Was it just us, or did Tom Horne seem out of his league last night on CNN during a debate with Georgetown Professor Michael Dyson about Arizona's new ban on public-school classes that teach "ethnic solidarity?"
If Arizona's image needs a shot in the arm right now because of its new anti-illegal-immigrant law, Horne's appearance was like amputating that arm.
It's hard to believe that anyone could get on national TV against someone like Dyson, a respected, liberal scholar, and defend the banning of ethnic studies in Arizona. Even if the new law has any merit, which is doubtful, such a defense was bound to appear racist from the get-go.
Horne, a Republican running for state attorney general, did a particularly poor job. His remark about hearing Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech in 1963, for instance, fell flat when the well-versed Dyson chided him to put King Jr. in context:
Martin Luther King Jr. cannot be taken out of context. And you can't use one speech, as if you froze him in 1963, without seeing what he said in 1968, where he was bitterly opposed to the practices of most of what America was doing in the name of freedom and democracy.
Horne still doesn't have good information on exactly what is being taught in the classes, it seems:
(COOPER:) Tom, you said have that Chicano studies is teaching kids they have been oppressed, and it makes them angry and unruly. Hasn't there been a history of oppression, though, of ethnic groups in this country, and shouldn't kids learn that?
HORNE: Well, let me say that I didn't say that. I was quoting a former teacher who said that. We have testimony from a number of teachers and former teachers about the radical separatist agenda that the raza studies program has.
COOPER: Well, you did say -- you did say that, actually, in your -- in your arguments that you published as an open letter to the people of Tucson.
HORNE: Yes, I was quoting a teacher. So, it wasn't from -- I wasn't just asserting it. We had quotations from a witness that that...
Sounds like he's trying to pass the buck on that one.
Dyson, who kept his brow furrowed in apparent indignation throughout the debate, only seemed to falter when Horne displayed a picture of students dressed as junta-style revolutionaries at a recent protest of him. (Though we'll add that his correction of Horne's pronunciation of Paulo Freire's name seemed petty.)
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All in all, it was a good half an hour of Arizona bashing on CNN.
The debate followed clips of a speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said he was scared to come to Arizona because he might get deported to Austria.
And then Dyson managed to slip in this doozy: "Arizona has been deeply, profoundly racist and xenophobic."
However you feel about the issue of ethnic studies and whether kids in Tucson should be taught that they're "oppressed," you've got to admit Horne's CNN appearance didn't do Arizona any favors.