When John Kerry ran for president a few years ago, Republicans said he "looks French."
When France abandoned its support for America by opposing the war in Iraq, some members of Congress told restaurants to remove all references to "french fries" from their menus in favor of "freedom fries."
That's nothing compared to what's happening right now here in Florida.
In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, Adam Hasner and George LeMieux are doing what candidates do in primaries: tearing each other's character to shreds.
The latest is Hasner's gem, "LeMieux: It's French for Crist." If you send a check to Hasner's Senate campaign, you'll get a bumper strip with the slogan on it.
LeMieux accused Hasner on Monday of hitting "a new low" with a "despicable" attack on LeMieux's "ethnic background" and produced a link to an opinion piece on the Jewish news service JTA blasting Hasner, who's Jewish, of a "divisive" tactic by making an issue of LeMieux's French-Canadian ancestry.
"It's a low blow, and it's uncalled for," LeMieux said as he drove to a campaign stop Monday in Pembroke Pines. "If my last name were Ramirez, would he have done that?"
Hasner's strategist, the witty and acerbic Rick Wilson, answered the criticism by questioning LeMieux's masculinity. "He needs to man up here," Wilson said, referring to LeMieux as Crist's "cabana boy," while insisting he was speaking in jest.
Added Wilson: "If George LeMieux lacks the intestinal fortitude to be in politics and can't take a little poking, he needs to seek other employment."
LeMieux said of Wilson: "If we'd made a similar statement about his candidate's ethnicity, he would have been the first one to cry foul."
Is it an ethnic slur to point out that LeMieux is French?
And if it's all right for Hasner to make fun of LeMieux for being French, is it all right for LeMieux to make fun of Hasner for being Jewish?
(Bumper sticker idea: "Hasner: Hebrew for Moderate.")
No, it wouldn't. They aren't the same thing.
Being French is a nationality. Being Jewish is an ethnicity and a religion, not to mention a member of an oppressed minority.
For now, lost in the din of all this name-calling are concerns over the stock market's swoon, taxes, foreclosures, unemployment and our kids' futures, and the primary is still nearly a year away.
LeMieux has been trying to minimize his long and close association with former Gov. Charlie Crist, who appointed him to the U.S. Senate in 2009.
But Hasner won't let LeMieux rewrite history.
LeMieux was Crist's chief of staff in the Attorney General's Office and as governor and helped shape Crist's centrist agenda in his first year as Florida's chief executive.
LeMieux in turn accuses Hasner, who often took moderate positions in the Legislature, of masquerading as a "phony conservative."
What LeMieux might do instead is proudly return to his French roots. He should order a glass of merlot and a large order of fries and give Hasner a little education in the French language.
In French, le means "the" and mieux means "better," or "preferably."
When you join them together as LeMieux, it means "best."