Michele Bachmann talks census and internment camps.
David Kurtz at TPM
Eric Kleefeld at TPM:
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) appeared on the Glenn Beck show yesterday evening, to keep on her new campaign to not completely fill out her census reform. She is drawing a line against government intrusion, despite the $5,000 fine that could potentially be imposed.
Bachmann again invoked a historic connection between the Census and the Japanese-American internment — and she objected to the government looking into people’s mental health:
But Bachmann did break a little new ground: “Does the federal government really need to know our phone numbers? Do they really need to know, like you said, the date and time that we leave? Mental stability?
“You know the one question that’s not on this survey, Glenn? ‘Are you a U.S. citizen?’ This would be your perfect opportunity to find out how many illegal aliens are in the United States. Guess what? That’s the one question they don’t ask on this.”
First, the form asks for a phone number, but it’s not required, and it’s only there so the Census Bureau can follow up with those who submit incomplete questionnaires.
Second, asking people whether they’re American citizens or not is hardly an effective strategy for “finding out how many illegal aliens are in the United States.” I don’t want to alarm Bachmann and Beck, but I have a hunch someone who’s in the country illegally might not answer the question truthfully.
Third, the reasons people are asked some seemingly personal questions is that it’s relevant information, tied to government policy. As the Census Bureau tried to explain to Bachmann, “[The materials] would include questions such as income, education levels, how long it take you to get to work. All of these things are actually tied to federal programs, laws or judicial rulings that say we must collect data on these questions. So Congress approves these questions so they can now administer some of the programs and laws that they’ve passed.”
And finally, did you notice that Bachmann just threw in a random reference to “mental stability”? It seemed a little out of the blue, and given the circumstances, rather ironic.
Look, I realize that because Michelle Bachmann is, in fact, completely round-the-bend cuckoobananas, it’s tempting to mock her when she defends her freakout over the census by alluding to the historical use of census data to help round up Americans of Japanese ancestry for internment in World War II. But I’m not sure why it’s intrinsically risible to bring it up to establish that, in fact, our government has in the past used census information to deprive people of their liberties. TPM’s Eric Kleefeld considers it absurd because “the Japanese internment was a long time ago and we haven’t had such abuses since then.”
Why you want to harp on all that old stuff, Michelle? No one would suggest anything like that in our enlightened modern era! Well, not for Japanese anyway. If you’re Arab or Muslim immigrant, on the other hand, you might be one of the 82,000 the government “registered” and monitored after 9/11, or one of the 5,000 who were subject to “preventative detention.” Nor was it quite such a long time ago that daffy-but-prominent conservative pundit Michelle Malkin wrote a profoundly confused book titled “In Defense of Internment: The Case for ‘Racial Profiling’ in World War II and the War on Terror.” No, of course, if there’s another major terror attack in 2011, it would never even occur to the government to, say, pay a visit to households where there are males under 40 who speak Arabic at home. That’s just crazy talk.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) goes on the Glenn Beck Comedy Hour, and repeats her contention that the government might use census data to round people up and put them in internment camps.
Beck closes his eyes and shakes his head when she says this, and almost immediately cuts her off — but I can’t tell if he was actually taken aback, or if he was coming up on a hard break. It’s not too different from the stuff Beck himself serves up on a regular basis, so I don’t know why he would have objected.