Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
May 23, 2015

Harkin: GOP Senator From South Called Obama ‘Exotic’

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Harkin revealed that a Republican senator called the president “exotic” during a closed-door meeting last month. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin says that a Republican senator called President Barack Obama “exotic” during a closed-door meeting last month.

“I’m not naming any names, but one senator got up from a southern state and said, ‘Well, you’ve got to understand that to my people down here, Obama seems like he’s exotic,'” the Iowa Democrat said. “That he’s just exotic, he doesn’t share our values.”

Harkin revealed the comment during a wide-ranging interview with the editorial board of the Des Moines Register on Wednesday.

He said the comment came during the July 15, bipartisan meeting in the Old Senate Chamber where senators gathered to try and work out a way to avoid a floor standoff over changes to the Senate’s rules governing filibusters of executive branch nominees.

During the conversation with the Des Moines Register, Harkin also said he wasn’t sure how a deal would come together on legislative priorities, including the five-year farm bill, after the August recess. The Senate has agreed to go to conference to work out a deal on the farm program legislation, but the House departed for recess without taking that step.

Asked whether there were other periods in American history with partisan polarization like what Washington’s currently experiencing, Harkin said, “Sure – the Civil War,” the Register reported.

  • mgmu

    Is the word ‘exotic’ code for something?

    • stormkite

      Yup. It means “dark skinned” and “not like US.”

      Same way “Republican” is code for “racist sociopath.”

  • nbamron

    what he meant was “Obama’s a communist”. That should be much clearer to you.

  • skarl

    I think the Senator could have meant this comment just descriptively. I think that one of the problemssome Aemricans have with President Obama is that they cannot figure out his context. Anyone who has gone to a big university or gone to grad school can readily see how a young white anthropology graduate student from Kansas could get together with an African student, fall in love, and have a child. It also makes sense that the relationship could end, and the female student, now an anthropologist with a Ph.D., could go to another country to do field work and meet and marry another man, and have another mixed-race child. It makes perfect sense to me — and to most people who’ve been to a university or otherwise have seen enough of the word to understand how people from very different social and etnic backgrounds can meet, mix, form romantic relationships, and have children of mixed race or nationality. But that is not everybody. For many Americans, this type of nationality and background exposure and interaction is just not part of their lives or the lives of anyone they know. I am quite aware of the bigotry component in the attitudes toward Obama, but I think simple unfamiliarity with the grad school-international student milieu also plays a role — and makes Obama seem exactly what the Senator said — exotic.

  • Robert Brand

    There is of course a simple way to end the speculation: the Senator who made the remark could come forward and explain what he meant.
    Failing that, most people not born yesterday will assume that exotic is a code involving race. Given the most recent population figures for the 11 southern states that means that the esteemed Senator finds between 20% (TX) and 40% (MS) of his people exotics. Or maybe he doesn’t think of exotics as his people. This, and only this, explains the Republican attack on Voting Rights.
    So, let’s all ask the Senator to enlighten us — the exotics and the boring — all together.

  • John Allegro

    Since a nation’s advance mostly results from the efforts of its more well off citizens, central governments that assault those citizens will naturally halt technological progress and reduce the nation’s overall quality of life.

  • Defend The Constitution

    Run-of-the-mill collectivists routinely attempt to confuse roads and fire departments with collectivism by referring to them as “socialism”.

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