Monday, November 09, 2009

Letter From the Editor: GOP Will Make a Huge Mistake If It 'Punishes' Rep. Cao


If the GOP's Right Wing Goes After the Party's Lone Asian-American Congressman -- a Vietnamese Immigrant Who Represents a Predominantly African-American (and Democratic) District -- Over His Vote in Favor of Democrats' Health-Care Reform Bill, It Will Risk Further Solidifying the GOP's Image as a Lily-White, Xenophobic Party That Is Hostile Toward Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans



Standing up for his constituents: Representative Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-Louisiana), pictured here with his wife, Hieu "Kate" Hoang and their children, Sophia (left) and Betsy at their New Orleans home shortly after his history-making election last November as the first Vietnamese-American member of Congress, was the sole House Republican to vote in favor of the Democrats' health-care reform bill. Cao's vote has deeply angered right-wing activists both inside and outside the GOP, but in an interview with CNN, Cao -- whose district is predominantly African-American and overwhelmingly Democratic -- said, "I have always said that I would put aside partisan wrangling to do the business of the people. My vote tonight was based on my priority of doing what is best for my constituents." (Photo courtesy VietCatholic News)


(Posted 5:00 a.m. EST Monday, November 9, 2009)

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A 'SKEETER BITES REPORT EDITORIAL
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Addressing thousands of right-wing "Teabagger" activists who staged a protest on Capitol Hill Saturday against the health-care reform bill, House Minority Leader (R-Ohio) branded the measure -- which was headed toward a House floor vote on Saturday night -- "the greatest threat to freedom that I have seen" and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) confidently predicted that "not one Republican will vote for this bill."

Cantor, as it turned out hours later, was a tad overconfident.

When the final tally was compiled -- 220 votes in favor and 215 votes against -- 219 of those "aye" votes were cast by Democrats. The 220th "aye" came from a Republican.

And not your typical Republican who represents a safe, conservative GOP district, either. The House Republican leadership had apparently forgotten that freshman Representative Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-Louisiana) represents an overwhelmingly Democratic district. Not only that, but Cao is the GOP's only Asian-American member of Congress.

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A BLIZZARD OF RACIST INVECTIVES AGAINST CAO ON WHITE-SUPREMACIST WEB SITE -- CLICK HERE
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It was just a year ago when Cao (pronounced "gow"), made history by becoming the first Vietnamese-American elected to Congress. In the process, he defeated an African-American incumbent in a predominantly African-American district: nine-term Democrat William Jefferson, who was under federal indictment in a corruption and bribery scandal. Cao edged out Jefferson, 49.6 percent to 46.8 percent (Jefferson was subsequently convicted).

Cao is one of only four Asian-American members of the House. The other three, all Democrats, are Representatives Doris Matsui of California, the widow of the late Representative Robert Matsui, who died in 2005; Judy Chu of California, who won a special election in June to succeed Hilda Solis, who resigned in February to become labor secretary in the Obama administration; and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, a former lieutenant governor.

Matsui and Hirono are of Japanese descent; Chu is of Chinese descent.

JOSEPH CAO: AN AMERICAN SUCCESS STORY

Indeed, the rise of Joseph Cao is a truly American success story. Born Quang Ánh Cao in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1967, he fled South Vietnam as an eight-year-old with his family to the United States when Saigon fell to the Communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong in 1975, settling in Houston.

His father, My Quang Cao, was a lieutenant in the South Vietnamese Army and was captured by the North Vietnamese when the Vietnam War ended. The elder Cao, who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and diabetes, would join the rest of the family in Houston following his release from a communist "re-education camp" in 1982.

Cao earned a bachelor's degree in physics at Baylor University in Waco, his master's degree in philosophy from Fordham University and, in 2000, his J.D. (Juris Doctorate) from Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans. While in law school, he also taught undergraduate courses in philosophy at Loyola.

CAO: MY CONSTITUENTS HAD TO COME BEFORE MY PARTY

The Republican leadership should have known that there was no way that Cao could vote against the health-care reform bill and expect to get re-elected. Countless numbers of his constituents in Orleans and Jefferson parishes -- including the hurricane-ravaged Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans -- were losing their health-care coverage because they could no longer afford their "exploding costs," Cao said in a statement posted on his Web site.

"Twenty percent of the people in my district are uninsured and we have tremendous health care issues in the district, and I believe this is good for the people of my district,'' Cao told Capitol Hill reporters minutes after the vote late Saturday night. "Louisianans need real options for primary care, for mental health care, and for expanded health care for seniors and children."

In an interview Sunday with CNN, Cao said that he had to put the interests of his constituents ahead of the interests of his party.

Indeed, GOP leaders had known for months that Cao was likely to vote in favor of the bill. In an interview during the summer with The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Cao acknowledged that voting against the measure would have been politically suicidal for him.

In February, Cao voted against President Obama's economic stimulus package -- a vote that outraged so many of his constituents back home that it put his chances for re-election in 2010 in serious jeopardy. Having been burned once, Cao has since then broken from his party on several occasions. With the health-care reform bill, Cao knew he could not afford to alienate his constituents again.

CAO AGREED TO VOTE 'YES' ONLY AFTER ANTI-ABORTION AMENDMENT APPROVED

But Cao had a problem. As a devout Roman Catholic who at one time had studied to become a priest, he could not bring himself to vote "yes" on the measure unless it included a provision sponsored by Representative Bart Stupak (D-Michigan) that bans federal funding for abortions in the government-financed "public option" that would create a new government insurance plan.

Torn between his commitment to his constituents and his devotion to his faith, Cao made it clear to Obama, who had actively lobbied for his support of the measure, that without the anti-abortion language, he would be compelled to vote "no" -- and if that meant sacrificing his political career, then so be it. He was prepared to consign himself to being a one-term congressman, if he had to.

In the end, Cao didn't have to make that choice.

"When that was worked out … I called the White House and said I could possibly support the bill," said Cao, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's decision to allow a vote on the Stupak Amendment, which passed 290-194. Liberal House Democrats who were staunch supporters of abortion rights swallowed hard and reluctantly accepted the amendment in the interest of getting the overall bill passed.

(Not surprisingly, the abortion-rights advocacy group NARAL Pro-Choice America denounced the Stupak amendment. Its president, Nancy Keenan, branded the amendment "an outrageous blow to women's freedom and privacy" and vowed "to fight to remove this provision as the process goes to the Senate.")

RIGHT-WING HARD-LINERS ATTACK CAO AS 'TRAITOR,' VOW TO OUST HIM

Cao's success in including the anti-abortion amendment in the bill was not enough, however, to satisfy hard-line right-wing "Teabagger" activists, who almost immediately branded him a "traitor" to the conservative cause.

Reader comments posted to conservative Web sites, including that of The American Spectator magazine, where columnist Quin Hillyer wrote a spirited defense of Cao, were riddled with ugly racist invectives, such as one posted by "TruePatriot" that read:

"THE GUY NEEDS TO GO BACK TO LAOS. WE NEED REAL GOD-LOVING CRISTIAN AMERICANS TO RUN THIS COUNTRY, NOT SOME GOOK!"


And this insulting remark by "Spicy Joker" that read:

The American Sphincter [sic] has lower standards for Cao because it wants to keep a token minority in the Repubic [sic] coalition. If Cao were any other RINO [Republican in mane only] - Lincoln Chafed [sic], Olympia Snowjob [sic], John McPain [sic], Kay Bailout [sic] Hutchison - The American Sphincter [sic] would denounce him as a RINO."


STEELE WARNS REPUBLICANS WHO STRAY FROM PARTY ORTHODOXY: 'WE'LL COME AFTER YOU'

GOP national chairman Michael Steele issued a blunt warning last week to any Republican who votes in favor of the Democrats' health-care reform bill: "You do not want to put yourself in a position where you’re crossing that line on conservative principles, fiscal principles, because we’ll come after you.”

Cao fired back with a thinly-veiled warning of his own that while Steele has the right "to come after those members who do not conform to party lines," he warned that the GOP would risk losing his district to the Democrats if he went after him. "I would hope that he [Steele] would work with us in order to adjust to the needs of the district and to hold a seat that the Republican Party would need," Cao told CNN.

The GOP leadership would be making a HUGE mistake in going after Cao for standing up for his constituents instead of standing with his party. As the only Asian-American Republican in all of Congress who represents a predominantly African-American -- and overwhelmingly Democratic -- district, the GOP can ill-afford to drive Cao out of their ranks, as they did to Dede Scozzafava in upstate New York.

Their standing among black voters is already at rock bottom. They've lost the support of Latinos as a result of years of virulent anti-Latino rhetoric coming from the mouths of the party's more hard-line right-wing firebrands on the immigration issue.

Going after Cao will only further solidify the party's image as a lily-white, xenophobic party that is hostile toward blacks, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans -- especially after Cao's election was hailed by Republicans only a year ago as an example of the GOP's "Big Tent."

It's looking increasingly like the Republican "Big Tent' has been torn to shreds and the party is becoming an exclusive club for conservative whites only.

By the way, did anyone notice that the crowd at the "Teabagger" rally on Capitol Hill Saturday was made up almost exclusively of middle-aged-and-older white people -- the vast majority of them male? Steele said that the GOP wants to "partner as much as possible" with the "Teabaggers."

Perhaps Chairman Steele should be thankful that his first name isn't Thomas, for as far as I'm concerned, he's become as tragic a figure as the protagonist in Harriet Beecher Stowe's famed pre-Civil War anti-slavery novel -- whose title, for the sake of propriety, shall remain unmentioned.

Sincerely,
Skeeter Sanders
Editor & Publisher
The 'Skeeter Bites Report

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Volume IV, Number 85
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.







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