xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Mitch Edelman: Hole-digging stepped up for election

Mitch Edelman

The first rule of holes is when you've dug yourself into a hole stop digging.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been exposed to several prominent instances of people digging themselves into holes.

Hilary Rosen is a lobbyist and a Democratic Party supporter; she dug a hole for herself in referring to Ann Romney, saying, "she never worked a day in her life." The very next day, Democratic-leaning websites like the Huffington Post dropped their connections with her. President Barack Obama distanced himself from her remarks, saying "There's no tougher job than being a mom. ... I don't have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates." Rosen herself apologized for her "poorly chosen words."

If Rosen dug a pothole, Florida Representative Allen West created a Grand Canyon-sized hole for himself when he declared that "about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party are members of the Communist Party." When asked to name them, he said, "the Congressional Progressive Caucus." The Miami Herald summarized his remarks in three words, "That's a lie." His digging continued last week, when he appeared on "Shark Tank," an ABC News show. West said he has "no regrets at all" for his accusations. Just this Tuesday, West placed an opinion column in The Hill, a Congressional newspaper, claiming that the Democratic party is nothing other than a repackaging of communism.

Each time he speaks, he continues to dig himself in more deeply. Leaving aside all comparisons between West and Joseph McCarthy (of whom Joseph Welch famously asked, "Have you no sense of decency?") his outrageous comments rightly drew fire from many different directions, a large number of newspapers, BET and the NAACP, which disinvited him from speaking at an event in his home district.

Rosen is a private citizen, but even so, Democrats quickly put as much space as they could between themselves and her comments. West is a Republican office-holder. Based on that, one might reasonably conclude that his views are those of the Republican Party.

Republicans have tried to equate Rosen's remarks with West's. When Florida Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith asked his Republican counterpart to issue some sort of apology for West's equating Democrats to Stalin, Republican Party of Florida chairman Lenny Curry said, "Rod Smith could better invest his energy by asking fellow Democrat leaders like Hilary Rosen to stop their hateful speech ..."

West's and Rosen's remarks are not equivalent. Rosen's remark was foolish, not hateful, West's remarks were foolish, hateful and false. Rosen realized her blunder and was quick to apologize for it. West dug himself in even further. The Democrats separated themselves from Rosen's comment. The Republicans tried to divert attention from West's vicious statement onto Rosen. West holds office as a Republican; Rosen is a private citizen.

There is a more fundamental issue at hand than the nature of their remarks and how they've been dealt with. It's the nature of political speech itself. When a political party persists in repeating outrageous lies, making ad hominem attacks and challenging the right of its opponents to hold differing points of view, then that party creates a climate where it's impossible for either party to govern.

Sixty-two years ago, Republican Sen. Margaret Chase Smith placed country above party with her famous "declaration of conscience." She said, "The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as Communists by their opponents. Freedom of speech ... has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others."

Smith was speaking about McCarthy. She could just as easily have been talking about West. Wherever the voice of conscience is in today's political world, it cannot be found in Allen West's remarks, and that is what truly separates West from Rosen - and from other Republicans.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement