When people in high places say dumb things
Ego and ignorance can prove dangerous at the top of the ladder
Those of you past a certain age may remember the old Art Linkletter show “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” The one I still remember was when Linkletter asked a little boy if he looked like his daddy. “No,” replied the boy innocently, “I look like the mailman.”
Well, adults say the darnedest things, too. Sometimes they give us a window into their egos or their ignorance. Sometimes their comments contain important truths. Other times, they don’t even make sense. Let me give you an example of each kind of statement, starting with an example of the latter.
Many journalists have dutifully reported that the latest Greek bailout will reduce Greece’s national debt to a “sustainable” level of 120 percent of gross domestic product (from more than 164 percent today) by the year 2020. The problem is, they never explain how Greece will be sustained through the next eight years of “unsustainable” debt levels until the level supposedly becomes sustainable. Sustaining the unsustainable for eight years is quite a trick.
At the opposite pole from such unthinking fatuity is a statement of blazing clarity made by Rick Santorum at the Feb. 22 GOP debate. With refreshing candor, Mr. Santorum stated to a nationwide audience, “I voted for that [No Child Left Behind Act]; it was against the principles I believe in . . . and I made a mistake.” Politics is known as a business where principles routinely fall by the wayside, but rare indeed is the politician who admits to compromising principles.
As an example of a statement that displays a disturbing ignorance of elementary economic rationality, President Obama’s friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett recently asserted that unemployment payments are economically beneficial because “people who receive that unemployment check go out and spend it and help stimulate the economy.” Those who advance this theory never explain how prosperity can improve from putting more money into circulation without any additional goods or services being produced. If the key to economic progress is more money in circulation, then let Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben S. Bernanke rain money down on us from the figurative helicopter to which he once alluded. In real life, boosting prosperity is not that simple.
It’s scary when one realizes how many members of Team Obama, including the leader himself, share Ms. Jarrett’s faith in tossing money at a problem. Apparently, they really believe in the mysticism that economist John Maynard Keynes preached when he wrote in 1943 that increasing credit [or money] performed the “miracle . . . of turning a stone into bread.” Finally, if you want a supreme example of how a statement can provide a revealing glimpse of a person’s ego, consider the president’s speech at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 2. In it, he attempted to justify tax increases and government redistribution of wealth by citing Jesus’ statement that “unto whom much is given, much shall be required.”
I agree 100 percent with what the Lord said, but Mr. Obama tore it out of context and twisted its meaning. The statement, which is the punch line in Jesus’ parable of the talents, reminds us that it is God, not government, who has blessed humans with the gifts of life and talent and that we owe it to God, not government, to use those gifts productively for His glory and purposes. For a human being, even one as powerful as the president of the United States, to seek to usurp the place and prerogatives of the Creator takes hubris to the highest degree imaginable.
Yes, people do say the darnedest things. And those things can be quite illuminating when we pay attention.
Ilike to think of Sandra Fluke’s contretemps with the madly admired Rush Limbaugh as, well, a fluke. She objected to his joke about her being “a slut” and “a prostitute,” and, hesto presto, the part-time Georgetown University law student struck pay dirt. You object to my characterization of her as “part-time”? How could she be a full-time law student and still be appearing before Congress explicating the plight of coeds with $3,000 contraceptive bills or others suffering the heartbreak of being rejected publicly at the pharmacy for insurance coverage of a birth control pill? Then there was all the other media attention that came from Rush’s little joke. Yes, I see it as a fluke, defined by the Dictionary of American Slang as “a fortuitous accident.” Was not Ms. Fluke felicitously named years ago, before anyone ever thought of talk radio?
Surely Ms. Fluke will now become an outspoken advocate for contraception, fighting the good fight for free birth control five decades after the development of the pill. Could anyone have imagined the birth control pill’s ability to engender controversy 52 years after it became a staple of American life? Surely Ms. Fluke will branch out, defending all kinds of gynecological innovations that trouble some, say, Catholics, Southern Baptists or secular humanists who are skeptical of Obamacare. Perhaps she will become a champion of the manly condom. Of course, she will pronounce on abortion whatever her religious convictions. She will become a latter-day Gloria Steinem. But my guess is her season of splendors will be short-lived. I mean, who is going to get exercised over birth control or other gynecological innovations in the 21st century? Once the election is over and the Democrats have no need to corral the women who fall for this claptrap, Ms. Fluke will be back at law school immersed in the mysteries of contract law. Her moment of fame really was a fluke.
Yet it did open my eyes, and probably Rush’s, too. Every few days for more than two decades, he has been hazarding a reckless joke and seeing how it plays. I have, too. Now, however, an audacious woman, Kirsten Powers, has shown us the rancor and absence of standards that diminish our public discourse. She says she is a liberal, and I shall take her at her word, but she seems to me to be a very old-fashioned liberal, one who does not flinch at the evidence.
Writing for the Daily Beast, Ms. Powers has come up with a lot of foul-mouthed media personalities far fouler than Rush. I was not aware of their existence, and I doubt Rush was. They lack wit and humor, and they have no ideas, just irritable one-liners. In fact, after the desperate pursuit of an idea, they settle for scurrility. Thus, the physically disfigured Bill Maher calls Sarah Palin a “dumb t—-” and a “c—-.” He jokes about Rick Santorum’s wife using a sex device, nothing about the immensely more humorous spectacle of his use of such devices or even a dirty book. Ms. Powers quotes some slug by the name of Ed Schultz as saying Sarah Palin set off a “bimbo alert” and calling Laura Ingraham, can you believe it, a “right-wing slut”? Then there is Keith Olbermann wishing that right-wing columnist S.E. Cupp had been aborted by her parents and describing Michelle Malkin as a “mashed-up bag of meat with lipstick.” How very literary.
This is the quality of mind that holds forth on liberal cable television. No one there objects to the gutter talk, which is hurled at conservative women. No sponsors threaten to pull their advertisements. That probably should not surprise me. I have been arguing for months that liberalism is dead. Here is proof that it is brain dead.
Yet I cannot believe that this election is going to turn on the question of whether the federal government is going to pay for birth control procedures that have been around for 52 years. The Democrats are aiming at the moron vote, and let them have it. The real question here is religious liberty and the matter of choice. Should churches and individuals have to pay for medical procedures they do not approve of? Democrats, in the party of the straitjacket, say yes. Republicans, in the party of choice and of personal freedom, say no.