Okay, this has been on the backburner for a couple of days, but I have to address it. Matt Yglesias catches Pat Buchanan expressing his true feelings about people whose first language isn’t English—that they’re stupid and should be permanently barred from ever even being considered worthy of college or being considered intelligent.
He admits that Sotomayor went to Princeton and graduated first in her class, but decides she’s stupid, because she went the extra mile to perfect her English. It’s a truly disingenuous smear, even though Buchanan sincerely is a racist. Sotomayor’s strategy was to consume books on grammar and language, for one thing, and Buchanan finds this beneath college students, even though MLA handbooks and other writing guides practically come with your admission letter when you get into college. Sotomayor’s crime seems to have taken them seriously, as you’re supposed to do. She also read a bunch of children’s classics that she’d missed, which Buchanan uses to insinuate that she’s practically illiterate. Which just shows that he wasn’t ever exposed to those classics in the first place, because most of them are written on a much higher level than pretty much any conservative political literature. Seriously, I’d put “Huckleberry Finn” or “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” or “Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland” way above anything Pat Buchanan’s written in terms of language and thinking skills required to get through it. I doubt seriously that Buchanan would make fun a Princeton student who read Jonah Goldberg’s piece of trash book in his spare time, even though it actually makes you stupider and weakens your reading skills per page.
Of course, Buchanan himself appears to need remedial reading courses, because, as Amanda Terkel points out, there’s no reason whatsoever to think that Sotomayor’s extracurricular work was done solely in her college career, and considering that she got into Princeton, it actually seems impossible that this is so.
And in pushing the smear, Buchanan tacitly suggests that the functionally illiterate morons are the people on his side. Why? Because people who actually read, not just people who quit reading the second their high school teachers stopped having the power to make them, know that reading isn’t just a matter of working up the density chain until the only book you have left to read is “Ulysses”, which you desolately read over and over, because you can’t dare slip backwards. Books, like board games, are appropriate for ages X and up, and they really mean it on the “up” part. Not that adults are generally going to pick up Dr. Seuss in their spare time, but there’s no shame in reading Harry Potter or Alice in Wonderland as an adult, unless that’s all you read. A lot of books we consider children’s classics are also just considered classics in general, but we give them to children because they have themes or characters that the children might find interesting, and we know that the books are quick, compelling reads. There’s also a lot of playful language, which is ideal for someone trying to turn from an adequate to a fluent speaker in a language. This calls into question why Buchanan mentioned Pinocchio (an Italian book that most Americans only know through the Disney movie) or a random troll under the bridge. Is it possible that Buchanan is so unknowledgable about literature that he couldn’t even think of a possible children’s book that Sotomayor may have actually read, or is he merely afraid to mention actual titles, because the morons that eat these smears up will feel stupid because they still haven’t read those books and may even find them intimidating?
Amusing as the image may be of your average troglodyte wingnut trying to get through “Through The Looking Glass”, before throwing it against the wall in frustration when he reaches the Jabberwocky poem, the real issue here is that Buchanan’s main if unstated directly belief is that people from Spanish-speaking backgrounds need to be scrubbing floors, not judging court cases. As Amanda points out, Buchanan’s schtick for a long time has been to accuse people of refusing to assimilate because they don’t learn English. He obviously was only saying this because he didn’t think that he’d get his stated wish. Given the shocking evidence that people can….believe it or not….speak two entirely different languages, Buchanan is a mess and lashing out angrily. Who knew?