Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Can We Tone Down the Faux Outrage?

The "incredulous comparative" is the faddish new means of political attack, and it's really time to let it go. When any public figure invokes the name of a well-respected historical figure, the eye-rolling decrybabies can be counted upon to chime in with "Did X really compare himself to Y?!", shaking their heads at the gall of X to even refer to Y.

"How DARE he [Barack Obama] compare himself to Lincoln?!?!?!"

"How dare Michelle Obama compare herself to Jacqueline Kennedy???"

"Hillary compares herself to Harriet Tubman."

Last night, I saw an unsuccessful local politician post this as his facebook status - "Just watched Funk's GMA interview. So, now Gloria is comparing herself to Hilary (sic) and Michelle Obama?"

To carry the stupidity to its zenith, can't we claim that Ms. Squitiro just claimed to embody all the positive characteristics of Jackie O and Harriet Tubman, by proxy?

Sorry, people, but this little rhetorical trick needs to be shelved, before public figures are forbidden to take the name of any admirable figures in vain. If you are trying to point out that other political spouses have worked on behalf of their husbands, it's fair and legitimate to mention Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, as two of the most recent and visible. To act as though you are agog and aghast at the presumption shows either a low level of logic or an eagerness to pile on with cheap shots. Or both.

20 years ago, Lloyd Bentsen used this technique effectively on Dan Quayle, after Quayle had attempted to place his inexperience into context by explicitly comparing himself to JFK. "Senator," Bentsen said, "I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy." It worked that time because, while it didn't challenge the factual legitimacy of the comparison, it pointed out that the factual parallel did not create a deeper similarity.

Two decades later, people are still trying to catch Bentsen's lightning in a bottle whenever they see a public figure refer to someone respected.

They are no Lloyd Bentsen.


Blogger les said...

I like to compare myself to Philbert Desenex. Some (few) people get huffy.

12/02/2008 8:41 AM  
Anonymous mainstream said...

Here's what Gloria said - I'm quoting from a KC Star columnist, regarding her Fox news comments I believe:

She said it maybe "hasn't filtered through to the Midwest" that political wives can come "out of the closet."

Squitiro claimed that "Hillary (Clinton) paved the way" for people like Michelle Obama to sit anywhere she wants "in the West Wing."

It was the second straight day that Squitiro oddly compared her situation as a meddling staff volunteer to the behavior of presidential wives.

Hmmmm. Gloria said Michelle Obama can sit anywhere in the west wing. Bet it won't be in the Oval Office 8-5 everydaty. Or in a cubby hole outside of the Oval Office.

I think Michelle's office will be a proverbial country mile away from barrack's office.

Anybody want to take me up on this bet?

Oh, that was nice - the comment that somehow sophisticated government hasn't filtered down to the midwest.

I think people don't need my opinion on her and what she is saying most recently.

She speaks for herself, and quite clearly.

And does she speak honestly?

I mean, you read her testimony, and you read other's testimony, and someone's not telling the truth.

12/02/2008 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Sophia said...

It worked that time because, while it didn't challenge the factual legitimacy of the comparison, it pointed out that the factual parallel did not create a deeper similarity.

So, is it fair to laugh at Squitiro for thinking she's anything like Clinton or Obama just because she can claim the title of "First Lady"? The First Lady of the United States, as the hostess of the White House, gets her own office from which social events are coordinated. People raised hell about Hillary locating her office in the West Wing, but, if memory serves, only the more strident feminists were asking - why the hell does the first lady have an office? In my opinion, Quayle was on much firmer ground with his JFK comparison than Squitiro is.

I wasn't outraged, more like embarrassed for her that she apparently believes that to be true. That, and her apparent inability to learn lessons from the trailblazer. I feel comfortable stating that Hillary Clinton is far more intelligent, accomplished, and savvy about the workings of government than Squitiro, but she still ran health care reform into the ground. And I'm going to be surprised if the woman who's pledged to spend the first year focused on being Mom in Chief demands an office in the West Wing. (It's pretty cramped in there).

12/02/2008 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It is amazing that you still defend this woman.

16 Q. (By Ms. Bratcher) You were present when
17 Ms. Squitiro called Ruth Bates mammy?
18 A. Our office is small, and we had no privacy.
19 Yes, I did.
20 Q. And I want to talk about the phrase "mammy."
21 Have -- in your experience, do you consider
22 that to be a racial phrase?
23 A. It's probably one of the worst racial phrases a
24 person could ever say to an African-American
25 female.

12/02/2008 8:18 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Because you choose to believe someone else, my point about the sillyness of the incredulous comparative is flawed? Does that make sense to you?

12/02/2008 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Sophia said...

Who are you addressing, Dan?

12/02/2008 10:01 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

The Anonymous commenters who took the post as a point of departure for random Gloria-bashing. I ignored your comment because I wasn't sure if you were kidding or not. I suspect you were trying to prove my point - that some people will act as though any point of comparison is a claim of equivalency. Your defense of Quayle made me suspect you were attempting to be ironic.

By your standard, anyone in the front section of any bus should be mocked for thinking they are Rosa Parks.

12/03/2008 5:44 AM  
Anonymous Kingsfield said...

"Eye-rolling decrybabies" may be the best new phrase published in 2008. Bravo.

12/03/2008 9:37 AM  
Anonymous Sophia said...

What Dan said:

If you are trying to point out that other political spouses have worked on behalf of their husbands, it's fair and legitimate to mention Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, as two of the most recent and visible.

What Squitiro said:

"Hillary paved the way for Michelle in office so that she can sit where she wants to sit in the West Wing," Squitiro said. "Maybe it just hasn't filtered through to the Midwest that political wives are out of the closet now."

So it's now illogical and a cheap shot to judge Squitiro by what she actually said rather than what you (Dan) heard? She was making a specific point about offices. The "First Lady" of Kansas City has never had an office at City Hall (unless you want to count Glorioso, who had the good fortune not to be related to Barnes). So, as a starting point, deciding where to locate one's office and arguing that one is entitled to an office (or cubicle!) are two very different things.

Secondly, the people and press expectations of the First Lady of the US are enormous, time consuming, and frequently conflicting. The expectations of the "First Lady" of KC are... ? I suppose the expectation we have is that the Mayor's spouse not embarass us. The former obviously requires an office. The latter is better served without one.

If she wanted to make a point about deserving her own seat at the table, she made a bad argument referencing Clinton (who hardly established a precedent that it's a great idea to set up a spouse like that) and Obama (who's stated she wont have a west wing office anyway). If she wanted to make a point about political spouses "coming out of the closet," she could have used local, less grandiose, examples. Didn't Diana Kander run her husband's campaign? Didn't Jean Carnahan get appointed to take over her husband's Senate seat? In fact, where is all this evidence that midwesterners haven't caught on to the fact that the spouses of politicians often play an important role in campaigns and influencing policy? It's like the woman has never heard the term "pillow talk."

that some people will act as though any point of comparison is a claim of equivalency.

I pointed out that the point of comparison is a claim to the title of "First Lady" and that any other comparison is suspect. Squitiro made a comparison about office location when she doesn't even have an office to compare. Squitiro is being stupid. The Quayle equivalent would be if instead of serving as a US Senator, he'd changed his first name to "Senator" and claimed the same term of experience as JFK.

By your standard, anyone in the front section of any bus should be mocked for thinking they are Rosa Parks.

Well, not for thinking it. But if they call a press conference and announce that they are just like Rosa Parks because they sat at the front of the bus, yeah... I'd mock them. But I suspect I'm reading that differently than you intended it to read. Probably because you went so out of your way to read my original comment in a way that fit your criticism. But I have faith we can get this back on track! I don't think Squitiro was claiming to be JUST LIKE Clinton or Obama, and I didn't say that she did.

Again, I wasn't outraged by her remarks and I even ignored the insult to midwesterners. And then I went and read her deposition and realized just how dim she is. I realized she probably has no independent memory of what Hillary Clinton went through in the 90s because she's never paid attention to politics. She probably didn't know anything about it until she started getting flack and they turned to TEH GOOGLE for historical support. She obviously doesn't remember that there were many concerns about nepotism and clear lines of authority, even among political supporters, and those concerns were not entirely resolved in favor of "it's an awesome idea to give the First Lady a west wing office and her own policy portfolio!"

She doesn't really seem to know jack shit about much outside of her immediate concerns. I've long thought that she and her husband were misguided in thinking that they were striking some blow for women's equality with this fight. But after reading the depositions, I'm kind of angry that these people with no apparent awareness of previous battles would push their interests under any banner other than "It's about me!" It's not about political wives coming out of the closet, or being valued for their contributions. It's not about the mayor's right to run as dysfunctional office as he wants to (which is Dan's apparent belief). It's just about them. Them. Them. Them. In that sense, these battles are exactly what they want, whether they admit it or not.

I say I'm "kind of" angry because there's no sense in getting really angry about things you can't change.

12/03/2008 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Bill said...


Do you think referering to oneself as an "overworked hebrew slave" would be offensive?

Do you think it is fair for the people of Kansas City to dislike being called beige?

So are you saying that Burnetta is lying?

Is their anything this woman does that find objectionable? Or will you defend her to the end?

12/03/2008 6:58 PM  
Anonymous monsignor hudson said...

'tis an infernal association, to be sure.

12/03/2008 10:45 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Bill - Do you think that Gloria referred to Kansas Citians as beige people? Even Tony acknowledges that's a lie.

And, no, I'm not saying Burnetta is lying. How would I know? For that matter, how would you know?

12/04/2008 5:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bentsens remark about Jack Kennedy being a friend of his is particulary ironic, since it has since been shown that he hardly knew Jack Kennedy.

12/04/2008 6:22 AM  
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