Taxis by Day

by David Weigel

I'm pretty tolerant of the racial gaffes that bubble up into the political news cycle every month or so. I was proud to defend Joe Biden for saying, basically, that Indian Americans in Delaware are successful franchise entrepreneurs. But this comment by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) was beyond the pale.

At the campaign event with [First Lady Laura] Bush, Burns talked about the war on terrorism, saying a "faceless enemy" of terrorists "drive taxi cabs in the daytime and kill at night."

The campaign said Thursday that the senator was simply pointing out terrorists can be anywhere.

Sorry, no, he wasn't pointing that out. You don't pluck "drive taxi cabs" out of the air when you're thinking of a generic job that terrorists might do. That's a job that Arabs and South Asians disproportinately do. They don't do it in Montana, though, because Montana only has 5,508 Asians. They do it in DC and in New York City, and Burns is scared of brown people in places like that: He told a reporter in 1994 that living amongst swarthy African-Americans in DC was "a hell of a challenge."