Democratic plantation every morning — but higher than the U.S. population in general.
"The nerve!" gasp Mr Birnbaum and his Democratic party patrons. We’re a sensitive people ourselves, Mr Birnbaum, and capable of Democratic-like emotions. So let me assure you, sir, in light of all the snubs and humiliations you and your party have suffered at our hands, "I feel your pain."