The GOP pre-Iowa straw poll presidential debate last night earned a few ethics awards, with many more to come as we get to know these pretenders better:
Journalistic Integrity Award: Chris Wallace, Fox news anchor and questioner.
Wallace continues to bring legitimate and fair journalistic practices to his job, and gets accused of being biased anyway. Or, as in this case, (and as when he shocked Michele Bachmann by asking her directly what everyone was implying, “Are you a flake?”), conservatives who expect softballs from Fox react with indignation that an assumed ally is asking a tough question. Wallace asked Newt Gingrich about his flailing campaign organization, and Gingrich angrily called it a “gotcha” question. That’s not a “gotcha,” Newt, and you know it. When most of a candidate’s campaign staff, those who know him best, have indicated that they don’t think he has a chance—or perhaps shouldn’t have a chance—by jumping ship, it is fair and responsible to ask a candidate to explain.
But Wallace just can’t win. Here’s how the Huffington Post explained Wallace’s tough questions:
“In Ames, Iowa, we saw a FOX news team grilling the Republican primary contenders with a zeal last seen unleashed at Bret Baier’s one-on-one with President Obama during the pique of White House sanctions of the network. The at-times caustic tone was an unequivocal sign that internally conservatives are taking seriously the task of green-lighting a unifying, winning candidate from their party’s ideological and leadership disarray.”
Yup: tough questions to conservatives prove that Wallace is biased too. Sorry, Chris. They’ll see what they want to see.
Leadership Comprehension Award: Tim Pawlenty, explaining to Rep. Michele Bachmann why being a “champion” is distinct from being a successful leader.
“She fought for less government spending, we got a lot more. She led the effort against ObamaCare, we got ObamaCare. She led the effort against [the 2008 Troubled Assets Relief Program, which bailed out Wall Street], we got TARP. If that’s your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, because you’re killing us.”
Bingo. Leadership is easy to measure: if things get better, your organization and followers prosper, and there are tangible results from your leadership, then you are an effective leader. If all you do is attract attention, fight lost causes, and criticize, you may be an advocate or an agitator or an activist, but you are not an effective leader.
To be fair, the verdict isn’t in on Bachmann yet, for a House representative isn’t a true leadership position, and Bachmann has accomplished something as a leader, like it or not. She has propelled the Tea Party movement into national prominence.
The Humpty Dumpty Award: Michele Bachmann, for her convenient re-defining of “submissive.”
In “Though the Looking Glass,” Lewis Carroll’s wonderful sequel to “Alice in Wonderland,” the heroine encounters Humpty Dumpty, sitting on a wall (naturally.) They have a typically confusing discussion, and at one point the arrogant egg says, “There’s glory for you!”
Alice is confused:
“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,”‘ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
“But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,” Alice objected.
“`When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
Last night Bachmann was asked about an interview last month in which she said that she had studied tax law because her husband, Marcus, had told her to do so, and that the Bible directs a wife to be submissive. Would that also apply in the White House? Good question!
Here was Bachmann’s Carrollesque answer:
“I’m in love with him. I’m so proud of him. And both he and I — what submission means to us, if that’s what your question is, it means respect. I respect my husband. He’s a wonderful, godly man, and a great father. And he respects me as his wife. That’s how we operate our marriage.’’
If you say so, Humpty…I mean, Michele. The problem is that respect and submission are two completely different things, and if you really don’t know the difference, that’s as big a problem as taking orders from your husband submissively. Respecting someone doesn’t require that you agree with him, or have to follow his directives. Similarly, to refuse to submit to the will of someone shouldn’t mean that you can’t respect him, though it would not surprise me if Bachmann didn’t agree with this.
There’s glory for you!