Journalist Michael Kinsley is the namesake for the Kinsley Gaffe. In a 1988 interview he said: “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.”
A recent example is Todd Akin (R-Missouri), the then-candidate for Senate in 2012. On St. Louis local television he was asked about his stance on abortion and if there should be exceptions to an all-out ban for rape victims. He responded, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
It caused an uproar. First it was medically unsound (half of Mongolia is related to Genghis Khan. Rape can’t cause pregnancy!? Ridiculous). Also it was, candidly, gross. In one swipe he blamed rape victims for their own pregnancies while casting doubt on the claim of rape in general. But it was what he believes. It was his truth and therefore a Kinsley Gaffe.
Mitt Romney had his Kinsley Gaffe made public when a working person, a bartender, had a camera on him talking to high-level donors. “There are 47 percent who are with him [Obama], who are dependent upon government…Our message of low taxes doesn’t connect…so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he explained. The Republican candidate admitted to running to be the president of only a fraction of the American people. He wanted to be the most powerful man in government but only for those who don’t “depend upon government.”
These “gaffes” are what Republicans freely say to other Republicans and it’s not until the general public hears them that they sound so shockingly tone deaf.
In the fine tradition of Republican candidates saying horrible things they really mean but shouldn’t say in front of a camera: Here’s state Speaker Thom Tillis now the GOP candidate running for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Kay Hagen. In a newly released tape from Ashville, North Carolina, in 2011, Tillis can be seen saying to a small crowd, “What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance. We have to show respect for that woman who has cerebral palsy and had no choice, in her condition, that needs help and that we should help,” said Tillis. “And we need to get those folks to look down at these people who choose to get into a condition that makes them dependent on the government and say at some point, ‘You’re on your own.’”
Divide and conquer the less fortunate? Really? Instead of making the government run more efficiently for all Americans, this guy wants to pit poor people against one another? Isn’t that the premise of The Hunger Games?
Let me introduce you to the Republican id.
The Hagen campaign has compared these comments to Romney’s 47 percent snafu. But I think this is a consistent theme for the Republican Party; one they tried to run away from in January of this year by party leaders giving a series of speeches about how to combat poverty. Before then, Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, called 60 percent of Americans “takers” for using public services. Rep. Jack Kingston and Newt Gingrich both advocated for poor children working as janitors at their own schools. Maine Governor Paul LePage is trying to repeal child labor laws in his state while giving them less money than adults. Wealthy children did not earn their wealth: same can be said of poor children. The do-less-than-nothing-while-cashing-their-government-checks 113th Congress voted to cut food stamps for the working impoverished. They also successfully filibustered a raise in minimum wage that could at least allow the working impoverished to afford food without government assistance.
Republicans seem to want to curry favor with their Christian base by being strategically cruel to the meek.
And Thom Tillis is just the one saying it out loud and in front of the cameras. It’s a Kinsley Gaffe because it’s what they really believe.
The Monday Line returns next week.