It’s a question I’ve stopped asking myself, because I have too often thought, “It can’t get any worse,” and then it does, usually within a week. “It” could apply to the weather, the climate (not the same thing), the food, the culture or all of the above, collectively. Today, however, I mean political discourse.
Witness, if you dare, the CNN/Tea Party Express Republican debate this week. Cable News Network has a reputation for non-partisan, if inept, journalism, so why co-sponsor a debate with the Tea Party Express? These people are not the League of Women Voters. Sure, they’re a faction of the Republican Party and this was a Republican-only debate, but the Tea Partiers are known for their casual relationship to things like facts, so it might not be the best bed partner for an outfit like CNN. How much humiliation can Wolf Blitzer stand?
Mr. Blitzer inadvertently begat the lowest moment of the evening by asking Rep. Ron Paul (TX) a question about a hypothetical 30-year-old man who chose not to buy health insurance and was then confronted with a medical crisis. Did Mr. Paul, a physician by profession, believe that hypothetical man should be allowed to die? “Yes!” screamed some of the members of the audience, while others cheered. Okay, so there are assholes at a Tea Party Express-sponsored debate. No surprise. What was surprising (and again, maybe I expect too much) was that while Mr. Paul looked momentarily distracted, he went right on with his answer. Neither he nor any of the other seven candidates on stage took any of their precious seconds of airtime to says something like, “Hey, let’s be clear – we don’t let people die needless deaths in this country. I may not agree with Obamacare, but we don’t leave people out to die.”
To be fair, Governor Rick Perry (TX) – Wednesday morning – said he was “taken aback” by the cheering. The next morning? Really? Did he have to check with his handlers and the overnight polls to take a stand against letting people die? In ’88, the pundits jumped all over Governor Michael Dukakis (MA) when he calmly answered a hypothetical about his wife being raped and murdered instead of calling CNN’s Bernie Shaw a jerk for asking a rude question.
Speaking of Mr. Perry (have you noticed how I’m rocking these segues?), he was the debate’s punching bag, what with former governor Mitt Romney (MA) slugging him over calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.” Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN) pummeled him over his plan to require teenaged Texas girls to receive a vaccine against human papillomavirus, which can lead to cervical cancer once women become sexually active.
Tea Partiers don’t like the government forcing people to take their medicine (even if it prevents cancer), especially if they can somehow imply that said vaccine might be a sideways permission slip for pre-marital sex. Ms. Bachmann pointed out that Mr. Perry had taken political cash from Merck, the maker of the vaccine and even neglected to say one of his former key staffers was a Merck lobbyist a the time of Mr. Perry’s “vaccinate ‘em all!” proposal.
She could not, of course, leave well enough alone. Hell no. She had to jump on the express train to Kookooville and further claim – based on something some random person told her – that the vaccine was the cause of teen-onset retardation.
This person, who blurts out anything that rattles in her head, thinks she’s qualified to be president of the United States of America. How bad can it get? Stop asking.
© Mark Floegel, 2011