Friday, 7 March 2003

Muller gets response from Coble

Eric Muller apparently received a phone call from Rep. Howard Coble (R-N.C.) this morning to discuss Rep. Coble's rather questionable remarks on Japanese internment.

While Muller comes away fairly impressed with Coble as a person, he still has some concerns:

It was also clear to me, though, that Mr. Coble does not yet appreciate that he was mistaken when he said that Japanese Americans were placed in camps for their own protection. He explained during our discussion that he'd heard from people, including Japanese Americans alive at the time of Pearl Harbor, who reported to him that Japanese Americans felt unsafe on the streets. From this information he's received, he concludes (and I jotted these words down) that "in some instances, Japanese Americans were beneficiaries of the internment." "There were some," he reiterated, "who became beneficiaries by being in the camps."

In some ways, this strikes me much as the Trent Lott Syndrome; it's not so much that Coble said something offensive, it's that he doesn't understand why what he said was offensive.

Even accepting Coble's premises — if the government's policy been justified as “protective custody” and a large percentage of Japanese Americans approved of it as protective custody — throwing the rest of them in camps hardly seems reasonable, fair, or just. And bearing in mind the historical record — that Japanese Americans had their property stolen, that internment had nothing to do with protecting them, and that they were arbitrarily imprisoned — his views seem remarkably callous and misinformed.

Then again, I'm not sure Coble's behavior is on the order of Lott's. But it does call for some repudiation; perhaps the House can do a bulk censure of him, Jim McDermott, and Marcy Kaptur to clear up the past few months' books, at least.

Link via Eugene Volokh.