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Our Culture Inchoate: Bias #31

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PRESS ROOM


July 23, 2019 2:01pm


SPEAKER TORRES (T): Thank you, everyone, for being here. I have a few brief remarks, and then I will open up the floor for any and all questions, time permitting.


(Polite laughter)


Let me get this out of the way: who’s from New Jersey?


(Shouts and loud laughter)


I realize that I have not been available for many interviews and that my public speaking has been limited and somewhat terse. Please understand that I have a lot of ground to cover, new ground for me, a great deal of organizing and managing, and I believe we are ready, as a bi-partisan body of lawmakers with specific responsibilities, to get the pressing issues of our nation under some control that will ensure the present requirements of propriety and future generations of prosperity.


The past couple weeks have been largely disappointing but unsurprising. The media is complicit, members of both parties are guilty, and I must tell you my thoughts and beliefs in the matter.


Racism exists. Racism is when one person believes that his or her race is superior to another race, or that another person’s race is inferior to one’s own. It is a high bar, and even the most innocent among us can jump over it thoughtlessly; but no, not everyone is a racist. A few days ago the “squad” called former Speaker Pelosi a racist, and I am condemning that out of hand. That is an outrage. That will not stand.


The president imprudently made a statement that these four congresswomen should leave and go back to where they came from. I will never, never, apologize for something Donald Trump says, and in this instance it was another spectacularly stupid and juvenile thing to say. I think he’s inept, thin-skinned, incapable of deep thought, and has few scruples. But his statement was just political rhetoric, the kind of words used by both parties for generations. It is wrong- headed and beneath his office. As a partisan democrat, I want him to go back to where he’s from: a hotel room with a golden toilet.


If Americans call everyone a racist for whatever grievance of the day there is, then racism, the real bad, ugly, evil kind, loses meaning. If everyone is a racist, then racism doesn’t exist.


And racism does exist, just like evil exists. It exists because we are tempted by lesser thoughts and then we act on them. I believe to my core that I am not a racist, and I would fight, and yeah, I mean fight, anyone who said I was. Human discourse should be better. Political discourse will likely always be worse.


We all have biases, but this does not have to manifest itself in prejudices we act upon. I married a Marine, and I am biased toward veterans. But I can’t exclude my hiring practices to just veterans. That would be illegal and wrong, as much as I am inclined to favor veterans.


All of you, now substitute anything, a group identity, in my statement for the word veteran. Can biases be ugly? Yes. Can biases be repugnant? Yes. Can biases be generational and apply to all races, colors, creeds, genders? Yes, biases do apply to everyone, and everyone has them. Are all biases racism? No, they are not.


As adults, as Americans, we have a responsibility to do the right thing in all our contacts, bury our biases, and love our neighbor. Nothing less is acceptable. Anything less can be construed as racism if not checked by common decency. We start by being decent and kind to each other.


We are one nation, not some for some, or none for some, but one for all. E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. We should all remember that although we have differences, we are on the same team, with the same general desire for freedom and peace.


Questions?


Q1: Madame Speaker, has the president’s rhetoric, as you call it, made our discourse worse? And why don’t you think it’s racist?


T: Mr. Trump’s tweets and off the cuff remarks have definitely coarsened our political dialogue. But I think the media gives him too much credit. He’s showing his immaturity every time he opens his mouth. It isn’t criminal to be a boor or say stupid things, even for a president. His rhetoric feeds the democratic base, and is the gift that keeps on giving. Politicians swoon in front of a camera after an opponent’s bitter remarks, but the squad is high-fiving each other right now, and you can take that to the bank.


Q1: But there is racism, right? You can’t ignore that.


T: I am not ignoring or condoning it. Of course it exists. Let me give you a couple examples, since it appears that my previous statements today were not absorbed.


(cross-talk)


Yes, I mean that. A famous sports figure made a public statement not long ago. It rang true to me. He is African-American and had a Hall of Fame football career. He said, in effect, that the first thing someone sees when he looks at him is his black skin. It cannot be hidden or denied. What that person does in respect to that is the issue, not just talking about it.


I do not think anyone can deny that. Yes, we see what is different about another person. It is what we do that will define us.


Another thought. Does a black person have a reason to distrust us? Yes, he or she does. It’s ingrained in our history. This distrust has spanned generations here in America. Men and women of color have served in uniform defending our nation, wanting more than anything to be counted as equal and supportive, and still they were maligned and abused. Evil, my friends. Evil does exist.


The ugly stain of slavery was abolished here over 150 years ago. But the dark heart of racism controlled our nation until righteous bills were passed, good court cases were won. But that took too long.


Do you and I have an obligation to earn this trust back, one contact at a time? Of America’s promise of freedom? Yes, yes, we do.


Next question.


Q2: The budget deal that was just passed… An increase of over $320 billion dollars, and the debt ceiling was in effect punted for two years. Doesn’t this give the president air cover for his re-election effort?


T: The budget and allocation of funds is squarely congress’s responsibility. Every notional aspect of the democratic agenda has been addressed, yes, and republican support was required. As for the debt ceiling, I am generally opposed, but I believe a new administration will be required to be elected before we can tackle that appropriately.


Q2: Like raise taxes?


T: It would be foolish and irresponsible to state that fixing our national debt and funding social security can be done without raising revenue. And healthcare is not going to be aligned with the needs of Americans without a greater investment in medical services, not just insurance products. None of this happens with a Trump administration, I’m afraid to say.


Q3: Madame Speaker, Iran has forcefully taken over a tanker under British flag a few days ago. Have you discussed with the president his position?


T: We are an ally of Great Britain, our oldest ally, as you are well aware. The president has made all assurance that he is waiting for the Brits to ask for assistance, if needed.


Q3: But our drone was shot down and we did nothing.


T: We did plenty. There are many voices in Washington, and some very loud ones called this an act of war. Perhaps. But Americans are tired of armed conflict, having spent nearly 20 years in two, no, three areas of the Middle East and no resolution is in sight.


Whether we like it or not, we are the world’s policeman. We cannot avoid or shirk that responsibility. But congress must authorize any military action. Unilateral presidential military action should be a thing of the past, absent an emergency.


Q4: The president made some extraordinary statements about Pakistan and Afghanistan yesterday…


T: Hoo-boy. Words cannot describe my opinion of his “destroy them in a couple weeks” remark. It wasn’t incendiary, it was stupid. Whew.


Q4: Can you elaborate?


T: Not to the immediate context or what is being talked about in specificity, but I can tell you that our country is committed to getting stability in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and that bringing our troops home once and for all is a priority.


Q5: The Squad seems to have the support of a larger percentage of Americans each day. Is their message going to be part of the democratic 2020 platform?


T: They make some good points, and they have enthusiasm we, as democrats, want to capture and expand upon. The problem, as I see it, is that there is real work, hard work, taking care of issues that involve making compromises that will effectuate change. No, the United States is not to be ruled by fiat. That applies to both Mr. Trump and the Squad.


As to the 2020 platform, I have no idea. Judging from the democratic field, there is enough diversity of thought in our party to make things very interesting. I do not believe for one second that Mr. Trump is a shoo-in for re-election. I believe that he is vulnerable and democrats will put forward a candidate that all Americans will embrace.


Q5: Any favorites? Biases? Cory Booker is from New Jersey, after all.

(polite laughter)


T: Ha, ha, no, I will not handicap this race. When we have a nominee, I will campaign aggressively.


Q5: None of them are pro-life, Madame Speaker.


T: I know. I am painfully aware of that. I do believe that will change, by necessity, and soon. A crucial part of Mr. Trump’s base is right to lifers and evangelicals. Even though they find him personally icky, they stick with him on that issue, first. Why shouldn’t democrats see that we cannot ignore and malign those who see a right to life as more important than issues involving money and defense and taxes?


Q6: Immigration?


T: As you know, we passed a funding bill to help our border authorities to feed, clothe, adjudicate and assist the wave at the southern border. I, and congress, am working hard at a more comprehensive bill to address all concerns, both immediate and long -lasting. Passing a bill to require asylum seekers to wait at country of origin is a start.


Q6: And a wall?


T: Everything is on the table. And I want to be clear on this, and I am addressing people who come here illegally and those who harbor them: no one who is here illegally will benefit from their actions. Illegal is illegal. Period. Forget amnesty.

I want to close with a couple thoughts. Sorry, no more questions, now, sorry.


Hard decisions and compromises will be made in the next several weeks, and events will be measured in the context of our times, at the time. History is a great teacher, but it has the benefit of 100% hindsight. I believe the American people are intelligent enough to determine, through the ballot box, what should be done today to ensure our freedom and prosperity for generations to come. Have faith. We will get the job done.


Thank, you all. God Bless America!

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