The Sudden Impact of Dirty Harry
From the Scrapbook
Aug 20, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 45 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
The Scrapbook, as any reader can attest, stands foursquare behind civility. We like to think that we practice civility, and we value it in others. And while it’s a myth that the nation’s capital was a hotbed of civility until those terrible [Republicans/conservatives/Reaganites/right-wingers/Tea Partiers/etc.] came along, The Scrapbook certainly endorses civility in principle.
Which goes part of the way toward explaining our dilemma about Harry Reid. On the one hand, The Scrapbook would like to treat the 72-year-old Senate majority leader with the deference due his august position, and there is plentiful cause for complaint about him without descending to incivility. But Senator Reid makes it awfully difficult.
Last week, he took to the floor of the Senate—conveniently so, thereby insulating himself from charges of slander—to claim that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes for the past decade. This is, of course, a serious accusation, suggesting either a calculated dereliction of a citizen’s duty or, at worst, a federal crime. But Senator Reid’s only authority for this statement was decidedly suspicious: an unidentified “investor” in Bain Capital, Romney’s old private equity firm, who wanted only to inform Harry Reid.
Did the anonymous investor offer Reid any proof? No comment. Did the anonymous investor explain how he would know anything about Mitt Romney’s tax filings? No comment. “Do I know that’s true?” declared Reid, back on the Senate floor. “Well, I’m not certain.” But the burden of proof is on Mitt Romney, not Harry Reid: “Let him prove he has paid taxes because he has not.”
Of course, in the good old days before the collapse of civility, there would have been an easy, convenient term for Reid’s behavior: -McCarthyism. On the floor of the Senate a reckless member has made an extraordinary accusation, without proof or attribution, against a distinguished citizen who is now required to prove that he is not a tax cheat.
So clumsy and transparent is Reid’s gesture that The Scrapbook would be tempted to dismiss it as yet another “Chicago-style” tactic, all too characteristic of the Obama White House. And indeed, that is largely the way the press has played it: That old ex-boxer Harry Reid may look like a 98-pound weakling, the story goes, but he packs a wicked left hook—and it’s left poor Mitt Romney reeling and sputtering. Maybe a little unfair, but hey! politics ain’t beanbag.
Then again, there is another way of looking at it. In recent years the mild-mannered Harry Reid has -acquired something of a reputation for indecorous language. Most -politicians apply some modest -sugarcoating to their pronouncements, but Reid is a conspicuous exception. When American troops were fighting and dying in Iraq, he pronounced the war “lost.” He has publicly complained about the smell of tourists visiting the Capitol building. He denounced President George W. Bush as a “loser” and a “liar,” and declared Justice Clarence Thomas to be “an embarrassment.” Ex-Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, said Senator Reid, is “a hack.”
Well, The Scrapbook has a long memory, and recalls that Senator Reid suffered what was described as a mild stroke, a “transient -ischemic attack,” in 2005. Which now prompts us to speculate: How mild? If Reid’s cerebral episode caused any permanent damage—and Reid, we regret to say, has never released his records—it might well manifest -itself in reduced inhibitions, a looser tongue, a troubling inability to calibrate his language.
Now, The Scrapbook doesn’t know for certain if this is true, and is only relaying the theory as a public service, at the prompting of an anonymous but civic-spirited neurologist. “Let him prove that he isn’t losing his mind,” says Dr. X, “because he is.”
Last week Americans for Tax Reform caused a big stir when they dug through the tax code and discovered that Americans who win medals at the Olympics get a big bill from the IRS.
It turns out this isn’t the most repugnant tax in the code.
On February 19, 2011, Marine Lance Corporal Andrew Carpenter was shot and killed by a sniper in Afghanistan. He was married, and his wife was pregnant with a child he would never meet.
Three years earlier, Carpenter had taken out a student loan to pay for college. Upon his death, his -family was stuck with that loan. Not knowing what to do, the Carpenter family reached out to their congressman, Tennessee’s Scott -DesJarlais, who happily assisted them in working out a deal in which Carpenter’s loan was forgiven.
Except that the story didn’t end there. The IRS decided that this loan forgiveness constituted taxable income. And they came after Carpenter’s family with their hand out.
Now, Representative DesJarlais is trying to set things right. He introduced the Andrew P. Carpenter Tax Act, which would add a new exemption for gross taxable income for those killed while on active duty. The bill has 21 cosponsors, including 2 Democrats. It will be a good thing—a very good thing—if this bill is passed.
Run, Lolo, Run
In the previous issue, The Scrapbook made note of the harsh treatment Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones received for revealing she was a virgin. Jones herself observed, “I’ve seen celebs get teased less for releasing a sex tape.” Since then, the New York Times published a bizarre screed against the athlete by Jeré Longman. It seems Longman is offended by the fact that Lolo is very attractive and virginal, and she’s not allowed to be both:
Aside from attacking her for being attractive, Longman goes after Jones for publicly discussing her troubled childhood and makes an unconvincing case that her on-the-track performances are unworthy. (After taking the lead in a 2008 Olympic race, Jones hit a hurdle near the end and lost.) But the single most offensive thing about the article is how Longman twists Jones’s words to make her look as if she were joking about mass murder:
In recent days, Jones has been criticized for what many have called an insensitive Twitter remark in the wake of the mass shooting in a theater in Aurora, Colo. After the United States lost the gold medal to Italy in the team archery competition, Jones wrote, “When’s da Gun shooting competition?”
Here’s the full Twitter remark that Longman says “many” people called insensitive: “USA Men’s Archery lost the gold medal to Italy, but that’s ok, we are Americans… When’s da gun shooting competition?” Did anyone—other than professional axe-grinder Jeré Longman—really deem that tweet insensitive? But in addition to being sexy and virginal, perhaps we have to add patriotism to the list of Lolo Jones’s crimes.
It would have been nice if Jones could have grabbed some measure of redemption by winning at the Olympics, but, alas, she came in fourth. She gave an interview the morning after the race during which she teared up when asked about the irrational criticism of her. But fourth-place finish aside, Jones remains one of the best athletes in the world. Her tormenters are the real losers.
Open-mindedness for Thee . . .
Actress Kathleen Turner is bringing her new play to D.C., Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins. Turner happens to be well-cast for the role (though the fact that the former star of Body Heat is now a doppelgänger for the late liberal Texas columnist might be something to be alarmed about).
In any event, Turner is hoping that a play about Molly Ivins, a polarizing figure in real life, will prove to be a source of partisan détente. “One of these challenges may be getting a wide enough breadth of -people to come, you know, because people are so closed-minded now, that if they think it doesn’t represent their point of view, they’re not interested,” Turner told the Washington Examiner. “I’m afraid it will be like—if you’re a Republican, don’t go to the show—it’s a real shame both artistically and as a reflection of our nation’s mentality.”
This is a rather bizarre observation for Turner to make: Shortly after decrying close-minded partisanship, she explains that she went out of her way to avoid meeting George W. Bush when he was president.
“I had to do some real dodging there once in a while, but I pretty much managed it,” she told the -Examiner, explaining how she evaded the former president. “I used to be on the Kennedy Center artistic, you know, selection board and those events are always held at the White House, and so then I had to bow out for a few years, didn’t I?”
Of course, Turner tells the Examiner, she had no problem running into Molly Ivins. “She and Turner’s paths crossed several times, ranging from attending the same People for the American Way event to riding in the same elevator at a New York City apartment building.” Nothing quite like hobnobbing with liberal pundits on the Upper West Side and at political fundraisers to open your eyes to diversity of opinion.
The Right Kind of Diversity
Members of the presidentially appointed board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting lifted not a finger when National Public Radio fired Juan Williams for having the audacity to contribute to Fox News. But CPB is still hard at work in Washington funding leftist causes. Even the Associated Press had to take notice of CPB’s latest squandering of taxpayers’ money. Reports the AP,
National Public Radio, criticized in recent years over diversity of its staff and coverage, is using a $1.5 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to put together a six-person team to report stories on race, ethnicity and
The national radio program producer and digital news provider was accepting a two-year grant Thursday at the UNITY 2012 Convention in Las Vegas, where hundreds of minority and gay and lesbian journalists gathered for the quadrennial convention assembled by UNITY Journalists Inc.
NPR said in a news release that it is using the money to “launch a major storytelling initiative focused on the racial, ethnic, ideological and generational issues that define the increasingly diverse America.”
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