The following is an excerpt from OpinionJournal’s “Best of the Web” at WSJ written by the editor, James Taranto.
Huevo en la Cara
“Watching Mark Halperin of Bloomberg Politics interview [Sen. Ted] Cruz recently, I wasn’t just uncomfortable,” writes syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette. “I was actually nauseated.”
It wasn’t Cruz’s taste in food that triggered Navarrette’s queasiness, although Halperin did raise the subject, in a section of the interview that the columnist describes:
[Halperin] told Cruz that people are curious about his “identity.” Then, the host asked a series of questions intended to establish his guest’s Hispanic bona fides. What kind of Cuban food did Cruz like to eat growing up? And what sort of Cuban music does Cruz listen to even now?
I’ve known Ted for more than a decade and I could tell he was uncomfortable. But he played along, listing various kinds of Cuban food and saying that his musical taste veers more toward country.
I kept waiting for Halperin to ask Cruz to play the conga drums like Desi Arnaz while dancing salsa and sipping cafe con leche—all to prove the Republican is really Cuban.
Just when I thought I’d seen the worst, it got even more offensive. Earlier that day, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, had entered the presidential race. So, Halperin said: “I want to give you the opportunity to directly welcome your colleague Sen. Sanders to the race, and I’d like you to do it, if you would, en español.”
What nerve, treating a U.S. senator like a trained seal!
As an aside, Halperin actually said “on español” – or perhaps he was speaking French and said “en espagnol.”
Navarrette raises the obvious question: Would Halperin have subjected a Democratic politician to a similar line of questioning? His example is brothers Julian and Joaquin Castro, respectively the U.S. housing secretary and a representative from Texas: “What if, instead of watching a Washington insider who is also an MSNBC contributor, I was watching Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly demand that one of the Castros say a few words in Spanish so O’Reilly could determine if he is legitimately Hispanic?”
The counterexample is perhaps unfair to Fox. National Review’s Jim Geraghty notes that last month MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell asked Rep. Castro about his “Cuban-American background.” Castro replied: “Well, I’m Mexican-American.” Mitchell’s error is probably a common one, given that a much better known pair of Castro brothers have tyrannized Cuba for more than half a century. Still, it might have occurred to her that a Spanish surname could indicate an origin in any number of Spanish-speaking countries or territories—and Castro isn’t even necessarily Spanish. Bernadette Castro, the Republican who challenged Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1994, is Italian-American.
Navarrette also likens Halperin’s line of questioning to a college fraternity’s “ ‘border party’ where people show up in serapes and fake mustaches.” That seems apt, as such parties are generally considered offensive whether or not the organizers’ intent is malicious – as one assumes Halperin’s was not.
At the same time, Halperin’s obnoxious line of questioning is a display of liberal assumptions about another kind of party, as Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin notes:
With two Republican presidential candidates of Hispanic background (Cruz and fellow Cuban-American Marco Rubio) and one GOP hopeful [who] is a woman (Carly Fiorina) and another an African America (Ben Carson), the liberal authenticity police will be out in force. But rather than merely ignore them as Cruz, who kept his cool with Halperin did, this insidious bias needs to be shown for what it is: a desire by the media to delegitimize anyone who doesn’t conform to their ideas about identity politics as interpreted through the catechism of liberal ideology.
Sounds like a job for Twitter. Twitchy .com notes that the Halperin interview inspired a “mockfest of Bloomberg Politics’ authenticity cop” using the hasthtag #HalperinQuestions. Examples: “Senator Cruz, don’t you have some ’splaining to do to America?” “Can you explain the difference between a 3-2 clave and a 2-3 clave?” (A clave is a rhythmic pattern used in Afro-Cuban music.) Our own contribution: “Would you be a peach and roll a cigar for me, Senator?”
Saul Alinsky would be proud. Nos. 4 and 5 of his 12 Rules for Radicals are “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules” and “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” Halperin doesn’t seem to have commented on the Cruz kerfuffle, but one imagines he’s learned something from the experience of ending up as the butt of his own joke.
[Mark Halperin is the co-managing editor of Bloomberg Politics, which leads Bloomberg’s political and policy coverage, including news, analysis, commentary, narrative, data analytics and more across all platforms. He is also a regular contributor to MSNBC’s Morning Joe and a frequent guest on Charlie Rose. Prior to joining Bloomberg in 2014, Halperin served as editor-at-large and senior political analyst for TIME, covering politics, elections and government for the magazine and TIME .com. He was also the creator and author of TIME.com’s The Page, a news and analysis tip sheet reporting on current political stories, campaign ads, TV clips, videos and campaign reactions from every news source, along with Halperin’s own analysis.]
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