Hogan's Alley

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Althouse On McKinney

Ann Althouse has posted a sympathetic review of Rep. Cynthia McKinney's alleged assault of a Capitol police officer. Key quote:

Now, it's quite clear to me that she should have stopped when asked and certainly not hit anyone, but I can understand her being irritable about the subject of not being recognized. There is the well-known problem of white people thinking it is hard to tell black persons apart, and she's entitled to be touchy about that. She says there have been incidents in the past where she has been taken as the assistant to someone much younger than her when that younger person was white and male. I'm not black, but I am female, and I know a little something of the kind of experiences she's had.

Althouse is specifically reacting to McKinney's appearance on Wolf Blitzer's show yesterday. It can be seen here.

Everything Ann Althouse says is true, women, especially black women, are and should be sensitive to dismissive reactions. Nothing, however, gives anyone of any sex or ethnicity, high mucky muck or not, the right to physically strike any perceived offender. It's against the law and it's called assault. As I wrote yesterday, the video tape will be important in resolving McKinney's story.

Althouse's other point is that McKinney is speaking not to the nation, but to her constituency. Also true, but so what? She, like all Congressmen, is virtually safe from serious challenge and she has a track record of saying some of the most extraordinary things to emerge from the mouth of any politician with apparently no recriminations.

Prof. Althouse's final point, with which I wholeheartedly agree, is that this incident points out that the present security requirements for entry by members of Congress is woefully inadequate. Their current simple lapel badges can be easily faked. As for face recognition, that can only work if there is no turnover of security staff and of members. New people will always be a problem. Face recognition can also only work if no male member is allowed to add or remove facial hair (not to mention toupees) and no female member is allowed to change her hair style or color. Further, if McKinney's racist assumption about all white people being unable to distinguish one African American from another were true, then such a scheme is doomed to fail.

Despite their lofty position, members of Congress or the Senate should be subject to the same level of security that applies to their staffs, encoded, laminated ID cards, fingerprint readers or retinal scans, whatever is used.

There might have been a time when no one would dare to try to impersonate legislators. After this brouhaha and its exposure of the weaknesses in the system we no longer live in those times.