It seems to be open season on vilifying public figures who do or say things that others find offensive. Not surprisingly, given the media's left-wing bias, two current targets are Fox anchors Jeanine Pirro and Tucker Carlson. Ms. Pirro questioned whether Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's Islamic religious beliefs are inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. "Think about it: Omar wears a hijab," Pirro said on her show on March 9. "Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to Sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?" Hardly incendiary, but it elicited a firestorm of invective.
Similarly, Tucker Carlson was the target of a hit piece this week from left-wing attack dog Media Matters that consisted of a series of clips of remarks that Carlson had made between 2006 and 2011 in radio conversations with shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge. Carlson himself described them as "naughty." I'd probably classify them as closer to "nasty" and "tasteless," but they're nothing worse than every kid above the age of twelve hears at school. Another firestorm erupted.
In her 2017 book, "The Smear," Sharyl Attkisson lays out in detail the double standards applied by Media Matters and other "hit groups." On pages 52-53, she describes various gaffes or offensive statements by Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Harry Reid, and Chuck Hagel, that were given a pass. For example, in 2007, Biden made this distasteful comment about Barack Obama: "I mean you've got the first sort of mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and nice-looking guy." And in 2008, then-Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV), said that Obama had promise as a presidential candidate because of his "light-skinned" appearance and his ability to speak "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Apparently, the outrage machine was turned off.
The more important point is that there are far more momentous problems with what public figures say and do that are largely ignored. Take Congress. (Or as Don Rickles might have said, "Please...take Congress!")
It's no coincidence that the intelligence and competence of members of Congress, who make our laws and oversee the workings of Executive Branch agencies, have so often been spoofed.
"Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself," quipped Mark Twain.
Milton Berle observed, "You can lead a man to Congress, but you can't make him think."
Will Rogers addressed the consequences of these deficiencies: "When Congress makes a joke it's a law, and when they make a law, it's a joke."
There are numerous examples of the joke being on us. A friend of mine was seated at a banquet table with the family of then-Rep. Dan Glickman (D-KS). The family expressed relief at his having entered politics because none of them thought Dan was smart enough to enter the family business -- automobile and appliance shredding and scrap metal.
Former U.S. Congressman John Salazar (D-CO.) related this anecdote: "When I was debating what became the 2008 Farm Bill, I had a member of the Agriculture Committee actually ask me if chocolate milk really comes from brown cows. I asked if he was joking and he assured me he wasn't."
That's in the same category as the concern of Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA.) that stationing 8,000 U.S. military personnel on Guam would cause the small island to "become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize."
Currently serving Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX.) once proclaimed that the U.S. Constitution is 400 years old. And as a member of the House Science Committee, during a visit to the Mars Pathfinder Operations Center, she asked a NASA scientist whether the Mars Pathfinder probe had photographed the flag that astronaut Neil Armstrong left behind in 1969. Armstrong had, of course, left the flag on the moon, not on Mars. No manned spacecraft has visited Mars.
In 2010 Lee proclaimed on the House floor that "victory had been achieved" by the United States in the Vietnam War and that "today, we have two Vietnams: side-by-side, north and south, exchanging and working." In fact, U.S.-backed South Vietnam capitulated three years after Lee graduated from college. (And at the time she made that erroneous statement, Lee was a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.)
I once attended a conference at which Rep. Tom Bliley (R-VA.), then chairman of the powerful House Commerce Committee, spoke by teleconference. As he recited from a prepared statement, he included the "stage instructions" – such as "pause for emphasis" – that had been inserted by his speechwriter. And where one line had been inadvertently duplicated, Bliley read it a second time.
Carelessness? Intoxication? Senility? Don't voters have a right to know?
Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM.), was sufficiently forthright to reveal in 2007 that he had been diagnosed with frontotemporal lobar degeneration – an inexorably progressive, incurable disease characterized by the wasting away of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Because of the behavioral changes and dementia that accompany this condition, Domenici announced that he would not seek reelection the following year.
I had great sympathy for Mr. Domenici, but should the people of New Mexico have been represented for another year by a senator who admitted to suffering from progressive dementia? I believe he should have resigned at the time his illness was diagnosed.
Speaking of brain pathology and dementia, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA.) has been slurring her speech and having difficulty pronouncing words. It was especially pronounced during a press briefing in June but has been noticeable since at least April of last year. This is not normal.
Where were the left-wing attack dogs while all this was occurring?
The intelligence and judgement of our elected leaders is much more important than what pundits on Fox News Channel (or CNN or MSNBC) say. That's where the firestorm should be directed.
Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a physician and molecular biologist. He was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology.