There is no lazier or duller criticism in politics than the “hey, if your guy said this…” gambit. You know how it works. A figure on the right/left makes a comment that sends tongues a-waggin’. Critics on the left/right argue the tongues did not wag hard enough – why, what if one of our guys had said that?
Enter Rudy Giuliani, a largely popular has-been who’s settling nicely into a gig as Official Romney Campaign Concern Troll, and who played the role on Fox News last night.
The two main articles on the front page of The New York Times [Wednesday] were about Congressman Akin, hard to believe when they never put Biden’s remarks a week ago, two weeks ago, even on the front page. And here we’re talking about a sitting vice president making totally idiotic remarks, blatant attempt to appeal to racism and somehow, Akin’s remark of a congressman is considered more important than Biden’s continual gaffes and the big question that Biden raises as to whether he’s capable of being vice president.
Watching Rudy Giuliani try to traffic-cop issues of racial sensitivity – this will never stop being funny. But what about the criticism?
1) The fact that two quotes are controversial does not mean that the quotes are interchangeable. This should be obvious, but it isn’t. Joe Biden told a mixed-race audience in Virginia that Mitt Romney was promising to “unchain Wall Street” and “put y’all back in chains.” Taking the worst possible interpretation of Biden, he was saying that Republican administration, by reversing financial regulations aimed at preventing predatory lending, would be bad for blacks. Todd Akin said that if a woman suffers a “legitimate” rape – meaning non-statutory, non-date – her body has “ways of shutting all that down.” Taking that the hard way, Akin was saying that America could do with tougher restrictions on abortion because some science he’d heard suggested that women could prevent some pregnancies with hormones.
2) Criticism from your own side elevates a story. No Democrat currently holding elective office actually criticized Joe Biden. Some, off the record, were annoyed and embarassed. But they’re more annoyed when Republicans pitch fits about “racist quotes,” as they did when Harry Reid was revealed to have mused about Barack Obama’s “dialect” – they view these fits as distractions. Akin, on the other hand, was denounced for 24 hours by fellow Republicans who realized that they could replaced him on the ballot with a candidate who held the same positions but didn’t talk about rape junk science. Akin’s party chairman and presidential nominee wanted him out. That’s a bigger story than “fellow Republicans ignore comment by Republican?
There, that wasn’t too complicated.