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Exploiting Ethnic Politics

Article excerpt

This is the way the world will end, not with a bang or a whimper but with the gurgle of mankind drowning in political blather. Which is to say, it may end with another Clinton press conference, or another history lesson from New York's governor.

The most recent of Clinton's press conferences refuted the complaint that they are too rare. It also provided exhibit A - exhibit B is below - for the proposition that, regarding political exploitation and pandering, there are still new frontiers being explored.

The first question to Clinton concerned "the obsession with fund-raising, especially from dubious Asian sources" and Clinton's problem with "the image, created by your opponent, that you are a president who cannot be trusted." He was 556 words into a 766-word answer when he soared into a riff that should be preserved in a time capsule as a perfect sample of Clintoniana: "But there was in your question, and in a lot of the things that have happened in the aftermath here, is an almost disparaging reference to Asians and in the last few weeks, a lot of Asian-Americans who have supported our campaign have come up to me and said, `You know, I'm being made to feel like a criminal. All these people are calling me. I say, Why are you calling me? They say, because you have an Asian last name.' "Maybe I don't need to do this, but I would like to remind everybody here and throughout the country that our country has been greatly enriched by the work of Asian-Americans. They are famous for working hard, for fa mily values and for giving more than they take. And I, frankly, am grateful for the support that I have received from them. . . . But there has been a lot of rather disparaging comments made about Asian-Americans, and ironically, I found it surprising that our friends on the other side did because, historically, they have received more votes from Asian-Americans than we have." From the priceless use of the word "frankly," to the mock nobility ("Maybe I don't need to do this, but . . . "), to the portentous suggestion of irony where none exists, this is not run-of-the-mill rubbish, it is the highly distilled sort. We are asked to believe this: Many Asian-Americans "have come up to" Clinton to report that they are being made to feel like criminals because of hostile telephone calls from people who say they have called because the recipients of the calls have Asian names. …