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Tilting at Windmills

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February 27, 2010

GOP REP: BLACKS BETTER OFF UNDER SLAVERY.... Rep. Trent Franks (R) of Arizona has long been one of Congress's most embarrassing members. But this week, the right-wing lawmaker may have reached a new depth.

Franks was speaking with blogger Mike Stark about civility and the public discourse. Unprompted, the congressman started reflecting on the African-American community, and his belief that African Americans may have been better off under slavery than in a legal system that allows legal abortions.

"[I]n this country, we had slavery for God knows how long. And now we look back on it and we say 'How brave were they? What was the matter with them? You know, I can't believe, you know, four million slaves. This is incredible.' And we're right, we're right. We should look back on that with criticism. It is a crushing mark on America's soul.

"And yet today, half of all black children are aborted. Half of all black children are aborted. Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery."

Franks added that he can sometimes say things that are "intemperate," but added, "I don't want to hide from the truth."

Let's consider this the latest in a long line of setbacks for the Republican Party's outreach to minority voters.

As far as the substance of the claim is concerned, Franks significantly exaggerated the rate at which black women terminate their pregnancies. But substance aside, hearing a Republican lawmaker argue, out loud, on camera, in the 21st century, that today's policies are worse for African Americans than the policies of slavery is just mind-numbing.

If Franks's name seems familiar, he's the same right-wing lawmaker who recently described President Obama as an "enemy of humanity," who "acts un-American," and "doesn't want people to see" his birth certificate.

In October, relying on a strange book published by a fringe website, Franks also asked the House Sergeant at Arms to start looking for Muslim "spies" on congressional committees.

A spokesperson for the DCCC responded yesterday, "To compare the horrors and inhumane treatment of millions of African Americans during slavery as a better way of life for African Americans today is beyond repulsive. In 2010, during the second year of our first African American President, it is astonishing that a thought such as this would come to mind, let alone be shared."

I do wonder, though, what kind of leadership post Trent Franks would get if House Republicans reclaim the majority next year.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (26)

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So he not only didn't learn a thing about slavery, he also hasn't learned a thing about societies past and present in which abortion is illegal. It is an entirely good thing for women to have control over when they decide to bring a child into the world, when they are emotionally, domestically, and financially ready to begin motherhood. It would be better if planned parenthood happened as much as possible via sex education and standard birth control, but abortion needs to be a safe and legal back-up. Concern over the unborn at the expense of people already alive is misplaced. An unwanted child can later be seen as a blessing and women may come to regret having had an abortion, but there is a bottomless well of social ills and misery that can come with unwanted children and illegal abortions.

Posted by: N.Wells on February 27, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

But will he lose his seat over this? Probably not. And that's the problem: being an idiot lunatic bears no political cost to individual politicians (although perhaps the GOP brand). If our politics can't correct embarrassments like Franks, then how does this change?

Posted by: Mike the Mad Biologist on February 27, 2010 at 8:17 AM | PERMALINK

That Franks and his like-minded pals are loons, buffoons, and racists is obvious.

Of greater concern are the voters who put these people in office, again, and again, and again.

It's not an accident that the Dems lost the South after LBJ passed civil rights.

Posted by: DAY on February 27, 2010 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

Maybe instead of expressing their outrage at these all too common repub remarks, Dems should just point out that these people are flat out insane and walk away.

Instead of: "To compare the horrors and inhumane treatment of millions of African Americans during slavery as a better way of life for African Americans today is beyond repulsive. In 2010, during the second year of our first African American President, it is astonishing that a thought such as this would come to mind, let alone be shared."

A simple "Trent Franks belongs in a padded cell" might go a lot further toward taming right wing blather and the poison it injects into our political discourse.

Posted by: JoeW on February 27, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

The other side of the coin on this is that a representative of the party which has been telling us for 30 years that "welfare queens" only have babies to get bigger government checks every month is now arguing that the biggest problem the african-american community has ever had is that there are far too few black children running around.

Posted by: Shalimar on February 27, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

This mentality is hardly surprising when you consider the fact the GOP has morphed into a combination of the 90's militia movements and David Duke's KKK Light.

In decades past guys like this would be wearing robes and hoods. I used to take solace in knowing this breed of ignorance would eventually die off but it seems that here in America they get a new audience every generation.

I'm tired of Americas inability to get past the culture wars of the 20th century.

Posted by: citizen_pain on February 27, 2010 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

You ask which committee he might head - The scary part is that one of two major committees upon which he serves is the Judiciary. The other being the Armed Services. Funny how this non-lawyer, non-veteran of any sort can sit on these committees, when, his past is based on either abortion or child abuse issues or the oil fields.

The ironic part is he attended a branch of Ottawa University, which was stolen from the Ottawa Indians by a group of white men. They wanted the land and the university. But, as he, Fine Baptists All, eh?

Posted by: berttheclock on February 27, 2010 at 8:29 AM | PERMALINK

I think what Franks is saying, is that abortion is more devastating or more wrong than slavery was. That isn't the same as implying, "life" was better under slavery than now. It still doesn't support his point well since whether a person is born or not depends on the flutter of swirling events. People just not getting together a given night makes your possible extra siblings just as unactualized, as aborting them before conscious experience. Yes there's a specific genetic makeup there but that could have been otherwise for the same reasons. Finally, if all abortees had been born say for the last 40 years, our economy would be totally wrecked from gas prices etc. (Imagine that recent spike, but with many more consumers wanting gas. Julian Simon was a fraud.)

Posted by: neil b on February 27, 2010 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

If Trent Franks thinks African Americans had it better when they had no choice in their lives than now, when they can choose with whom to have children and when to have children he is indeed crazy. Someone needs to brand his ass with that word -- CHOICE

Posted by: majun on February 27, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

Far more of the African American community is being devastated by the policies of today than were being devastated by the policies of slavery.

African American communities are being devastated by racism, poverty, and lack of education, which leads to more racism, poverty, and lack of education. I'll take a wild guess and predict that poverty and lack of education are direct indicators of abortion rates.

I see the GOP is now burnishing their culture war favorites in the run-up to November 2010.

It reminds me of just 2 days ago when in Boehner's closing remarks at the HCR summit he emphasized the healthcare bill overturns decades old policy and provides government funded abortion. Nancy Pelosi immediately stood up to set the record straight so people don't aren't misled and say no the bill doesn't. Guess which soundbite got played on NBC nightly news that night and which didn't.

Posted by: about time on February 27, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

As for "They honestly believe this stuff" - Dick Gregory has been proclaiming for years that abortion and birth control are forms of genocide inflicted upon the Africans and African-Americans, and, yes, many do believe Mr Gregory.

Posted by: berttheclock on February 27, 2010 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

This has been standard rhetoric of the anti-choice crowd for years. When I did clinic defense, the nutjobs would yell nonsense about black genocide evey time a woman of color came to the clinic.

I don't know if they actually believe it or whether they are just willing to use any kind of passionate rhetoric, no matter how ridiculous. They made up plenty of other nonsense to "argue" their cause.

Posted by: Krowe on February 27, 2010 at 9:08 AM | PERMALINK

The big fraud on Franks's part, just as it is on every part, is the unnuanced claim that a fetus or even any embryo is a child. Sure, he would have no idea where he got his supposed statistic that half of all pregnancies in the African-American community end in abortion, and he doesn't care that he doesn't know if his 'fact' is factual, but that isn't what he cares about.

It's nice to see that Mike Stark isn't getting arrested these days.

Posted by: freelunch on February 27, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Defending Franks is impossible. Explaining what he meant, however is not.

What Franks means, I think, is that the African Americans under slavery were better off than the African Americans who are being aborted now.

"Being a slave then is better than being an African American killed today via abortion"

It's still odious, no matter how you slice it.

Posted by: Jvstin on February 27, 2010 at 9:45 AM | PERMALINK

Remember the charming remarks by the Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, who compared welfare to feeding stray animals, which is wrong because it encourages them to breed? (At least now we know why S.C. didn't impeach Governor Lovey-Dovey). So let's see, it's good to starve poor people (and we all know which group of poor people he had in mind) into sterility or spontaneous miscarriages, but wrong and evil to give them access to a medical procedure that would allow a woman to make her own decision about whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. Well, if you regard "them" as stray animals without the capacity for rational thought I guess it all makes sense.

Posted by: T-Rex on February 27, 2010 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

For most of the time between the emancipation and the present, blacks have lived under a set of political rules that put blacks at as much economic disadvantage as possible. Discrimination still exists that puts blacks at an economic disadvantage.

Saying that blacks were better off under slavery (I don't agree at all with this) should be a damning indictment of our current system that FAILS at labor policy, FAILS to adequately educate our workforce, FAILS to provide enough infrastructure and public sector jobs to keep communities from FAILING. There is a FAILURE of current POLICY. When FAILURE is this widespread, it is NOT the people that are failing, it is a POLICY FAILURE.

Posted by: bakho on February 27, 2010 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Trent Franks is a polyp on the anus of America and should be treated accordingly. Mike the MB asks a good question: will he lose his seat over this? ONLY IF DEMS MAKE HIM A BIG ENOUGH LIABILITY.

The problem is that we get a few outraged comments from the DCCC or the DNC and then it is dropped. Obama won't touch this due to his heritage and the fact that as President, he shouldn't have to stoop to even acknowledge a turd such as Franks. But that doesn't excuse the rest of us from picking up our pooper scoopers and clearing the yard.

Bunning, Franks: They all need to be made poster children for the GOP. They are the the GOP.

Posted by: bdop4 on February 27, 2010 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

citizen_pain wrote:
I'm tired of Americas inability to get past the culture wars of the 20th century.

This is difficult when some Americans are still living in the 19th century.

Posted by: josef on February 27, 2010 at 11:45 AM | PERMALINK

I can't wait to hear Michael Steele's response to this.

This is clearly not as outrageous as Harry Reid and Joe Biden's impolitic comments.

I've said before Conservatives generally are trying to normalize and mainstream racism and racist commentary. They are desperate to appeal to the base fears of white people.

I've identified several examples:


The "war on terror"

Rush Limbaugh's Barrack the magic Negro

Skip Gatesgate

"That one"


"You lie!"

Obamacare (although with this one they're inadvertantly making "Obama" synonymous with "Health")

Rev. Wright

Posted by: Winkandanod on February 27, 2010 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

I checked Wikipedia on Margaret Sanger. It clearly refutes the charges that she was a racist who wanted to use abortion/birth control to "exterminate' African-Americans, stating that those claims were mostly out-of-context quotes pushed by anti-abortionists.

Also, it cites that her efforts to assist African-American women with family planning services in Harlem were commended by Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., Harlem's local newspaper The Amsterdam News, the Abyssinian Baptist Church, the Urban League, and W. E. B. Du Bois, none of whom ever would've supported a racist bigot.

Posted by: knightphoenix2 on February 27, 2010 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

Franks is typical of AZ republicans and he is our (Arizona's) own fault. Many years ago AZ passed a limited vesion of public funding for campaigns. Well, we were wrong to do that. Every kooky republican can now get matching funds for the campaign. So we have a more kooks in office. When corporations owned AZ politicians at least they kept the kooks to a minimum

Posted by: kurt on February 27, 2010 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

I cannot find any information on the 50% number. The Guttmacher Institute has the number of abortions yearly as 2% of all women aged 15-44, with 37% black and 34% white. How does a black woman choosing to end a pregnancy for her own and her families personal reasons have anything to do with conditions under slavery?

Posted by: chal on February 27, 2010 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Is there something about the name "Trent" that, you know, makes you a bigot? How the fuck do people get named "Trent" anyway?

Posted by: SqueakyRat on February 28, 2010 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

this is embarrassing for who I wonder. Certainly not for Michael Steele who by his silence tacitly agrees. The number of rightwingers who think this is embarrassing for them is probably statistically zero. And of course Rep. Trent Franks' constituents probably agree with him. A aense of shame and embarrassment requires some degree of self-reflection and a framework of morality and/or having a conscience which I think is largely missing from the rightwing.

Posted by: mickster on February 28, 2010 at 5:37 AM | PERMALINK


which is higher...

the number of blacks in the RNC..


the number of heart attacks dick cheney has had..

the number is the same...


Posted by: mr. irony on February 28, 2010 at 5:40 AM | PERMALINK



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