State Dep't deputy: My comments about China and Arizona were taken out of context

To refresh your memory, here’s what Posner said on Friday about the Arizona statute and China:

QUESTION: Was there any areas in which China sort of turned the tables and raised its own complaints or concerns about U.S. practices around the globe or at home? Can you give some examples there –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Sure. You know, I think – again, this goes back to Ambassador Huntsman’s comment. Part of a mature relationship is that you have an open discussion where you not only raise the other guy’s problems, but you raise your own, and you have a discussion about it. We did plenty of that. We had experts from the U.S. side, for example, yesterday, talking about treatment of Muslim Americans in an immigration context. We had a discussion of racial discrimination. We had a back-and-forth about how each of our societies are dealing with those sorts of questions. …

QUESTION: Did the recently passed Arizona immigration law come up? And, if so, did they bring it up or did you bring it up?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We brought it up early and often. It was mentioned in the first session, and as a troubling trend in our society and an indication that we have to deal with issues of discrimination or potential discrimination, and that these are issues very much being debated in our own society.


Now comes the spin:

[T]hose comments were taken out of context and the discussion of the law was meant to show the differences between how a free society handles human rights issues and the restrictive practices enforced in China, Posner tells The Cable in an exclusive interview.

“The broader context in which this was raised was to discuss the political openness of this society and the value of an open debate,” Posner said. “We never did get into the merits of the Arizona law. It was not in any way a comparison between that law and any specific law or practice in China.”…

“I should have been clearer, what I was saying is that there is broader issue in [American] society about discrimination and we need constantly and always to be addressing that issue,” he said…

“The only thing that was said [about Arizona’s law] was that the debate is about a law that some critics would say has the unintended consequence to discriminate against legal or illegal residents. We did not comment on the particulars of whether that’s true or not,” Posner explained.

In other words, supposedly State offered no opinion to the Chinese about whether Arizona’s law actually does violate human rights but brought it up — “early and often” — as an example of how mature democracies debate sensitive issues like discrimination. Okay. (1) By Posner’s own account, the statute was introduced in the context of confessing our national sins so as to make the Chinese more forthcoming. That would seem to imply a certain … value judgment about the law, would it not? Which, of course, dovetails nicely with Posner’s own description of the statute just last week as part of a “troubling trend in our society.” I’ve given up on expecting administration officials to actually read the law, but if you’re going to badmouth it, own it. (2) If you’re looking to throw red meat to ChiCom degenerates about our own moral failings, there’s no shortage of examples from American history to reference. Why you’d single out a law which, I hasten to remind you, isn’t even in effect yet is beyond me. If the response to that is that State wanted something more current than what’s found in the history books, no problem: The fact that The One has continued or even amplified virtually ever war power exercised by George Bush should provide State Department liberals with hours of grievances to commiserate with the Chinese over. No need to go digging around the Grand Canyon for material when there’s plenty of heart-ache in State’s own backyard. (3) You couldn’t have picked a worse example than Arizona’s law to show how free societies handle politically charged issues. The “debate” has been an unqualified travesty since day one. From high-ranking idiots in our own government dumping on the law without having read it to leftists screeching about Nazism so loudly and often as to draw the ire of Jewish organizations, it’s an almost singular example of how wretched and demagogic our political culture has become. What exactly was the lesson State hoped to impart to the Chinese in bringing it up? “It’s better to call your opponents Nazis than to actually behave like Nazis”? Good enough, I guess.


And of course, let’s not forget that the Arizona statute was made possible only by State’s colleagues in the federal government failing again and again and again to do their job in enforcing the border. In fact, it’s even worse than that. Ready for this?

[A legal opinion], written in 2002 by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, concluded that state police officers have “inherent power” to arrest undocumented immigrants for violating federal law. It was issued by Jay S. Bybee, who also helped write controversial memos from the same era that sanctioned harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects.

The author of the Arizona law — which has drawn strong opposition from top Obama administration officials — has cited the authority granted in the 2002 memo as a basis for the legislation. The Obama administration has not withdrawn the memo, and some backers of the Arizona law said Monday that because it remains in place, a Justice Department lawsuit against Arizona would be awkward at best.

“The Justice Department’s official position as of now is that local law enforcement has the inherent authority to enforce federal immigration law,” said Robert Driscoll, a former Justice Department Civil Rights Division official in the George W. Bush administration who represents an Arizona sheriff known for aggressive immigration enforcement. “How can you blame someone for exercising authority that the department says they have?”


So while one arm of the federal government is busy whispering about Arizona’s law in the confessional with the Chinese, another is on record as believing that Arizona cops are entitled to, ahem, do the jobs that federal officials won’t do. Perfect.

Oh — needless to say, Posner declined the chance to apologize.

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