The Magazine

Boss Dingell, Iraq, Penthouse, and more.

Aug 4, 2003, Vol. 8, No. 45
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Boss Dingell and the Outside Agitator

Ward Connerly sure knows how to get under John Dingell's skin. The point man in passing California's Proposition 209 in 1996, Connerly is supporting a Michigan initiative that would similarly ban race preferences in state hiring and university admissions. This provoked Michigan's famously bullying congressman into writing an astonishing letter that suggests Dingell would be right at home in the Democratic party of George Wallace, circa 1963. Here is Dingell's July 9 letter to Connerly, as posted on the congressman's website, followed by excerpts from Connerly's July 21 response:

Mr. Connerly:

The people of Michigan have a simple message to you: go home and stay there. We do not need you stirring up trouble where none exists.

Michiganders do not take kindly to your ignorant meddling in our affairs. We have no need for itinerant publicity seekers, non-resident troublemakers or self-aggrandizing out-of-state agitators. You have created enough mischief in your own state to last a lifetime.

We reject your "black vs. white" politics that were long ago discarded to the ash heap of history. Your brand of divisive racial politics has no place in Michigan, or in our society. So Mr. Connerly, take your message of hate and fear, division and destruction and leave. Go home and stay there, you're not welcome here.

With every good wish,

Sincerely yours,

John D. Dingell

Member of Congress

Connerly replied as follows:

Congressman Dingell,

Thank you for such a warm and hospitable welcome to Michigan. . . . Ironically, your advice is the echo of southern segregationists who sought the comfort of states' rights to practice their discrimination against black Americans. . . . There is such an eerie similarity between them and you that it bears comment.

-George Wallace, Lester Maddox and others who shared their rabid and abhorrent views believed in treating people differently on the basis of skin color . . . and so do you.

-They wanted to practice their brand of racism free from the interference of "meddling, outside agitators" . . . and so do you.

-They called those who disagreed with them and merely wanted to exercise their right to assemble "carpetbaggers" and "non-resident troublemakers" who were "stirring up trouble where none exists" . . . and so do you.

-They were arrogant and intolerant bullies . . . and so are you.

Your letter is a prime example of why the texture of civil discourse in our nation is so coarse. . . . You ought to be ashamed of telling any American citizen to "go home and stay there." You say that I am not welcome in Michigan and that the "people of Michigan" don't want me there. . . . I must ask whether you have run your "get out of town" sermon by the hundreds of other Michiganders who have called, written and e-mailed me to come to Michigan and assist in the restoration of the principle of "equal protection under the law"?

You have said I am "stirring up trouble where none exists." That certainly isn't what I hear from other prominent people in Michigan or what I have read in the dailies of your state. . . .

It defies credulity that you could be so out of touch with your state as to not recognize the racial tension that lies within, much of which has been engendered by racial preferences at the University of Michigan.

I note with great interest that Reverend Jesse Jackson has announced his intention to open an office of his Rainbow Coalition in Benton Harbor. Would you please be kind enough to send me a copy of your letter to him demanding that he "go home and stay there." I understand that he is also a non-resident of Michigan. . . .

With equally good wishes.

Sincerely,

Ward Connerly

The Iraqis Get It Right

Here are three reasons to be optimistic about the new Iraqi Governing Council, all taken from a transcript of their first news conference, which was broadcast on Al Jazeera TV on July 13.

(1) They understand that the BBC doesn't wish them well. Said Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, in reply to a snotty question from the BBC's James Reynolds: "The BBC always tries to distort Iraq's news. [Applause] During the war, we filed official messages to the British government to protest at the BBC's bias towards the former regime. [Applause] . . . Why [do you] underestimate the [council's] powers and say they are limited?"