Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

February 2, 2014

Jack Lessenberry: Watch two Mich. GOP figures

A dozen or so years ago, I sat next to Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson at a Michigan State University football game. Not surprisingly, we talked politics.

“When we keep the focus on economics, we Republicans do very well,” especially in places like his county, one of the largest and most affluent in the nation.

“But when the ‘Taliban’ — my name for the religious right — makes it about abortion and who is kissing who, then the Democrats can beat us.” Last week, there was reason to remember that.

Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema, who has a history of posting hate-filled rants against gay and Muslim Americans, continued to refuse to step down, even after both Michigan GOP Chair Bobby Schostak and Republican National Chair Reince Priebus called on him to resign.

Meanwhile, Patterson himself was the focus of national controversy after a profile in the Jan. 27 issue of the prestigious New Yorker. Headlined “Letter from Michigan: Drop Dead, Detroit!” the article quoted the longtime political fixture as saying “What we’re gonna do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation … build a fence around it, and then throw in the blankets and corn.”

Among other things, the 75-year-old former prosecuting attorney said “I used to say to my kids, ‘first of all, there’s no reason for you to go to Detroit … except for live sports. For that, fine —- get in and get out … and you do not, do not under any circumstances stop in Detroit at a gas station. That’s just a call for a carjacking.”

Not surprisingly, that caused an uproar.

The Oakland County executive drew savage criticism from both newspaper editorials and Detroit politicians.

He said he “felt ambushed and betrayed,” but added, “I’m not apologizing because I didn’t do anything wrong.”

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