Horseshoes and politics

Jones, Arnold WayneWe’re no better than our enemies when we misrepresent the facts

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted one of those attempts at a photo meme on his Facebook page. It was of a bulbously double-chinned Chris Christie, purporting to quote him from an appearance on CNN in which he said: “If I am elected president I will go after marijuana smokers and the states that allow them to smoke. I’ll shut them down big time. I’m sick of these addicts, sick of these liberals with no self-control.”

Only Christie never said those words — and certainly not on CNN.

In a call-in right-wing radio show hosted by Hugh Hewitt, Christie said, “We have an enormous addiction problem,” and that “the states should not be permitted to sell it.” Nothing about liberals. Nothing about self-control. Those were lies.

IMG_3900I pointed out to my friend that this was not an actual quote by Chris Christie. His response: “He says stuff like that all the time.”

A few weeks later, I saw another photo meme on a different friend’s Facebook page. This was of Louis Gohmert, perhaps the least qualified person ever to sit in Congress and decide laws since he’s far too stupid to even read them and understand what they mean. The man really should be sent to remedial kindergarten and not the Congress. Anyhoo. This meme quoted Gohmert as saying he “thinks a lot about gay sex.” He then went on to make a typically dumb statement about how, if left on a desert island for 100 years, gays would die out since they don’t reproduce. Did Gohmert make bigoted, ill-informed statements about gay sex? Absolutely. Did he say any of the words quoted in that meme? Not a chance. But it didn’t matter to that friend, either. It was, in his view, “close enough.”

And here in lies my major quibble with the quality of political discourse as we now practice it in America: It is not, in fact, a discourse. It is instead position-taking based upon faulty, misleading and outright untruthful information.

This is not news to followers of politics. Not at all. Sarah Palin invented — through her own social media platforms — the entire concept and phrase about “Obamacare death panels,” which never existed in any form, but became a part of the political discussion. Fair-minded progressives would point out that this was made up, though unfair and imbalanced FOXNews wouldn’t hear of it, and repeated the myth as if it where’s Obama’s main doctrine, a plan by the Kenyan-born Muslim communist at eugenics. It’s been five years, and “death panels” still lingers in the public consciousness. And Liberal Democrats still pull out their remaining hair to rage against the political machine about misinformation, disinformation and lies that pervert the process.

And then they turn around and do the same thing.

There is an old, trusty adage that one must “fight fire with fire.” I bet sure most firefighters would tell you that water and sand usually do a better job, but let’s forget about that for a second. Democrats have never been at a loss for having their own ways of phrasing and crafting a message to highlight their opponents’ weaknesses, to minimize their own, and to steel the positives in their message. Excoriating the enemy with clever linguistic tricks and rhetoric is time-honored. Frankly, it’s what we writers frequently do.

But I’m not talking here about characterizing one’s position as extreme and another’s as moderate, or shining the best light on one’s own ideas. I’m talking about lying about quotes and acting like the lie is justified. I am talking about propagating known falsehoods about another candidate, another party, an opposition group, and twisting it beyond recognition while pretending it is fact. Pardon my naïveté, but I thought progressives were better than that.

I foolishly thought that when I pointed out the errors of these memes to my friends, they would quickly disavow them if not take them down right away. But no: They embraced the now common, Trumpian practice of doubling down. They cleaved to the errors and defending them as, I suppose, speaking to a “higher truth.” Of course, the higher truth that they refer to is likewise based upon these mistaken premises. When your entire dialogue is merely a catalog of falsehoods about your opponents, at what point does the reality settle in and mean something to you? When we put up a photo of Chris Christie and quotation marks around words that we attribute to him, on specific dates and in specific media, knowing that’s wrong, we haven’t won any battles, we’ve merely contributed to the dumbing down, the name-calling, the schoolyard taunting quality of American politics.

It would not be difficult to find reams of direct quotes from Chris Christie that would hoist him with his own petard. Likewise Louis Gohmert, who is a hardworking factory of lies. You want grist for your political hate mail? The facts are out there. Let’s take them to task on the facts. But when we just pander to our own feelings and desires and what we want to believe, we can’t then attack the other side for doing the same.

When we present opinions under quotation marks; when we rewrite history to suit our own needs; when we compromise our own values in order to score fleeting and hollow victories against perceived enemies, we are no better than the opponents. And then, when our opponents accuse us of lying and misrepresentation, we have to concede, “Yep. We did it. So what?”

And that’s when we lose. It’s when the American people lose. It’s when the political system gets beyond the control of intelligent people wanting to be informed voters and falls to the hands of who has the loudest megaphone, the largest checkbook, the meanest barbs. Without a claim to moral or at least ethical superiority, we lose an important arrow in our quiver and distort the democratic process. It’s difficult to criticize a system that doesn’t represent the people’s interest when the people aren’t representing their own.

Note: The person who posted the Chris Christie meme  informs me that he later removed the post from his page.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Clinton beats four Republicans in Quinnipiac Poll of Iowa voters

Secretary of State Hillary ClintonIn head-to-head match ups in Iowa against Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie or Rand Paul, Hillary Clinton would be the winner by at least 10 points according to a Quinnipiac Poll released  Thursday. Iowa is important because it’s the first state to have a contest for delegates to the national Democratic and Republican conventions.

The Republican that scores best against Clinton is Paul. As of this month’s poll, she’s running 10 points ahead of him in Iowa at 49 to 39 percent. The others are listed as undecided, wouldn’t vote or wanting someone else.

Clinton polls 13 points ahead of Chris Christie at 48 to 35 percent. In December, Clinton trailed Christie by 5 points, according to Quinnipiac.

In a race between Bush and Clinton, Clinton would win by 14 points and attracts a majority of voters at 51 to 37 percent. In 1992, when Clinton’s husband ran again Bush’s father, Bill Clinton beat George H.W. Bush by less than 6 percent in the national election.

The final match up pitted Clinton against Cruz. In that poll, she won by 16 points at 51 to 35 percent. In a December poll, she was only 7 points ahead of the Texas senator.

Full results can be found here. There’s still two years before the Iowa Caucuses.

—  David Taffet

Hours after being vetoed in N.J., same-sex marriage advances in Maryland

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

The Maryland House of Delegates passed a marriage equality bill Friday evening with a bare minimum of 71 votes to 67. But it did so under the threat of a referendum, and it did so just hours after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie followed through on his promise to veto a marriage equality bill passed by that state’s Legislature on Thursday.

Visitors crowded into the Maryland House erupted into a loud and sustained cheer as the House clerk noted that 71 delegates had voted for the bill.

The vote came after hours of emotional debate that sounded, at times, like a series of sermons — with delegates declaring what they said God has ordained as marriage and warning that same-sex marriage would open the door to polygamy and marriages with children and that it would encourage children to become gay.

Delegate Kathy Afzali, a Republican, said a Democrat in the House begged her to vote against the bill because “it has caused so many churches to split and fracture.” And Republican Michael Smeigiel urged a “no” vote, saying the marriage equality bill would be divisive and that the Legislature should give same-sex couples civil unions.

The Maryland Senate, which passed the bill last year and is likely to do so again this year, is expected to vote in the near future. The bill was sponsored by Maryland’s Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley.

A key vote appeared to be that of Delegate Tiffany Alston, a Democrat from suburban Washington, D.C. Alston said she supported the bill last year but that her constituents opposed it so she voted against it. She said she was supporting and voting for the bill this year because the House adopted her amendment to enable a referendum on the issue.

The Alston amendment delays implementation of the new law until any litigation surrounding a possible referendum is resolved and states that, if any part of the law is “held invalid for any reason in a court of competent jurisdiction,” the entire law shall be made null and void.

The bill also won the support of a key Republican, Delegate A. Wade Kach of Baltimore, who backed the bill after getting approval of an amendment moving the effective date of the bill back from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1. Kach said he wanted to ensure that the bill did not have any impact on the November elections.

The House rejected numerous other amendments, including one that would have enabled parents to opt out their children from receiving any sex education that mentioned same-sex marriages; one that prohibited a minor from marrying a person of the same sex; one that sought to require a constitutional amendment allowing same-sex partners to marry; and one that sought to allow for civil unions only.

The vote in the Maryland House of Delegates had been expected on Thursday, Feb. 16, but a flood of amendments and the sudden hospitalization of one of the bill’s supporters pushed that back until Friday. The chamber, which has 141 delegates, needed 71 to pass the bill.

Many opponents of the measure warned during debate that they would seek a referendum on the measure, if passed. Referenda law in Maryland requires that opponents of laws enacted by the Legislature and signed by the governor file 55,736 valid signatures by May 31.

In New Jersey, Christie issued a “conditional veto” against the marriage equality bill there, saying he would create an “Ombudsman for Civil Unions” to “ensure equal treatment under the law.”

Supporters of the marriage bill said they would begin the process to seek votes to overturn Christie’s veto. They will need 27 in the Senate (where the bill passed with 24 votes) and 54 in the Assembly (where it passed with 42). But the Legislature can take two years to overturn that veto.

There is little expectation that supporters of the marriage equality law will seek a referendum in New Jersey, as Christie suggested.
Christie, in his veto statement, said “an issue of this magnitude and importance … requires a constitutional amendment [and] should be left to the people of New Jersey to decide.”

“I continue to encourage the Legislature to trust the people of New Jersey and seek their input by allowing our citizens to vote on a question that represents a profoundly significant societal change,” said Christie. “This is the only path to amend our State Constitution and the best way to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in our state.”

Unexpectedly, Christie also emphasized his commitment to non-discrimination through his veto statement.

“I have been just as adamant that same-sex couples in a civil union deserve the very same rights and benefits enjoyed by married couples — as well as the strict enforcement of those rights and benefits,” said Christie. “Discrimination should not be tolerated and any complaint alleging a violation of a citizen’s right should be investigated and, if appropriate, remedied. To that end, I include in my conditional veto the creation of a strong Ombudsman for Civil Unions to carry on New Jersey’s strong tradition of tolerance and fairness. The Ombudsman will be charged with increasing awareness of the law regarding civil unions, will provide a clear point of contact for those who have questions or concerns and will be required to report any evidence of the law being violated. In this way, we can ensure equal treatment under the law.”

Lambda Legal Defense still has a lawsuit pending in state court, challenging the validity of the existing civil unions law.

© 2012 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

WATCH: Wash. Gov. Chris Gregoire signs marriage bill, predicts voters will defeat referendum


Gov. Christine Gregoire

Gov. Christine Gregoire signed marriage equality into law in Washington state in a ceremony this afternoon. However, same-sex couples can’t begin marrying there yet pending a possibly ballot measure.

State Rep. Jamie Pedersen introduced his partner and future husband and their four children at the signing ceremony. He credited Gregoire with doing more to advance LGBT rights than anyone else in the country. Gregoire supported the state’s original domestic partnership law and anti-bullying legislation.

“This is a very proud moment,” Gregoire said before signing the bill. “I’m proud that our same-sex couples will not be treated as separate but equal. They will be equal.”

Opponents have two options. They can collect signatures to put the marriage-equality law on the ballot and attempt to repeal it. If the law goes on the ballot, marriage cannot start until after the November election and then only if the proposition fails.

Another option would be to put forth a constitutional amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman. That option would take half the number of signatures to get on the ballot. But the law would go into effect in June, same-sex couples could get married and if the constitutional amendment passes, courts would have to decide if those marriages would remain legal. In California, 18,000 marriages are still considered valid even though Prop 8 stopped the additional marriage licenses from being issued in the state.

If signatures are not collected to stop marriage equality, the law goes into effect in June. In a referendum on Washington’s domestic partnership laws, voters upheld the law with 53 percent of the vote.

“If asked, the voters in Washington will say yes to equality,” Gregoire said.

—  David Taffet

WHAT’S BREWING: King family banned from court and marriage equality grows

Larry King

1. The Lawrence King murder trial got heated yesterday as the victim’s mother was banned from the rest of the trial, according to the LA Times. A teacher testified that she had given King a formal gown. As the King family stormed out of the courtroom, the victim’s mother whispered an expletive at the teacher, which got her banned from the courtroom.

2. Marriage equality has come to part of the Northwest. The Suquamish Tribal Council in Washington state voted this week to recognize same-sex marriage. The new law allows the tribal court to issue a marriage license to two adults. The rest of the state does not have marriage equality but recognizes marriages performed elsewhere.

3. New Jersey’s largest newspaper, the Newark Star Ledger, which has been a supporter of same-sex marriage, said that Gov. Chris Christie should do what Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York did. He should heed the polls that show that a majority of people in New Jersey support equality and should push a same-sex marriage bill through the legislature.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Suit seeks marriage equality in NJ; White House Pride event; Brown Coffee Co.

The Brown Coffee Co.’s anti-gay tweet

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Lambda Legal and Garden State Equality will announce a lawsuit today on behalf of New Jersey same-sex couples who are demanding that their partnerships be recognized by the state as marriages, not civil unions. The suit comes days after the New York Senate voted to legalize same-sex marriage across the Hudson River. The New Jersey Senate in 2010 rejected a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, and GOP Gov. Chris Christie says he would veto any such future legislation. “Gov. Christie says no way will there be marriage equality in New Jersey,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality. “And we say no way are we going to listen to him.”

2. Things could get “awkward” this evening at the White House during President Barack Obama’s annual LGBT Pride Month Reception, according to The New York Times. That’s because invitees will be looking to celebrate marriage equality in New York, but their host doesn’t endorse same-sex marriage. Activists from GetEQUAL will be outside the reception handing out “Get Bold To Get Equal Scavenger Hunts,” described as “a fun but meaningful opportunity for attendees to step up the pressure on the Obama administration for full LGBT equality.” Cece Cox, executive director of Resource Center Dallas, is among those attending the event.

3. A San Antonio-based coffee company provided a bizarre explanation Tuesday for an anti-gay post from its Twitter account Friday night in the wake of the New York Senate’s vote to legalize same-sex marriage. “No human law can ever legitimize what natural law precludes. #SorryFolks #NotEqual #WhyBother #ChasingAfterTheWind #SelfEvident,” read the tweet sent Friday night by The Brown Coffee Co. On Tuesday, the company attempted to explain the tweet on its blog: “This was a post about CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHY and LAWS (a la Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, etc.), not PEOPLE; but somehow people began to twist what was written and added their own lies to the post to mean that somehow we at The Brown Coffee Company are hateful, homophobic, intolerant people. Those are not the facts and we regret that this has descended into something very ugly based on other people’s incorrect reading of the Twitter post.” At least one shop in New York City has stopped buying coffee from Brown Coffee Co. in response to the anti-gay tweet.

—  John Wright

N.J. Senate to take up marriage equality

The N.J. Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the Garden State, NBC New York is reporting today. Time is of the essence, because outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine has said he would sign the bill into law if it passes, whereas incoming Gov. Chris Christie, who’ll be sworn in Jan. 19, has said he’d veto it. If the bill passes the Senate, it must then go to the State Assembly, which would have to hold its final vote next Monday, the last day of the legislative session. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Here’s the text of a press release that just came across the wires from the N.J. Senate Democratic caucus:

TRENTON — Senate President Richard J. Codey (D-Essex) today announced that the full Senate will consider bill S1967 — the “Freedom of Religion and Equality in Civil Marriage Act”— at the voting session scheduled for this Thursday.

“Given the intensely personal nature of this issue, I think the people of this state deserve the right to a formal debate on the Senate floor,” Codey said. “I’d like to commend both sides of this issue for their passionate advocacy thus far and the heartfelt testimony that we have heard.”

The Senate voting session is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 7. Further information on accommodations for the media and the general public will be released tomorrow.

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—  John Wright