Why Matt Corley of ThinkProgress is a lightweight (Marty Peretz Mexico comments)

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A few days ago, Mickey Kaus released excerpts from Ezra Klein's hitherto secure mailing list for "liberals", Journolist (link, closed group at groups.google.com/group/journolist/topics). The first message is from Chris Hayes in which he calls Marty Peretz of the New Republic a "f***ing racist" for this post [1]:

Well, I am extremely pessimistic about Mexican-American relations, not because the U.S. had done anything specifically wrong to our southern neighbor but because a (now not quite so) wealthy country has as its abutter a Latin society with all of its characteristic deficiencies: congenital corruption, authoritarian government, anarchic politics, near-tropical work habits, stifling social mores, Catholic dogma with the usual unacknowledged compromises, an anarchic counter-culture and increasingly violent modes of conflict. Then, there is the Mexican diaspora in America, hard-working and patriotic but mired in its untold numbers of illegals, about whom no one can talk with candor.

That's caused Jonah Goldberg to offer "Why Will No One Defend Marty Peretz?" (link). To which Matt Corley of ThinkProgress offers "Jonah Goldberg Sticks Up For Marty Peretz’s Racism" [2]:

Though Goldberg slightly acknowledges the offensive nature of Peretz’ line about "near-tropical work habits" by calling it "unfortunate," he never addresses the fact that Peretz also asserted that "Latin society" is plagued with "congenital corruption." The dictionary definition of "congenital" is "being such by nature." In other words, Peretz is claiming that Latinos are born corrupt. That’s racist.

While I dislike TNR even more than the lefties on JournoList, Peretz was obviously using "congenital" in the sense of endemic ("natural to or characteristic of a specific people or place; native; indigenous:"). That definition clearly applies to Mexico and most of the rest of Latin America. There really is no doubt about it: Peretz wasn't claiming that Mexicans have a corruption gene, he was simply stating the obvious fact that corruption is an accepted part of their society. He was also making the point that that's being imported into the U.S.

There are certainly problems with the quote but the bottom line here is the bottom line: pointing things like this out can cost powerful people money and power. Thus it is that juvenile hacks like Corley try to marginalize such comments, just as his (slightly) betters Chris Hayes and Matt Duss did on the mailing list.

[1] blogs.tnr.com/tnr/blogs/the_spine/archive/2009/03/23/no-special-envoy-no-crisis.aspx
[2] thinkprogress.org/2009/03/28/goldberg-peretz-racist/