Tuesday, May 27, 2008

And Now She Says She's Sorry

Commentator Liz Trotta, whom I noted yesterday had jokingly wished that both Osama bin Laden and Barack Obama could be assassinated, apologized on Fox News the day after her most unfortunate comment. The mea culpa began rather earnestly, I must say, but in my opinion, she again took it too far.
It is a very colorful political season (slight chuckle) and many of us are making mistakes and saying things we wish we had not said.
The slight chuckle is what gave me pause. There isn't anything that undermines the sincerity of one's comments more than the slight chuckle. Perhaps it could have been a slight betrayal of nervousness, although Ms. Trotta is a seasoned veteran of news and commentary, and I hardly think she was nervous about these comments. No, the slight chuckle given during her apology appeared eerily similar to the slight chuckle she gave when she gaffed the first time. It is the well-placed chuckle, as if the comment were made off-the-cuff. As in, "Let's try to lighten it up a bit, I'm too embarrassed to eat this much crow."

Eating crow is exactly what Ms. Trotta needed to do, with all the gravity that her comment deserved. Joking about wishing a major political candidate could be killed is no laughing matter. Even when Bill Maher commented that if Dick Cheney had died in an explosion, more people would be alive, he was dead serious about it. It was a stupid comment, but you can't fault the guy for trying to laugh it off as a joke.

What Trotta said, sort of like what Hillary Clinton said when she stuck in the RFK assassination analogy in her comments about staying in the race into June, was a deliberate attempt to inject poison into our discourse. Choosing the right words to paint a certain negative picture about a political opponent is the Republican modus operandus, now being co-opted by the Clinton campaign as though it were the greatest thing since sliced bread.

I remember Newt Gingrich, then the Speaker of the House, acknowledging the use of language as a way to gain political advantage. Bill Clinton was portrayed as sick and depraved as he fought his way through investigations and impeachment. In reality, it truly is a way to render an opponent unworthy of his or her position, as though he/she is no longer legitimate in the eyes of the public.

And now, in 2008, such commentary has taken a more casual, off-hand tone, making it harder to get mad about. Example: anyone using Obama's middle name -- Hussein -- as a way to drill into less-intelligent minds that Obama really is a Muslim (he isn't).

It's disgusting, and it should have no place in this or any election.

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