Sometimes the explanations that conservative crazies give for their terrible gaffes are worse than the gaffes themselves. The latest example of this common situation is Iowa Congressman Steve King who hosted the Iowa Freedom Summit, the semi-official opening of the Republican primary race. During Obama’s State of the Union speech, he drew attention to himself for a tweet in which he called First Lady Michelle Obama’s guest Ana Zamora a “deportable.” Then he tried to explain it away with an excuse that does him no favors. In fact, all Steve King did was show the world that he needs a serious lesson in English grammar.
In reality, there is no excuse for King using the word “deportable” as a slur against Ana Zamora. While it may not be any of the usual immigrant pejoratives, it was meant in the same spirit. It was deplorable, to say the least. King is no stranger to controversy as has been noted in numerous stories about him and his stance on immigration. This is a man who said that Mexican immigrants have “calves the size of cantaloupes” due to smuggling drugs across the border. He has also compared immigrants to dogs. In Steve King’s world, immigrants are some form of animal, either a dog or a mule of the drug variety.
This most recent insult, however, had a truly amazing excuse behind it. According to King, he was merely quoting the language used in the same federal law that classes what types of people can be deported. There are 36 instances of the word “deportable” being used in the 8 U.S. Code § 1227, one of which is in the actual title: “Deportable aliens.” Out of all 36 instances, “deportable” is always used as an adjective. Why? Because the word itself in the dictionary is an adjective. As many American students learned in elementary school, words with “-able” are usually some kind of modifier, in this case an adjective which describes a noun, not a noun itself.
That may sound like a small thing to quibble about, but people need to look at the way King used the word itself. He stretched to find a way to insult Ana Zamora and, by extension, the president. He intentionally misused a word to refer to her. His excuse about using the language in the law is hollow. This was meant as an insult, plain and simple.
King has gotten away with these kinds of things before. He has a long history of racially charged insults directed at immigrants and is notoriously anti-immigration reform. He is also the man who hosts the beginning of the Republican primary hunt. How far does he represent the overall view of the Republican party regarding immigration? The fact that his high powered attendees are generally immigration hardliners seems to indicate that he is actually pretty typical.
Ironically, two men who did not attend King’s Iowa Freedom Summit possibles Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. Bush has already been criticized by members of his party for being too soft on immigration. Even more ironic was a quote from Rick Santorum at the summit: “We don’t win because too many people think we don’t care about them.” Apparently Santorum was referring to business owners, one of the most favored groups in the Republican party. But it could equally apply to immigrants who vote for more caring Democrats in droves. The other thing conservatives like Steve King do not care about is grammar, which he desperately needs a lesson in.
Opinion by Lydia Bradbury