Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Its Karma Baby

For the last week following the announcement by President Obama that he was nominating Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, Tom Tancredo and Pat Buchanan have been banging their wingnut drums calling her a racist. I don't think it escaped anyone how ironic such a charge was coming from two men who made numerous blatantly racist and nativist statements in the past on the record. But in the past they have always left themselves the slightest bit of wiggle room to try to explain away their words. They have always maintained that they weren't racists and people had just taken them out of context. Of course they make no such concessions for Judge Sotomayor's words even though they didn't come close to approaching the vitriol spewed over the years by either man.

Well as fate would have it now both Tancredo and Buchanan are now faced with a very embarrasing situation of their own. You see in a twist of fate they share an executive director, Marcus Epstein who has made it very obvious that he is a racist. Once again we have to ask if our media is going to hold their feet to the fire and ask them if after all of the venom they have been spitting at Judge Sotomayor about racism, if they are willing to denounce one of their own.

On July 7, 2007, Marcus Epstein had too much to drink and stumbled onto Georgetown’s scenic, shop-lined M Street, walking in no particular direction. At 7:15 p.m., he bumped into a black woman, called her a “nigger,” and struck her in the head with an open hand. An off-duty Secret Service agent was watching. Epstein “jogged away,” according to the agent’s affidavit, and when Epstein was finally chased down, he “continued to flail his arms while being taken into custody.”


Epstein was, and still is, one of the utility players in the immigration restrictionist fringe of the conservative movement, the executive director of both Pat Buchanan’s American Cause and former Rep. Tom Tancredo’s (R-Colo.) Team America PAC. Before and after the 2007 incident, Epstein worked (in an unofficial capacity) with Tancredo on his immigration-focused presidential campaign. He organized policy debates between conservative writers and leaders, including one with Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) that was broadcast on C-SPAN. Epstein built coalitions and hobnobbed at Washington parties without much trouble, despite a record of controversial race- and immigration-focused writings and awareness that something bad — the details weren’t clear — had happened in 2007 that convinced him to go on the wagon.


Since May 19, when the watchdog group One People’s Project released the legal documents detailing Epstein’s arrest, the activist and his employers have come under fire. By late Monday, the University of Virginia Law School was telling reporters that Epstein would not be joining the class of 2012, even though he had planned to retire from his jobs at the end of June and “more or less suspend my political activities” to attend the school. But Epstein’s career up through yesterday was marked by controversial articles and speeches, happy feuds with politically correct organizations like the One People’s Project and the Southern Poverty Law Center, and no serious blowback from the mainstream conservative movement. (In 2008, Epstein contributed to the Southern Poverty Law Center in order to win a place on its “Wall of Tolerance” and to warn the group that it was “just one degree of separation away” from him.) Epstein’s past only became an issue after his patrons, Tancredo and Buchanan, spent a week bashing Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor as a “racist” and an an “affirmative action” candidate.

“It’s a huge breakthrough,” said Darrell Jenkins, a co-founder of the nine-year-old One People’s Project. “This game that keeps being played on the right, the way that their leaders will say anything and claim that they’re not racist — that got knocked out the window. Now we have proof that someone of that stature is running around like an idiot in the streets. Why would a Tom Tancredo associate himself with a Marcus Epstein? If he’s going to go after Sotomayor for an out-of-context quote from 2001, he’s got to answer for this.” Jenkins added that he would “be in the courtroom” when Epstein is sentenced.

Epstein, who turned 26 in May, has spent his entire adult life courting controversy. In 2003, as the president of College Libertarians and the editor of the conservative newspaper at the College of William and Mary, he
argued that conservatives erred by appropriating the rhetoric of Martin Luther King, Jr. instead of remembering his “philandering and plagiarism.” Before and after graduation Epstein carved out an online identity as an old-line, nativist conservative, contributing to the immigration restrictionist web site VDare.com. When he began working for American Cause, Epstein became a young and energetic proponent of ideas that were often attributed to angry, aging white men. “Pat graciously gave me an audio CD version of the book,” Epstein wrote in an article criticizing National Review for not reviewing Buchanan’s “State of Emergency,” an anti-immigration jeremiad. “The facts that he laid out in the book, made me so impassioned, upset, and often angry, that on more than one occasion, I literally had to pull over to a rest stop to compose myself for fear that I would get in a road rage incident.”

So will the hosts at MSNBC ask Pat Buchanan about Marcus Epstein the next time he goes on a rant about Judge Sotomayor? I guess there is only one way to find out.

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