Super sleazy

Pete Hoekstra's disgraceful attack ad

Feb 7, 2012 at 12:00 am

Anyone in Michigan watching the Super Bowl on Sunday was subjected to a particularly disgraceful political attack from Republican Pete Hoekstra, who is looking to challenge Democratic incumbent U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow come November.

One some levels, the ad is just lame. Attempting to tar Stabenow as a typical tax-and-spend liberal, Hoekstra slaps the senator with the nickname "Debbie Spenditnow." 

Hoekstra, a former congressman from Holland, on the other hand wants to be known as Pete "Spenditnot."

If the ad's problem were limited to sophomoric name-calling, it could just be written off as a bad Jokestra.

But the 30-second hit piece hurtles past the bounds of propriety by getting all racist and xenophobic on us by having what appears to be a Chinese woman, wearing a straw hat and standing by a rice paddy, deliver this message in badly broken English:

Thank you, Michigan Sen. Debbie Spenditnow. Debbie spends so much American money. You borrow more and more from us. Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you, Debbie Spenditnow.

Deservedly negative reaction was swift.

Thomas Costello, CEO of the nonpartisan Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion, issued a press release calling on Hoekstra to withdraw the "culturally insensitive" ad.

"If candidate Hoekstra wishes to support a particular political position, he can do so in many ways that do not play upon racial stereotypes," Costello noted. "Leaders need to bring people together, not pit them against each other."

Costello highlighted the danger of what Hoekstra is doing by reminding people of the 1982 killing of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American who was raised in metro Detroit. Chin was beaten to death by two out-of-work autoworkers who blamed their plight on Japanese auto companies.

"This is not a helpful way to build a dialogue toward making our state an inclusive place where people of all races can contribute to a better Michigan. Mr. Hoekstra should withdraw his ad, and replace it with a spot that targets his opponent, not a race," urged Costello.

As of Monday, Hoekstra was sticking by his misfiring guns, defending an ad that even some of his fellow Republicans considered to be offensive.

"Stabenow has got to go. But shame on Pete Hoekstra for that appalling new advertisement," GOP political consultant Nick De Leeuw wrote on his Facebook page. "Racism and xenophobia aren't any way to get things done."

Unless what you are hoping to accomplish is the re-election of Stabenow. In that case, then the prospective challenger should keep insisting that there is nothing objectionable in this truly repulsive spot. If that's the tack he takes, we recommend adopting a new nickname. Just start using this introduction when approaching voters:

"Hi, I'm Pete Dopestra, and I approve being a divisive, scurrilous, panderer to fear and small-mindedness."