What Do You Say When What You Have Said Is Wrong?
The GOP Presidential Nomination Parade is teaching young Americans (and anyone else willing to listen) what to do when you make public statements which are either wrong or offensive to some. The GOP is not plowing new ground but never the less it is fascinating to see how the front running candidates (for the highest office in the land) are handling these situations.
Normally, when one makes a public statement which evokes a public reaction, like “I take exception to your claim all men are dogs”, there are three standard reactions.
- First, “I stand by my words and in fact, I know many men who are worse than dogs”.
- Second, “I was quoted out of context, why some of my best friends are dogs (or men) The media is against my campaign and is just making up this story”.
- Third, I am evolving on that subject and now think that dogs are man’s best friend so actually I am trying to make a compliment.
Donald Trump has written the definitive book on doubling down. Trump adds no new information but simply huffs and puffs and speaks ever louder making the same claims. Most of the media are trained to ask once and then move on to another topic since all they are interested in are “sound bites”. This often provides Trump with a pass.
Ben Carson aspires to lead the second group. He has recently made statements recommending that hostages charge shooters (their captors) who are about to commit mass killings. This has been perceived as transferring the blame from the killer to those subject to being killed. Carson also said that if German Jews had been armed, the Holocaust might not have taken place. I wonder whether Carson knows about Hitler’s military strength displayed in the Spanish Civil War?
Both Trump and Carson, despite their personal views, were pandering for xenophobes and gun advocates.
The third approach is the most practiced and can be characterized as “cutting ones losses” and “you can be sure I will never say that again… publicly” Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and most other traditional politicians prefer this approach. They are trained to move to a new topic as quickly as possible.
Interestingly, American voters seems attracted to type one and two. Voters are seeking individuals who say what they mean and mean what they say. In other words, candidates who appear genuine. This is very understandable when you consider the wishy-washy Congressional double speak we hear incessantly.
There is one problem, however.
The Country also needs candidates who know right from wrong (use of facts and data) and, once the dust settles, can be inclusive in building national concurrence. With Trump, there is a somewhat “lovable” aspect to his bravado. Trump says unkind things but somehow with the twinkle in his eye, the listener thinks “well he isn’t that bad”. Carson who speaks so softly and absent any hint of rage is stealthy in his communications.
Neither of these candidates, IMO, are of Presidential timber. Carson, however, is far more worrisome if the unexpected were to happen and he were to become President Carson. As a technically trained individual, to be comfortable with opinions not supported by facts, poses a huge risk as commander in chief.
The third category, “the I’m evolving” group are much more difficult to understand. For example, the amazingly swift evolution of American public opinion around the GLBT community has outpaced the public rhetoric of politicians. Cutting slack for politicians who have previously spoken out against homosexuality, one wonders did that candidate mean it before, is his changed position now genuine?
But thinking broader, what did these politician say about invading Iraq, comprehensive immigration reform, healthcare for all (Obamacare), or gun controls?
The 2016 Election cycle appears poised to bring us both a candidate and the answer to the question, “ What Do You Say When What You Have Said Is Wrong? “