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Minnich: The hollow sound of talking points

If your head is spinning faster than a Russian fake news troll site, don’t blame the mainstream media. Blame the back-room players who conjure up something called “talking points” for political partisans.

Congressman Andy Harris (R-Md.) may be a very nice man and even a decent doctor. But Harris was pushed out on stage by the pledge-takers because campaigning for a Republican office was relatively easy on the Eastern Shore, Southern Maryland and any county west of Baltimore. All you had to say, when asked if you would cut taxes, was, “Yes.”

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Harris goes back to the days of the Club for Growth movement of about 2002. The hard-core conservatives were looking for foot soldiers for the next election, and the goal was to eliminate any candidate, Republican or not, who was what they called a RINO — Republican In Name Only.

It mattered not that the incumbent Republican in the First District was respected, responsive and more competent than any conceivable replacement. The conservative base wanted people who would heel to the line, which was take the pledge to raise no taxes and spend no money (unless business or friends got it). Besides, the incumbent worked across the aisle with Democrats to get things done.

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The conservative base seeks candidates for office from the city council through the county to state and federal offices to vocalize the mantra that that conservatives are good and Democrats or anybody who tolerates more progressive discussion are not to be allowed to serve in any office, not even dog-catcher. That’s close to a direct quote from a volunteer for the county Republican Central Committee.

After listening to several interviews over the past week, both on NPR and on one of the cable networks, it’s apparent he drank the Kool-Aid and he’s the perfect rollout when the deck chairs on the Titanic need to be rearranged. And he has clones.

The mindlessness with which he and other intransigent Trump supporters dismiss and deflect questions to pivot to talking points is right out of the script the party runs for candidates. They’re still bringing up Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama, for pity’s sake.

They ignore facts and try to stir up the faithful with slogans and vilification.

They hug the Constitution but look the other way when the president hijacks the law to make it his tool of retribution against anyone whom he deems a threat to his power — therefore treasonous. Loose talk, but it can work.

Talking points were invented by seventh-grade boys to divert attention away from their own misdeeds at recess on the playground.

“Why did you hit Johnny?”

In politics today, the talking points are not a denial, nor a reason. It’s “You should be asking Johnny why he hit Jack. And anyway, no one ever saw anything worse than what Pete and Bobby were doing in the cafeteria and everybody knows I’m great.”

Grown-ups are supposed to move on from those tactics, but the ones who do not are prized for their talents in some political circles and law firms.

After listening to two interviews with Maryland’s First District congressman, I don’t know what Harris knows about the issues surrounding the issues swirling around the Presidency, other than a translation: If you aren’t a Believer in the Trump Presidency, don’t ask.

He’s the perfect Trump Republican mouthpiece.

Dean Minnich is a retired journalist and served two terms as a county commissioner. His column appears on Thursdays. Write comments to dminnichwestm@gmail.com.

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