City Life: Mansoor's heritage is a distraction

There is a pig flying outside my office window. The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series. Barack Obama has admitted he is in over his head and has resigned.

Steve Smith is defending Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor.

For several months, Mansoor has found himself having to explain his heritage, including the details of his father's birth in Egypt and subsequent European influence, all because some folks want either to create an Arab connection to use against him for political purposes or because they are upset over what they contend is his denial of his heritage.

Worse, he has had to defend his decision to identify himself simply as an American, without attaching a hyphenation that indicates a country or continent origin.

Mansoor has something significant in common with Obama, who recently has had to tell the nation once again he is not Muslim.

In 2007, Obama was chided for choosing to stop wearing an American flag lapel pin, which has become a standard wardrobe accessory for anyone in politics. For a short time, Obama stood his ground and refused to wear the pin, seeing it for the false patriotic display that it is. Eventually, however, the absence of the pin became a distraction in his presidential campaign, and he again wore one so he could get back to his message that bigger government is better government.

Like that lapel pin, Mansoor's heritage has become a distraction to the point where he has been put on the defensive in a no-win situation. If Mansoor talks up his father's heritage and says he is Arab American, as some wish him to, it will be exploited by a few who want to promote that as a negative, or he will be accused by others of giving in to the multicultural hyphenation crowd.

If, on the other hand, he continues to say simply that he is an American, he will be called self-hating and criticized for abandoning his heritage by those who believe that we must all identify our roots on both side of a hyphen.

So just what has all of this got to do with the state's budget crisis? What does it have to do with trying to create more jobs in California or securing a sufficient water supply?


It's just more political maneuvering by small-minded micro-interest groups that focus on this nonsense from dawn to dusk. Without it, they have no raison d'ětre.

What we should care about is whether the person we elect to represent the 68th Assembly District — either Mansoor or his opponent, Phu Nguyen — is a capable leader, a man of integrity and character who will see the need for action for the greater good of the state, and who will be willing to make a decision or cast a vote for that greater good when advisers and contributors are urging him to take a position that may be politically smarter.

We should care about the candidate's prior record of success and failure in government, business and in life — not what he says he will do, but what he has already accomplished. And if he has failed, we should see evidence that he has learned from that failure.

This heritage discussion is a phony issue — a lapel pin — that won't fix the deficit, won't raise academic standards in our schools and won't add a single job to the state. Sadly, though, it will now be exploited by both sides and will ultimately hurt voters, for every minute we spend on this meaningless discussion is one less minute we have to debate the great challenges facing California.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to read a story that just popped up on the Internet. Apparently, Angels Manager Mike Scioscia returning to the diamond as the team's catcher.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to

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