What is it about Republicans and their insistence on calling people who come surreptitiously into the United States "aliens"? A proud liberal, I choose to use the word "undocumented" instead of "illegal," because I don't think these folks' prime motivator is a desire to violate the law; it's to get work. I don't quibble too much with people who use "illegal"; it's the term "alien" that bugs me.
I bring this up because on Monday night I was subjected to a nauseating presentation at the downtown Hyatt, where county Republicans were unveiling a new line of GOP mayoral candidates. The parade of hopefuls would have to wait, however, because a speaker had been booked for the meeting before the current mayor announced that he'd had enough.
The speaker was Dr. Madeleine Cosman, a very pompous-sounding medical lawyer, lecturer and author. Cosman gave a 15-minute talk she titled "Illegal Immigration and California Medicine" that was so hysterical I wasn't sure if her audience would grab torches, form an angry lynch mob and go "alien" hunting, or hastily wrestle her to the ground and bind and gag her, lest the assembled media get the crazy idea that this is the kind of thing that goes on at Republican meetings.
Cosman pretty much likened Mexican immigrants to filthy parasites bent on cheating American taxpayers, tearing down the U.S. healthcare system, committing as many crimes as humanly possible and infecting us with all manner of heinous diseases, including, but not limited to, all three varieties of hepatitis, malaria, polio, leprosy and some awful thing called Chagas disease that will make our hearts and intestines "explode." Cosman attacked the current interpretation of the 14th Amendment that says children born in this country are automatically declared citizens, and she vowed to take this "perversion" of the law to the U.S. Supreme Court. Why? To do away with the scourge she referred to as "anchor babies," newborns who "anchor" immigrant families to U.S. soil. She ended her talk with an incitement to go to war, not against illegal immigration, but against illegal immigrants-uh, "aliens."
Some of Cosman's facts and figures may be accurate, but hers was such an ugly act. I found myself hoping that many in the packed ballroom-in spite of their Republican-ness-were as repulsed as I was. After all, these people didn't come to get fired up about anchor babies-they came to see their choices for mayor. And following Cosman at the podium, they all looked relatively good to me.
First up was Carl DeMaio, the efficient-government-advocating think-tank chief who may or may not be running for mayor. Personally, I doubt it-I suspect he's out there simply to promote his "financial recovery plan" and to seek new converts to his cause, which seems to be resonating, at least judging from the admiration of one fresh-faced young Republican afterward.
Next came Steven Francis, the former Nevada state politician who runs a company that rents out traveling nurses. Francis, who said he'd be making an announcement next week about his candidacy, is one of those guys who boasts that he has, like, 12 million employees and does $150 gazillion in business each year. This dude looks and sounds like a politician right out of central casting. He showed off his blonde wife in the audience and, responding to a real hardball question from head GOP hack Ron Nehring, said his favorite Republican was Reagan. Even you Republicans should run away from this guy. Too slick and pre-packaged to be trustworthy.
Then came former Police Chief Jerry Sanders, who's actually running for mayor. Call me crazy, but I like this fellow. Maybe it was because he seems like kindly Uncle Jerry who'd give you the shirt off his back if you found yourself shirtless. Maybe it's because he refused to take Nehring's bait and attack Donna Frye. Maybe because he wants to reappoint whistleblower Diann Shipione to the city's pension board.
Lastly, there was Harley shop owner and wacky TV commercial personality "New York" Myke Shelby, who excitedly blasted Frye, but sidestepped Nehring's request that he attack Mike Aguirre. Reasons to be concerned about Shelby-he seems to think he can win the primary outright, his favorite Republican is Strom Thurmond (!) and, like Cosman, he wants to go to war against "aliens," who "degrade" healthcare, "dilute" education and "divert" the police.
I'll say one thing for him, though: he seems to instinctively know how to bring a newspaper column full circle.