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Monday, September 5, 2011

Hoffa (updated)

In our textbook, we talk about labor unions, including the Teamsters. We also note that there has always been a rough edge to American political discourse: political foes have sometimes deployed harsh language and questioned one another's patriotism. After the attack on Representative Giffords, there was some talk of toning down the rhetoric, but the hot words continue to fly, as ABC reports:

Warming up the crowd before President Obama’s speech in Detroit this afternoon, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. had some choice words for the Tea Party.

Hoffa warned the largely union crowd that there was a “war on workers” and urged organized labor to take to the ballot box to fight lawmakers that oppose the president’s agenda.

“We got to keep an eye on the battle that we face: The war on workers. And you see it everywhere, it is the Tea Party. And you know, there is only one way to beat and win that war. The one thing about working people is we like a good fight. And you know what? They’ve got a war, they got a war with us and there’s only going to be one winner. It’s going to be the workers of Michigan, and America. We’re going to win that war,” Hoffa told thousands of workers gathered for the annual Labor Day rally.

“President Obama, this is your army. We are ready to march… Everybody here’s got a vote…Let’s take these sons of bitches out and give America back to an America where we belong,” he concluded.

One meaning of "to take out" is "to kill." During his second debate with John McCain, the president used the phrase in this sense:

What I've said is we're going to encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our nonmilitary aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants. And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority.

Allusions to violence have special resonance in this case because Hoffa's father, also a Teamsters president, had mob ties and disappeared under mysterious circumstances.

CNN reports:

On Sunday, Hoffa called American companies that do not spend their capital in the United States unpatriotic.

"I think the president should challenge the patriotism of these American corporations that are sitting on the sidelines," Hoffa said on CNN's "State of the Union.

The president did not mention the remark in his own address:

The president of the Metropolitan Detroit Central Labor Council, our host, Saundra Williams. (Applause.) AFL-CIO president, Rich Trumka. (Applause.) President of the Michigan AFL-CIO, Mark Gaffney. (Applause.) And some proud sons and daughters of Michigan representing working people here and across the country -- SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa, UAW President Bob King, Utility Workers President Mike Langford. (Applause.) We are proud of them and we're proud of your congressional delegation who are working every single day with your state and local elected officials to create jobs and economic growth and prosperity here in Michigan and all across the country.