No, I’m not referring to my previously stated aim of posting something new every week or two. But I have an excuse! Wanna hear it? Didn’t think so.
If you’re like me, you get frustrated with the media sometimes. Maybe our reasons are different, but I’ll bet that you can relate to that statement if I put it that broadly.
My gripe is about reporters who don’t ask the obvious questions. When, for example, Mitt Romney declares that he is not a politician, it should not be left for his opponents on the debate stage to ask what the hell he could possibly mean by that. What kind of not-a-politician runs for and holds elective office over so many years? If not that, how would he define what a politician is?
That is not to say that Romney would give a straight answer if asked such a straight question. In getting to know more about him during this election campaign season, I can certainly understand why so many Republicans are reluctant to warm up to him. Dislike him or hate him, it’s really difficult to get a grip on where he stands on an issue. Never mind his numerous well-documented flip-flops; Romney has shown himself to be averse to taking positions in the first place.
For example, Romney has frequently criticized President Obama’s leadership. That’s obviously not a bold stance for someone of the opposition party to take, so it behooves him to expand on the theme. Romney is against how Obama handled the situation in Libya. Naturally. A logical follow-up question, then, would be, “Okay, smart-ass, if you were leader, what would you have done differently?”
Why is that a hard question to ask? How is that a hard question to think of on the spot? One of my basic criticisms of politicians and other weasels in general — and conservatives specifically — is the assumption of agreement, that they can let their assertions lie there unchallenged. So Romney gets away with essentially saying, “Of course I would have handled it better because of who I am and who he is, no further explanation necessary.” But no, it is the duty of reporters to press for explanations. How are we to be well informed if they don’t inform?
In a televised debate before the New Hampshire primary, Romney was asked if he would favor banning the most popular form of birth control. He acted as if he was befuddled that such a question would be asked. “What do you mean by such a question? Why would I take a position on that? No state is trying to ban birth control! Why would you ask me that?”, he said. But the question was not as out-of-the-blue as Romney pretended it was. First, Romney’s newly minted top debate foe, former Senator Rick Santorum, had previously made remarks that the use of birth control is a problem for society. Where Romney ties into the issue, he would need to recall way, way back to November 2011. Two months before that evening’s debate, the state of Mississippi had a ballot measure that would have defined life as beginning at conception. As a consequence, hormone-based birth control pills, which thwart (or terminate) pregnancy by preventing a fertilized egg from implanting in a uterine wall, would effectively destroy ‘life.’ Thusly, using birth control pills would be criminalized. Before that vote took place, Romney was a guest on the TV show “Huckabee,” and the host, Mike Huckabee, asked him if he would support a constitutional amendment defining life as beginning at conception. Contrary to his previously stated position, Romney answered, “Absolutely!”
So Romney believes, at least for this election cycle, that life begins at conception. Given that, connecting the dots of recent developments, it’s not far-fetched to say that he believes (for now, anyway) that birth control pills should be illegal. But he doesn’t want to come out and say that. Well, I can’t exactly blame him for that since it is a ridiculous and wildly unpopular position to take. And in his defense, the ballot measure was soundly defeated, even in Mississippi. Perhaps he felt that the crushing defeat of the measure rendered the question moot.
But the questioner, ABC’s George Stephanopolous, blew it. He had all the dots for connection, but it was his duty not to assume that all the viewers did as well. He let Romney get away with playing dumb. However, his duty was to press Romney to explain his position in light of the Mississippi measure and in light of Romney’s own response to Huckabee’s question. Stephanopolous had an opportunity to inform the viewers and he neglected to do so.
Remember former Senator John Ensign (R-NV)? Perhaps you do because the most memorable thing about him has to do with sex. I intend to write more about him later, but rest assured my angle here is to pin a charge of hypocrisy on his fellow former Senator (R-PA), current presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Before I get back to Ensign, I just want to say that Santorum’s speech after the Iowa Caucuses was great. It struck a populist tone and told a compelling personal story. Mitt Romney outwaited Santorum, each determined to go last and snatch the perception of victory while the actual outcome was still being tabulated, but Romney’s ‘victory’ speech (by order, not by content) paled in comparison to Santorum’s. During the subsequent week in New Hampshire, it sure didn’t take Santorum long to turn back into himself: intolerant, sanctimonious, belligerent.
So to bring you up to speed on John Ensign, his enduring blot on the political landscape was his prolonged affair with his political treasurer, Cynthia Hampton, whose husband Doug was Ensign’s administrative assistant. She reportedly tried to end the affair sooner, but was trapped on account of both her husband and her being dependent on Senator Ensign for employment. (Spoiler alert: Ensign fired them both, anyway.) There was also $ 96,000 paid to the Hamptons by Ensign’s parents as a ‘generous gift to family friends,’ but certainly not as hush money. Who said anything about hush money? Why would you think such a thing?
Distraught and desperate for his wife’s affair with the Senator to end, Doug Hampton contacted Ensign’s friend, former Senator Santorum, and told him that he was going to go public with the story in order to force Ensign into breaking off the affair.
Now you may claim that this is entirely speculative on my part, but I believe that if Ensign had been a Democrat rather than Santorum’s friend and fellow Republican, Santorum would have reacted differently. He would have told Ensign that he found his conduct to be disgusting and reprehensible, and that he should resign from office immediately. That is Santorum’s pattern; to be shocked at the immoral behavior of others. What did he do instead? He called his pal Ensign and tipped him off that the affair was about to be exposed, and he might want to get out ahead of the story.
So why isn’t Rick Santorum, a candidate for president, being questioned about his conduct? Does his character not matter? He’s certainly not shy about holding others accountable… Democrats, anyway.
Come on, reporters! Do your job! Ask the questions that beg for answers:
“Senator Santorum: Why did you not encourage Senator Ensign to resign from office?”
“Senator Santorum: As a family-values guy, please comment on your friend Senator Ensign’s destroying the marriage of his friends, the Hamptons.” (To date, I believe that the Ensigns are still together despite John’s infidelity.)
“Senator Santorum: Why did you rat out Doug Hampton?”
All I’m asking is that he, and all candidates, Republicans and Democrats, be held accountable for their words, their actions, and especially their words vis-à-vis their actions. What’s so hard about that?