Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Grownups say the dumbest things

In the spirit of broadcast pioneer Art Linkletter, who once authored a book entitled Kids Say the Darndest Things, I offer today's post, Grownups Say the Dumbest Things.

Actually, dumb might be too mild an adjective. In several of the instances listed below, you might feel that moronic is more accurate - depending, of course, on your partisan inclinations:

1. Mike Huckabee, GOP presidential candidate. I mentioned on Monday that he might be poised to ride a boomlet into the Iowa caucuses, in part because he is an effective communicator and an ordained Baptist preacher who is sincerely in sync with the party's religious conservatives. Nevertheless, in a Republican debate on Sunday night, his fervor got in the way of his facts.

At one point, he said, "When our founding fathers put their signatures on the Declaration of Independence, those 56 brave people, most of whom, by the way, were clergymen, they said that we have certain inalienable rights given to us by our creator, and among these life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, life being one of them..." (emphasis mine)

Really? "Most" of the Declaration signers were clergymen? I have toured Independence Hall a number of times, and I have read my share of early histories (thank you, Joseph Ellis), yet I had never heard that stat before. In the reality-based community, "most" is defined as a majority. This would mean, if Huckabee is using the reality-based definition, that, at minimum, 29 signers were clergymen.

Here's the problem, however: All available evidence indicates that, at maximum, the actual number was...four.

Among the signers, there was only one active clergyman (John Witherspoon of New Jersey). One religious website,, says that perhaps four signers were preachers in the past. One conservative group, the Heritage Foundation, puts that number at two.

Perhaps Huckabee was using a faith-based definition, one that is tailored to the belief that the signers were explicitly creating a Christian nation. One of his rivals on stage could have rebutted him by quoting Thomas Paine, whose fiery writings helped inspire the Declaration of Independence ("I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish Church, by the Roman Church, by the Greek Church, by the Turkish Church, by the Protestant Church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.") But no presidential candidate would dare do that.

2. Glenn Beck, host of The Glenn Beck Program. One of the perks of being a talk radio loudmouth is that the brain's flotsam can be flushed through the lips, without the checks and balances of rational thought. Beck, who is also employed by CNN, belched on his radio show Monday about the current tragedy in southern California:

"I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today."

I would suggest that it is inappropriate to run a loyalty test on people who have just lost their homes. I would even bet that a large number of the newly homeless are America-loving Republicans; there are many such people in southern California, as indicated by the voting rolls and the presence of so many Republican congressmen. But such nuances are the province of journalists, and those who spew on the air don't qualify.

3. Pete Stark, Democratic California congressman. This guy has been a loose cannon for years - six years ago, during a House debate, he falsely charged that black Republican J.C. Watt's children had been "born out of wedlock" - but last week he overreached with an anti-Bush tirade that embarrassed his own party colleagues.

During the struggle last week over children's health insurance, Stark told Republicans: "You don't have money to fund...children, but you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

Notwithstanding President Bush's historic miscalculations in Iraq, and the fact that 3,800 Americans are dead because of his errors, it's a tad unfair to assume that he is amused by the death toll. Some liberal bloggers have declared Stark to be a hero, but the reality is, he made life more difficult for the half-dozen House Democratic freshmen who represent conservative districts.

Unlike Stark, who is seemingly a congressman for life because he hails from a liberal northern California enclave, those freshmen have to compete in 2008, and the last thing they need is to be linked with a guy who thinks that a commander-in-chief is amused by the death of soldiers. Which is why Stark was squeezed by the House leadership until he finally apologized. But we'll undoubtedly hear from him again, in some future fracas.

4. Mitt Romney, GOP presidential candidate. Here he was Tuesday morning, discussing the latest developments in the war on terror:

"Actually, just look at what Osam, uh, Barack Obama, said just yesterday. Barack Obama, calling on radicals, jihadists of all different types, to come together in Iraq. 'That is a battlefield. That is the central place,' he said. 'Come, join us under one banner.'"

Naturally, Romney's spokesman later explained that the candidate had "simply misspoke." (Twice, in fact.)

I suppose that's understandable. All those funny-sounding names sound alike, right? Granted, one of them is a presidential candidate and the other is a terrorist, but what's a guy to do? Perhaps, if it happens again, Romney can defend himself in song, with apologies to George and Ira Gershwin:

You say Osama, and I say Obama/ Osama, Obama/ Obama, Osama/ Let's call the whole thing off...