Sincerity: If You Can Fake That, You've Got It Made
This week was pile-on-Jack-Harper week, in both newspapers, and of course I wanted to join the fun. You don't need to know much about Arizona politics to get the background; Harper is one of these blow-dry right-wingers who confuses being public office with being a conservative talk radio host, which raises the question, How can you possibly tell those two types apart?
My proposed headline was "Being a 'Winger Means Never Having To Say You're Sorry," but a "Love Story" reference is so 1970's that my editor simply couldn't allow it. And his headline mimics perfectly Pres. Bush's response to critics of the DP Worldwide approval: "This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America." He was for it before he was against it! However, the editor took out the Jimmy Carter sentence--probably as a public service, as they feared too many of their readers' heads would explode if they read that. I've put it back in.
HARPER'S APOLOGY NO MORE SINCERE THAN BUSH'S CONCERN
East Valley Tribune, Feb. 26, 2006
The Dubai Ports Worldwide deal makes George W. Bush’s concern about protecting the homeland seem as honest and sincere as a Jack Harper apology.
For those needing background information to understand that analogy, state Sen. Harper, R-Surprise, has set the new (lower) standard for political civility. Please recall that when a prominent GOP state senator's son was arrested on felony charges, not one Democratic officeholder, or the state Democratic Party, tried to use the family’s problems for political purposes. I wouldn’t have shown such discretion, but those who actually represent the Democrats in Arizona did.
But after the arrest of the adult son (who lived on his own) of a statewide Democratic candidate, Harper made a speech on the Senate floor to say that the arrest showed a “culture of corruption” inside the candidate’s household.
To their credit, some GOP senators (including state Sen. Carolyn Allen, R-Scottsdale) immediately recognized that Harper’s diatribe went over the line and demanded he apologize. But he initially refused, then the next day (after somebody probably pointed out the glass house inside of which he had thrown his stones) managed to apologize to the Democratic candidate’s spouse and other children -- pointedly leaving out the candidate, whom he described as a “big boy” who should expect such abuse for having the temerity to run for public office as a Democrat.
A number of Republicans outside the Senate also called on Harper to apologize including, to his credit, the GOP incumbent opponent. And to their credit, editorialists at both local daily newspapers denounced Harper, with the Tribune describing him as having reached “the bottom of the cesspool.”
But Harper’s after-the-fact sort-of non-apology seems to have satisfied the GOP powers-that-be. Harper still holds his elective office and his status as chair of one Senate committee and vice-chair of another; he’ll be supported by the state GOP in his re-election bid. Sure, he got slapped on the wrist editorially for a day, but that seems a small price for keeping what would have been a one-day story in the news again, and again, and again. And the editorials attacking Harper did spell his name correctly, which is the usual definition of good publicity.
So is civility really worth anything? The elected Democrats behaved honorably but got no credit, while the Republicans still have a hothead who violates supposed standards of decency, and who gets to keep doing it until, someday, he’ll be term-limited -- and then probably get voted into higher office by the talk-radio crowd which loves his cheap shots. Only Jack Harper could possibly make his rumored primary opponent, former state Sen. Scott Bundgaard, seem like an improvement.
Which brings us to the Dubai Ports deal, which this newspaper called “a reckless shirking of duty to protect our nation from terrorist infiltration and political corruption” by the Bush administration. I will disagree, but quietly; if you want to know about the merits of the transaction, go read The Wall Street Journal. (Hey, Jimmy Carter supports President Bush on this issue, if you need even more reassurance.) In my probably-should-be-humbler opinion, the contract for operation of shipping terminals in 6 ports has as much to do with national security as whether low-level employees of the Department of Homeland Security should have civil service protections.
In other words, there’s no connection at all. But that didn’t stop Republicans from using that fake issue to paint lots of Democrats as in-bed-with-Osama, terrorist-loving weaklings. So if Bush needs to explain that his long-standing love of all corporations extends to those owned by the United Arab Emirates, that dollars matter more than homeland security, and that fighting terrorism takes a back seat to the Emir’s business deals, then I’m delighted to let him.
So I plan to enjoy a political squabble that unites Hillary Clinton and Jon Kyl -- not just with each other, but against John McCain. And if you ever think I’ve gone too far, I’m happy to apologize -- just like Jack Harper.