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Here We Go Again

October 17th, 2010

Right-wingers jumping on the inane for political traction: Michelle Obama went to her polling place in Illinois to cast her ballot early for the midterm elections. Naturally, she draws a lot of attention–people talking to her, taking photos, etc. One of them, afterwards, tells a reporter:

“She was telling me how important it was to vote to keep her husband’s agenda going.”

RED ALERT!!! The Drudge Report breathlessly gives its take on the story (the link will probably dissolve after a short time, so here’s a grab of the page code, minus ads):


First lady Michelle Obama appears to have violated Illinois law — when she engaged in political discussion at a polling place!

Right-wingers instantly fell on it. One newspaper pundit immediately called on Mrs. Obama to apologize:

She is a Harvard-trained lawyer who broke the law. No one is saying she should be prosecuted. It’s wrong. It’s unlawful. It’s worthy of a public apology.

A blogger at American Thinker was scandalized, and not a little creative:

Ever the pragmatist, Michelle, after voting in full-blown campaign mode, allegedly decided to encourage voters to vote Democratic in close proximity to where voters actually vote. Mrs. Obama posed for polling place pictures and then, according to Mr. Dennis Campbell, after smiling for the camera turned to remind him “how important it was to vote to keep her husband’s agenda going.” …

If, in the end, Michelle’s valiant efforts – criminal or otherwise – fail to turn the tide in favor of Democrats, on Election Day Barack and Michelle can always rely on Black Panther “prayer circles” to keep “clean spirits” from voting.

Note: I had to check to see if that last one was satire. I don’t think it is.

Pajamas Media also started sounding the alarm:

Today, when Michelle Obama voted early in Chicago, she reportedly told a voter that he needed to vote to keep her husband’s legislative agenda alive. This took place in an area where such electioneering is prohibited by Illinois law. The law has criminal consequences.

Like the New Black Panther case, photographs exist of the lawbreaking. And like the dismissal of the New Black Panther case, the administration has swung into action to abet lawbreaking. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the first lady supports her husband’s agenda.

Like so much about the New Black Panther case, that isn’t the point. The point is the rule of law, that precious institution that makes America thrive and, in her darker hours, survive. Laws should apply equally to everyone, whether a president or a prisoner. That is the revolutionary idea that drove our revolution.

Fascinating how the Black Panthers keep getting mentioned, isn’t it? Because I’m sure they were involved somehow.

There are a lot of other examples, from news and blog sources, but you get the idea.

The problem: Michelle Obama did nothing wrong, and even if she had, it would be so innocuous as to be laughable. But she didn’t, as many have pointed out–even, after some thought, Fox News–a blogger for which, strangely, covers all the bases (I hope he still has a job tomorrow):

It all depends on what Obama actually said to the group of voters. Had she specifically told Campbell he needed to vote for a candidate who would support President Obama’s agenda, she would indeed have violated Illinois election laws, as would someone wearing a campaign button or distributing political literature inside a polling place. But according to a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections, Obama made no such statement.

Rather, the elections official said, Obama told the group how important it is to vote early and vote in general, a perfectly appropriate suggestion at a polling place. Campbell’s characterization of the conversation may simply have included his political position, that he voted “to keep her husband’s agenda going,” but not that the first lady had specifically encouraged Campbell to support Obama-friendly candidates.

Even if one of the other voters had mentioned their support for President Obama and the first lady agreed, she would still not be in violation of election statutes because she would not, in that case, have initiated the political conversation. The Chicago Board of Elections has not, at this time, made an inquiry into the matter.

Many other right wingers have taken a more “moderate” approach, blogging on the impropriety and/or giving it the “you decide” treatment. But in the end, it’s a whole lotta nothing.

The fact is, it was just one secondhand comment, almost offhand, not verified, not even checked–and we get a flurry of attention from the whole thing. The right-wing blogosphere and media machine, on the job.

But this is typical of the right wing: you have Christine O’Donnell spending campaign money to cover personal expenses–illegal, but who cares? California’s Whitman hired an illegal alien and lied about it–who cares? In 2008, McCain clearly violated campaign funding laws–who cares? When Republicans commit serious laws regarding or during a campaign, we’re supposed to ignore it. But when the First Lady says something in support of her husband when people approach her in a polling place–and actually breaks no laws–we should be aghast and scandalized, and we deserve a public apology.

You can go back many elections and see the same BS: Republicans violate serious laws, get a bye, but then jump all over Democrats for technical violations that aren’t even violations. It falls into the pattern–excuse what’s happening on the right by making up crap about the left while trying as much as possible to capitalize on it secondarily–like Republicans committing election fraud while accusing Democratic voters of voter fraud, then using that in attempt to squelch the Democratic vote (Michigan State Senator John Pappageorge in 2004, “If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we’re going to have a tough time in this election”).

All in good fun, though, right?

Categories: GOP & The Election, Right-Wing Slime Tags: by
  1. Troy
    October 17th, 2010 at 13:21 | #1

    The stupid thing is not that the BS is vended, it is that anyone pays attention to it or expects the public to.

    Tho the Jerry Brown camp’s gaffe is a true screw-up that deserved to be exposed. If Brown were a true enlightened individual he would not tolerate that form of abuse by his aides. See my “no enemy” post in the other thread . . . Be weird, but justice, if it costs him the election.

  2. stevetv
    October 17th, 2010 at 14:11 | #2

    So it’s justice for him to lose an election after repeatedly apologizing for something he never said?

    Which happens to be a a very common phrase used towards both male and female politicians and which has never caused offence until Whitman’s diligently working PR camp worked overtime to get many gullible people to fall for this fabrication?

    Okay, it’s your prerogative. *shrugs*

  3. Troy
    October 17th, 2010 at 14:48 | #3

    Ok, watching the debate video clip I see he adequately apologized.

    Not that anyone is pure, but I think politics would benefit from people who can stand to have all their private talk exposed in the sunlight.

    This gets back to treating everyone with total respect, *especially* your enemies.

    That’s just if Brown wants to walk his talk as a buddhist. Not sure he’s even doing that stuff any more.

  4. Ken sensei
    October 18th, 2010 at 01:11 | #4

    I agree with stevetv.

    There is no need for Brown to apologize for his aide’s poor choice of words. It may be impolite to refer to Whitman as a “whore”, but it certainly was not illegal. Hiring a undocumented alien for 9 years, on the other hand, is. Lying about her lack of knowledge is unethical and shows poor judgement on Meg’s part. Those are the issues that should be focused on.

    Brown himself did not make that comment, nor can he control the language/comments of those working under him. It is enough for him to say he does not condone that kind of language. An apology would suggest taking responsibility.

    Moreover, it was not a “sexist” comment directed towards all woman or female politicians. The comment refers to one particular executive, who happens to be female, who sold out to certain entities for political gain. Although that is commonplace in today’s politics, it is one kind of corruption. So perhaps that aspect of her campaign should be focused on as well.

    In my opinion, politicians are huge targets for name-calling and offensive language. I am sure Jerry Brown has been called a “whore” and worse by those who oppose him. One becomes accustomed to it as part of the job. In short, if you can’t stand the heat, …


  5. Troy
    October 18th, 2010 at 06:01 | #5

    Brown himself did not make that comment, nor can he control the language/comments of those working under him.

    It didn’t effect my vote for him but it did disappoint me a little.

    The word “whore” has never been used in any context in any form in my professional life. That the word had currency in Brown’s campaign reflects a bit on the standards he was operating under.

    Call me an idealist, but if I were King I’d insist that all government offices be bugged Nixon/Big Brother style. Any discussions in government that can’t stand the light of day are simply highly likely to be not conducive to advancing the public interest.

    I was under the impression that he was a highly moral man. This made him out to be more on the Gavin Newsom level.

    Moreover, it was not a “sexist” comment directed towards all woman or female politicians.

    Just sayin’ it’s not very enlightened in the disrespect it showed to his opponent as a person. That’s the apology that he should have issued and moved on, instead of trying to lawyer his way out of it.

    Obviously running for the governorship of US’s largest state results in a very formalized clash of personalities.

  6. stevetv
    October 18th, 2010 at 10:00 | #6

    Ken sensei :I agree with stevetv.
    There is no need for Brown to apologize for his aide’s poor choice of words.

    Actually, I disagree with that. Apologizing is very smart because it stops the discussion dead in its tracks. There will be no “Why won’t Jerry Brown apologize?” rhetoric hijacking the campaign. He said he’s sorry, it’s done, let’s move on.

    Needless to say, I disagree with almost everything Troy wrote, but let’s leave it at that.

  7. Ken sensei
    October 18th, 2010 at 14:13 | #7

    Yes, apologizing is an effective way to move on, you’re right. I’ve done it a few times myself to disarm a few explosive situations.

    I just felt a bit odd watching Brown apologize. He sort of walked a thin line between apologizing and avoiding responsibility. In fact, Brown looked on the defensive for a large part of the third debate, but on the offensive on the second one. I felt a bit uncomfortable to see the tables turn on him. He looked rather angry, agitated, and seemed to lack his previous confidence, even stumbled on his words in places. I think that apology had a psychological impact on his performance that night.

    So that is why I said it was an unnecessary apology in that it caused a change in his demeanor. But I suppose he made the right choice.

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