McCain’s Troubling Quote – A Reminder

Since the McCain camp has all but announced its taking the gloves off in an attempt to make the election about Senator Barack Obama’s character, it’s time to hold the mirror up to the senior Senator from Arizona for his past statements and actions.

Southern California and Orange County in particular have large populations of Vietnamese-Americans, Korean-Americans, Chinese-Americans and Japanese-Americans.  I came across this troubling column written by a Korean-American employee of the State of Washington for the Seattle Times in 2000 about statements John McCain made of his North Vietnamese captors during his time as a POW. 

She writes:

On his campaign bus recently, Sen. John McCain told reporters, “I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live.” Although McCain said he was referring only to his prison guards, there are many reasons why his use of the word “gook” is offensive and alarming.

It is offensive because by using a racial epithet that has historically been used to demean all Asians to describe his captors, McCain failed to make a distinction between his torturers and an entire racial group.

It is alarming because a major candidate for president publicly used a racial epithet, refused to apologize for doing so and remains a legitimate contender…..To the Asian American community, the term is akin to the racist word “nigger.” A friend of mine, a white male Vietnam veteran, pointed out that veterans, especially Vietnam veterans, know how spiteful the term “gook” is. It has everything to do with labeling someone as “other,” the enemy and yellow. McCain sent the message that all Asians are foreigners and remain forever the “other” and the enemy.

Now before the right wingers go nuts, McCain did apologize for making the comments in 2000, three full days after they caused such an uproar.  Three. Full. Days.

“I will continue to condemn those who unfairly mistreated us,” McCain said in a statement released Feb. 21. “But out of respect to a great number of people for whom I hold in very high regard, I will no longer use the term that has caused such discomfort… I apologize and renounce all language that is bigoted and offensive, which is contrary to all that I represent and believe.”

Also, John McCain’s campaign responded to the story:

“We hope that people understand that the senator was referring very specifically to the men who beat and tortured him for five and a half years in a prisoner of war camp.”


But for me, its his quote in the context of the apology I think we need to revisit, especially in light of McCain’s opponent for the White House.  “I apologize and renounce all language that is bigoted and offensive, which is contrary to all that I represent and believe.” 

So much for the code words and winks being dropped against Senator Obama by the McCain/Palin ticket.  “He’s not like us” (he’s black), “He doesn’t see America as we do” (he’s Muslim/Terrorist).  Surrogates, like the Southern Sheriff that took to the mic in uniform, still call out why McCain needs to defeat Barack Hussein Obama to emphasize the Democratic contender’s middle name. It’s the subtle racism coming through in McCain’s messsage that remains troubling about his fitness for the highest office in the land.


  1. And oddly enough, McCain’s still VERY popular with the Republican Vietnamese population locally. “Wackjob Racist” is how we still talk about him in my house.

  2. I guess when the McCain/Palin campaign refers to themselves as “mavericks”, they’re actually “mavericking” against the tide AWAY from racism and toward reconciliation and tolerance.

    They should be ashamed of themselves.

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