As it happens, I agree with the general thrust of Rudy Giuliani’s comments about President Obama. That being said, for people who are running for President, there might be some political benefit to trying to create distance between themselves and those remarks. Definitely, the media believes that the remarks are damaging to Republican Presidential candidates, so they have been making the rounds to all the contenders demanding that they answer for them, in a predictable and tiresome game of placing the Republican inbetween the rock of his own base and the hard place of swing voters.
There is a reason the media does this, and that is that it works. For years and years our candidates have been stupid enough to fall into the trap of engaging these questions on the substance. As a result, one of two things happens – either the Republican who said them becomes toxic (see Todd Akin) and loses an election, or the person in question loses luster by condemning remarks that significant parts of the Republican base disagrees with.
This is an area where, quite frankly, Democrats are smarter than we are. For one thing, they do not get asked this question nearly as often because the media is on their side. Nothing anyone on the GOP side says is half as crazy as what falls out of the mouth of Sheila Jackson Lee or Joe Biden on a weekly basis. But secondly, on the rare occasion when a Democrat steps in it so severely that the media is forced, out of a sense of shame, to report on the remarks, Democrats circle the wagons and trust that voters don’t hold politicians accountable (generally speaking) for not condemning something someone else said.
Our cowardly and craven rush to throw our own politicians and candidates under the bus in order to appear “reasonable” to the media is both harmful to our electoral prospects and also helps the media narrative that the right is more full of nuts than the left. This is an inexcusable trap to fall into when literally half of Democrat voters are 9/11 truthers – which is a crazier theory than anything anyone on the right says.
In any event, the press made their way around to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to ask him about Giuliani’s comments late this week. Giuliani, you may remember, is not currently elected to any office, isn’t running for any office, and shows no indication that he will run for anything ever again in his life. The idea that every elected Republican should have to answer for him, when no elected Democrat has to answer for Joe Biden, who is the sitting Vice President of the United States, is preposterous and absurd. Rubio gets credit here for being the first person to engage this story on those merits rather than treating Giuliani’s comments as an actual news story:
The potential 2016 presidential contender was asked about Giuliani’s remarks by Florida TV station WPBF.
“I don’t feel like I’m in a position to have to answer for every person in my party that makes a claim,” Rubio responded, according to a transcript provided by his office.
“Democrats aren’t asked to answer every time Joe Biden says something embarrassing, so I don’t know why I should answer every time a Republican does,” he continued. “I’ll suffice it to say that I believe the president loves America; I think his ideas are bad.”
And just like that, the story isn’t about Giuliani, or Republicans standing up for Giuliani, or Republicans piling on Giuliani, the story is about the fact that Joe Biden is an offensive idiot who repeatedly says racist and/or sexist things and isn’t condemned by anyone in his party, ever, but rather treated as a lovable, crazy uncle.
This is exactly how this dumb media gotcha game should be engaged, every single time. I hope the other 2016 contenders are taking notes.