Own Your Shit

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Memo to Joe Walsh: OWN YOUR SHIT.

I've mentioned this before, but if I could change things so that one rule was brutally enforced in the world of politics, that rule would be OWN YOUR SHIT. We actually sort of have a version of this - the rule that candidates have to say "I'm Blank Politicianguy, and I approve this message" after their ads. This, ostensibly, forces people to own their shit, but it doesn't go nearly far enough.

Even before Citizens United, outside groups could throw all kinds of shit in the campaign that nobody would have to own. And then, of course, there's just shit candidates say. Which, if people don't like it, they can weasel out of owning without any serious attempt to hold them accountable.

Which brings us, inevitably, to Joe Walsh, known moron and teabagger darling, who is defending his Illinois congressional seat against Democrat Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who lost both her legs fighting Dubya's even dumber war. This is a problem for Walsh, because the closest he's come to military service is telling an overweight constituent in a "Live Free or Die" shirt he's got a nice tricorner hat. And while I certainly don't fetishize military service, the voters do. And as we learned with John Kerry, the official playbook when confronted with military service that you can't match is to try to delegitimize that service. And here's the Joe Walsh version of that tactic. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"Understand something about John McCain. His political advisers, day after day, had to take him and almost throw him against a wall and hit him against the head and say, 'Senator, you have to let people know you served! You have to talk about what you did!' He didn’t want to do it, wouldn’t do it. Day after day they had to convince him. Finally, he talked a little bit about it, but it was very uncomfortable for him. That’s what’s so noble about our heroes. Now I’m running against a woman who, my God, that’s all she talks about. Our true heroes, it’s the last thing in the world they talk about. That’s why we’re so indebted and in awe of what they’ve done.

Now, this is actually a sort of kind of clever thing he does here. He posits that "real heroes" don't talk about their service. Now, this isn't actually true, but it is a common myth, so that's within the bounds of modern politics. Tammy Duckworth, as part of her Senate campaign, does in fact talk about her service. Plus she goes around all the time without legs, just shoving her service in the face of her constituents. Therefore, Tammy Duckworth isn't a true hero. If your goal is to try to take away her military service as an advantage, and you fucking well better believe that that's Walsh's goal, then you try and twist reality so that if she mentions it, she's boasting, and if she doesn't mention it, nobody knows about it.

Of course, Walsh supports this attack with a complete lie about John McCain, but really, would it be a political campaign without someone pretending John McCain isn't a complete fucking political opportunist? It's like nostalgia for four years ago.

The problem is, his thing where he said Tammy Duckworth wasn't a real hero kind of backfired on him a little, what with her missing both her legs from an RPG explosion and him being a shithead. So Walsh had to find a way to make it sound like he meant what he said, but ALSO make it sound like he didn't mean what he said, by casting what he said as what the media and Tammy Duckworth SAID he said. In other words, not owning his shit.

"It has become their agenda this Fourth of July week to twist my words and claim I said my opponent is not a hero and have insulted all veterans as a consequence. Folks, if you’re familiar with me and my campaign, you know this is utterly false. Shame on her for saying this and shame on her for using veterans in this fashion. In fact, recently on the Big John and Amy Show I stated, 'Tammy Duckworth’s service demands our respect and that is something I will do and say for her throughout this campaign.'"

That's an interesting line to take for a politician. Saying that he clearly couldn't have meant the thing that he said because other times he's said something different! Dude, this is the year Romney's running. If saying other things cancelled out stuff you said, the resulting silence would be deafening. I mean, he's right that he didn't attack all veterans, but he can't really complain about the inability to say a bad thing about A troop without being attacked for hating on THE troops, because we all know where that particular rule came from, don't we?

"However, unlike most veterans I have had the honor to meet since my election to Congress, who rarely if ever talk about their service or the combat they've seen, that is darn near all of what Tammy Duckworth talks about. Her service demands our thanks and our respect but not our vote."

That's a more successful attempt at threading the needle, but the fact remains, he said, on tape, that real heroes don't talk about their service. And here, again, he's saying that talking about your service is a bad thing. I guess it's kind of like Don't Ask, Don't Tell, only for everyone in the military. If you want the respect of Joe Walsh, men and women in uniform, shut the hell up. I mean, I'm a bit suspicious of the fact that he even knows he's met veterans! How does he know they're veterans? Did they talk about their service to him? Because that's the kind of shit Joe Walsh will not put up with, especially from a Democrat trying to take away his job.

The whole sorry mess peaked with an interview with CNN's Ashleigh Banfield, in which he said "Ashleigh" 93 times, and also squeezed in one huge lie:

"No, Ashleigh, this wasn't a slip-up. I don't regret anything I said. Understand me. Every man and woman who's worn the uniform is a hero in my book."

And this is where the enforcement needs to come in. Because it not being a slip-up, and not regretting anything he said, is semantically incompatible with believing, in his book, that every man and woman who's worn the uniform is a hero. Because he offered a definition of true heroism that specifically excluded Tammy Duckworth. Plus, just taking the position that any man and woman who's worn the uniform is a hero is problematic, because the last time I checked, that Army psychiatrist who shot up Fort Hood was a man who wore the uniform. Someone might want to bring THAT up with Walsh, too. Treat him like Kirk treats rogue computers and wait for his head to explode.

It's the only way to salvage American politics.