Conservatives and 'Gaffes'
Scott Walker has recently, according to the cognoscenti of leftism, committed a couple of “gaffes.” A snarky British journalist asked Walker if he believed in evolution. Walker could have answered by saying that Sir Fred Hoyle, who was director of the Cambridge Institute of Astrophysics, believed that evolution by natural selection was not only unlikely, but virtually impossible, and noting that Hoyle, whose discovery of the process for the formation of heavy elements in stars was essential to any theory of carbon-based life, was an agnostic.
Walker was also asked by a journalist at the National Governors Association if he thought Obama was a Christian. Walker said that he had never talked with Obama about his faith, and so he could not answer the question. He could have answered that only God knows if what we profess is what we believe, but that Obama has certainly professed to be a Christian – and noted that it was Obama himself who in 2008 mocked people bitterly clinging to religion.
How do Walker’s “gaffes” compare with the gaffes of leftists? Obama said that his grandfather in the American Army helped liberate Auschwitz, but anyone with the sparest knowledge of modern history knows that the Red Army, not the American Army, liberated Auschwitz. His dopey Vice President Biden said that in 1929, when the stock market crashed, FDR got on television and told Americans to be calm. FDR, of course, became president in 1933, and television was not available to Americans in 1929 anyway.
Howard Dean, when he was the Democrat frontrunner in 2004, said that the key to Iran was getting the “Soviet Union” involved, forgetting, we must suppose, that the Soviet Union had not been around for fifteen years. John Kerry, the nominee that year, famously recalled Christmas in Cambodia in December 1968, hearing President Nixon. None of his swift boat mates recall ever being in Cambodia, and Nixon, of course, was not president in December 1968.
Hillary claimed to have been under fire in Bosnia, which was not true. Her husband’s slow-witted vice president claimed to have invented the internet, which was not true. John Edwards, Kerry’s vice presidential nominee, made a number of statements about his relationship with his mistress that were all untrue.
How do these leftist gaffes compare with Walker’s imagined gaffes? Walker was speaking honestly to the American people, and these leftists were all either making things up or simply lying. Honesty and candor, of course, are to leftists what crucifixes are to vampires. We are so accustomed anymore to hearing leftists lie in long gushing streams that when a conservative answers honestly, as we are wont to do, it strikes leftists as a gaffe. The story that lingers after becomes that a gaffe was dropped, even when the notional gaffe was speaking truthfully and plainly.
What then should conservative candidates do? One response is to meander, to equivocate, and to shuffle. This works, perhaps, although we can do better. Recall that last time a leftist flack in the media got really taken down a peg – and before America? CNN national correspondent John King, in the South Carolina Republican primary debate, asked Newt Gingrich about an interview with his ex-wife. Gingrich hammered back directly at King and received a huge ovation from the crowds.
Gingrich made King, and his employer, CNN, the subject – which, of course, was absolutely honest. The purpose of the question was to “Gotcha!” a conservative. King would never have asked John Kerry about his ex-wife and her cowering fear of Kerry or asked Hillary about Juanita Broaddrick, who credibly accused Bill Clinton of brutal rape. Gingrich made King and the leftist establishment media the question.
Conservatives ought to respond to phony questions from leftist journalists like this:
Well, that’s an odd question, but it helps explain why Gallup reports trust in the media at an all-time low, and why Americans think that the media is too liberal. It helps us understand why Pew shows a strong plurality of Americans thinking that the media is biased and dishonest and focuses on trivial things. Questions like that also help us see why more and more people have simply stopped listening to the establishment leftist media. What you asked me is not the sort of question you would ever have asked Hillary or any other Democrat. Once your news organization shows some guts in questioning liberals, then conservatives like me will take all your questions seriously.
That sort of answer works. It calls out directly the bias of the reporter. It puts the leftist media on the defensive. And it might – just might – actually embarrass the leftist media into something approaching evenhandedness. Most importantly, it makes the “story” how conservative politicians directly confront the leftist media, and no leftist news organization wants that story discussed in every living room of America.