Running on Empty
We're only three months past the mid-term elections, far too early for any candidates to even announce for the presidency, and already three Republicans have started to self-destruct. Four, if you count Mitt Romney. How else do you describe telling friends you're interested in running and then just days later pulling out?
First we had Mike Huckabee (R-AK) having a meltdown over Beyonce (which, of course, is the kind of leadership we want from our president -- it worked so well for Dan Quayle berating the fictional Murphy Brown, didn't it....?), and then just days later he started getting the vapors again about people actually swearing in a newsroom and worse, when the women-folk do it, because it makes them just so trashy, so thank the Lord that no Southern belles would ever do such a thing, kind sir...
The next time the Mr. Huckabee is interviewed on his book tour, I hope the first question someone asks him is, "What era are you living in?" To be clear, I don't like swearing. But I grasp the concept that others do. And that that includes women in the South, most of whom don't always drink mint juleps. I also get the sense that if Mike Huckabee was still a preacher and lectured his flock this way, he soon wouldn't have a flock.
That hissing sound you hear is more air being let out of Mike Huckabee's presidential hopes than a closetful of footballs in a New England Patriot's equipment room.
And now we have Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) falling over one another to see who can be more irresponsible by telling parents they shouldn't get their children vaccinated for the measles.
I know that many conservatives these days aren't crazy about science, but one would have hoped that they'd draw the line at protecting children. And would understand that vaccinations are not even about just protecting your child, but also keeping disease from spreading, in order to protect other children and to actually eradicate the disease.
(It would also be nice if they understood that the one, single study that suggested a connection between vaccinations and autism -- which bizarrely only had 12 subjects, which is fewer people than you need to have a baseball game -- has been SO discredited that a) most of the co-authors of it have withdrawn their names, b) the magazine it was published in has since retracted it, and c) the main doctor who headed the study has had his license revoked in England. Really. Honest. In fact, going further, it turns out that the study was largely funded by a law firm who was -- are you ready? -- planning to sue vaccine manufacturers, and a journalistic investigation into the study ended up calling it an "elaborate fraud," based on questionable practices by that lead doctor. You can read about it here in the article from CNN.)
And based on this study and a basketful of rumors that would have a hard time getting published in the Drudge Report, there is Chris Christie in England -- on his I Want to Look Presidential with Foreign Affairs Experience Tour -- telling parents that it's their choice whether or not to get their children vaccinated. Clarifications by his staff, later, after all the outraged reaction made headlines, don't count for much when you've already shown your (at best) pandering and (at worst) irresponsibility and ignorance. It was noteworthy that the very next day, when meeting with the Lord of the Exchequer, with microphones and cameras set up outside for his comments after, that upon leaving, Mr. Christie instead took a quick left-turn, avoided the mikes, cameras and reporters and went strolling off alone with his wife. Which apparently is the very reason Mr. Christie went to England in the first place, to avoid the press. Either that or it's what Chris Christie believes is "looking presidential on foreign soil."
It does help define a person that he'll bully and berate reporters when he's in control, but run away when things aren't go so good.
What it doesn't help is a presidential campaign that you don't want to be seen as self-destructing through your own words..
But though Gov. Christie has taken most of the heat for his anti-vaccination comments, I actually thought Rand Paul's were not only worse, but significantly worse. That's because he went out of his way to specifically draw a connection between measles vaccines and "stories I've heard" about "profound mental disorders."
Keep in mind this is almost exactly the same kind of agitated fake charge that finally blew up Michele Bachmann's presidential campaign. Even Rush Limbaugh took her to task for that.
Being told "stories" is without any meaning -- and spreading them as substantive is irresponsible for a United States Senator and for someone hoping to be President of the United States, let alone a doctor (albeit an unlicensed ophthalmologist, not an immunologist or physician). Medical evidence is what counts. Not rumors spread in the comments section of WeHateVaccines.com. And as far as I'm aware, there are no real, scientific reports that show a connection between the measles vaccine and autism.
And then almost topping himself, the very next day Rand Paul pulled another of his typical Rand Paul Stunts (tm) whereby he released a statement insisting that he didn't say exactly what he said. It's cowardly and craven, and the sort of response you'd expect from a four-year-old when caught with crumbs on their face and falling out of their mouth and insisting they never took a cookie.
There's no question that all these fine folk will continue on the candidate path. On the path to self-destruction doesn't mean you've reached your final kablooey destination yet, nor does it preclude elimination in the GOP, at least until we start to get to the debates and one's opponents smell blood and start reminding people. (Notice how quickly other presumed-candidates leaped in with their "Of course we should vaccinate children" answers, some to unasked questions. But when you're in a party that at its core wants to deny science and factual evidence and support of the needy and social benefits (that starts with Love Thy Neighbor and Do Unto Others) while proclaiming infallible divine guidance and instead is almost required to follow the dictates of the far-extreme base to get enough support to be a Viable Candidate, the one thing you can be sure of is that there will be more self-destruction in the year ahead.
After all, the road to the presidency is full of Gotcha questions. Like "What newspapers do you read?" and "Should we vaccinate our children?" And "Do you think people swear at work?"
All people make mistakes. Some turn it into an obligation.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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