Column: After cozying up to a purveyor of anti-Semitism, Rep. Tom McClintock sends ‘prayers’ to Pittsburgh victims
No one in his or her right mind would turn to Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) for moral leadership or, for that matter, intelligent policymaking.
But we should offer him our gratitude for giving us a window into the fundamental hypocrisy at the core of Republican expressions of condolence over the horrific shootings this weekend at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
On Saturday, shortly after the news of the murders reached the West Coast, McClintock dutifully tweeted the following:
“Devastating day for #Pittsburgh. Prayers for the #TreeOfLifeSynagogue and the community.”
Sincerely felt, we’re sure. But it’s hard to overlook that only two days earlier, McClintock was tweeting gleefully about his successful campaign appearance Wednesday evening at an event with right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza. Why is this relevant? Because D’Souza has been an enthusiastic promoter of attacks on financier George Soros and other anti-Semitic tropes, and racist tropes, too.
Devastating day for #Pittsburgh. Prayers for the #TreeOfLifeSynagogue and the community.
— Rep. Tom McClintock sheds crocodile tears
Back in June, D’Souza retweeted a tweet from a follower with the hashtag “#burnthejews.” He claimed that he had not noticed the hashtag before retweeting the item, which was a promotion of a documentary he had produced comparing Donald Trump to Abraham Lincoln, favorably.
D’Souza has called Soros “Hitler’s collection boy,” called him a “former Nazi collaborator” and accused him of financing antifa, anti-fascist activists. He has implied Soros should be “investigated as a sponsor of domestic terrorism.”
Soros was 14 when Germany surrendered in World War II. He spent most of the war being sheltered from the Nazis in Budapest.
D’Souza’s detestable work doesn’t warrant much more scrutiny. Nor does his 2014 guilty plea for felony campaign finance offenses. (He was pardoned by Trump this year.)
What’s notable about D’Souza is the extent to which he and his spew have been embraced by the Republican establishment. That’s what makes a mockery of their thoughts and prayers for the victims of racist, anti-Semitic and political violence.
Take House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield). On Saturday he tweeted the obligatory condolences to the Tree of Life community. The “heinous attacks… perpetrated by anti-Semitism and hate will not shake our love for each other,” he wrote. “May God’s grace be with the victims and their families.”
A few days earlier McCarthy was tweeting a different tune. “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election,” he wrote in a tweet after a mail bomb was found at Soros’ home on Oct. 22. “Get out and vote Republican November 6th.” The tweet remained up on McCarthy’s campaign Twitter account until Oct. 24, when it was finally deleted. Soros, California billionaire Tom Steyer and New York billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg are all Jewish.
Then there’s Fox News, which provides scripture for right-wing Republicans. Last week, the Fox Business Network was broadcasting an interview that host Lou Dobbs had conducted with right-wing activist Chris Farrell, who claimed that the refugee caravan on Mexico’s southern border was being funded in part by the “Soros-occupied State Department.” Fox eventually got religion on this openly anti-Semitic construction, announcing over the weekend that the clip would be removed from airplay and Farrell would no longer be booked on its programs. (Fox didn’t say anything about Dobbs, who sat silently by as Farrell uttered his statement.)
Back to McClintock. In many ways he’s merely a garden-variety right-wing Republican elected official, in what may be the safest Republican district in California, a rural district in Placer, El Dorado and a handful of other counties.
McClintock responded late Monday to this column by stating that he merely “spoke at an event...that also featured conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, whom Hiltzik accuses of racism.” As though he were casually attending the same speaking opportunity with D’Souza.
How does that square with his presentation of the event on his Facebook page, where he wrote: “We had an amazing standing-room-only event last night with Dinesh D’Souza talking about the most pressing issues facing our country and District 4. Thanks to all who came and made it a success!”
As for my “accusing” D’Souza of being a racist, which McClintock implies is untrue or unfair, let’s look at the record. (Thanks to the Washington Post and Vox for curating some of these items). In 2015 D’Souza compared then-President Obama to “a boy” from “the ghetto.” In 2013 he called Obama a “grown-up Trayvon,” presumably referring to Trayvon Martin, the black victim of a racially-inspired killing of some note in Florida. Last year he dismissed Rosa Parks as an “overrated Democrat,” tweeting: “So Rosa Parks wouldn’t sit in the back of the bus--that’s all she did, so what’s the big fuss?”
In his book “The End of Slavery,” D’Souza defended slavery in the Old South: “In summary, the American slave was treated like property, which is to say, pretty well,” he wrote. He called slavery an effort by the “Southern ruling elite seeking, in part, to protect blacks.”
These are D’Souza’s words. We ask Rep. McClintock: Does he subscribe to these views? Does he condemn them? Does he beg to disagree that they’re racist? If he disavows them, why would he be proud to share an appearance with D’Souza?
McClintock is experienced in the ways of hypocrisy. As we reported in February 2017, McClintock was photographed fleeing from a town hall after he was confronted by constituents angry over his votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, on which many depended for health coverage. Soon after that, he took to the House floor to plead for civil discourse. “If your love of our Constitution is greater than your hatred of our president, I implore you to engage in a civil discussion with your fellow citizens,” he said. “That is what true democracy looks like.”
He then veered into an attack on his fellow citizens, labeling members of the district audience “the radical left” and attributing the protests — which police said were peaceful — to “a well-organized element that came to disrupt.” He also had described the protesters as “an anarchist element.”
As we’ve reported, during his political career, McClintock has aggressively scourged immigrants and environmental advocates, not with civil discourse but with invective and bogus claims, prompting us in 2010 to identify him as “California’s preeminent member of the don’t-confuse-me-with-facts caucus.”
Trump must have taken McClintock’s correspondence course. Hours after calling for a new “tone and civility” in politics and an end to the “politics of personal destruction,” Trump was calling Steyer, who is funding a campaign aimed at Trump’s impeachment, “Wacky” and “a crazed and stumbling lunatic.”
Anti-Semitic dog whistles and even klaxons, racist imagery and violent rhetoric are part and parcel of the Republican political arsenal. Despite the claims of would-be centrists that “both sides do it,” there is nothing like this coming out of the Democratic establishment or leadership.
Open racism moved into the mainstream of conservative commentary during the Obama years, thanks in part to people like D’Souza. It has now metastasized into a full-blown cancer of ethnic and racial slurs. This weekend, the atmosphere these people have fostered contributed to the loss of 11 lives at the Tree of Life Synagogue. So, no, Rep. McClintock, Rep. McCarthy, President Trump and all such enablers of ethnic, religious and racist abuse: Your prayers don’t count here. Your words and actions speak much, much louder.
9:36 p.m.: This post has been updated with McClintock’s comments about the post and the Oct. 24 event featuring D’Souza.