November 16, 2006
It’s part of the political folklore from the 1988 presidential campaign that Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis lost the election when, during a presidential debate, CNN newsreader Bernard Shaw asked him how he would feel about his wife being raped and murdered.
Dukakis, clearly shocked by the creepiness of the question but unwilling to appear rude to a Big Time Media Guy, stumbled through a rather robotic-sounding response.
Lee Atwater and the other orcs on George H.W. Bush’s campaign immediately twisted the bizarre moment around until everyone became convinced that Mike Dukakis wouldn’t care if his wife were raped and murdered. Combined with “Mike Dukakis doesn’t like the Pledge of Allegiance” and “Mike Dukakis likes the ACLU,” it helped form the slime wave that carried King George I into office.
As it turns out, I agree that Dukakis should have handled it better. He should have told Shaw, “Sir, your question is disgusting and voyeuristic and raises questions about your character that probably shouldn’t be examined at length here. It has no place in this serious forum. If you don’t want to ask grownup questions, please give your airtime over to someone who will.”
I think a little calculated rudeness can go a long way to promoting civility in our public discourse. The possibility of being publicly embarrassed for asking head-thumpingly stupid questions might just keep the tele-twinkies of network news from asking those stupid questions in the first place.
Which brings me to CNN anchor-twinkie Glenn Beck and his recent chat with Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to be elected to Congress:
BECK: . . . you are a Democrat. You are saying, “Let’s cut and run.” And I have to tell you, I have been nervous about this interview with you, because what I feel like saying is, “Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies.”
And I know you’re not. I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.
ELLISON: Well, let me tell you, the people of the Fifth Congressional District know that I have a deep love and affection for my country. There’s no one who is more patriotic than I am. And so, you know, I don’t need to — need to prove my patriotic stripes . . .
I realize that there are questions so stupid that they paralyze the mind of an intelligent person. Only by getting three-quarters of his brain surgically removed would Ellison have been able to descend to Glenn Beck’s intellectual level.
On the street, the appropriate response to Beck would be, “Get bent, you brain-dead media whore.” In the studio, Ellison would have been better off telling Beck to ask the voters in his district if they thought Keith Ellison was working with the enemy.”Or how about, “Prove to me you’re worth the paycheck CNN gives you.”
Ellison just had his Dukakis moment. It came early enough that it probably won’t do any lasting damage. But Beck’s reflexive use of conservative-certified phrases like “Cut and run,” and his blandly stated racist assumption that someone like Ellison owes America an explanation for failing to be Christian and white, shows how much the wingers have been able to accomplish with their relentless mau-mauing of television news.
A good hard slap in the face, figuratively speaking, would be the best way to start changing this situation. This clod Glenn Beck sounds like an ideal place to sound the starting gun.