Three ‘nauseating’ political missteps


The political universe must be a little off-kilter. I have now seen three instances of folks who should know better or who are usually so supremely careful behaving badly. Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) chose the wrong word. Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) is now seen as an Obama saboteur. And South Carolina AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt was just plain dumb.

We all know about Booker’s Bain bomb on “Meet The Press.” The surrogate for the Obama reelection campaign ended up slamming the Obama reelection campaign for its ads on Mitt Romney and his tenure at Bain Capital. “It’s nauseating to the American public. Enough is enough. Stop attacking private equity,” Booker said. Full disclosure: Booker is a friend and one of the shining stars of the Democratic Party. But there’s no way to put what happened Sunday in a good light.

Clyburn was making the case that going after Bain was not the same as attacking the free enterprise system when he told MSNBC anchor Craig Melvin, “But there’s something about that enterprise that I have a problem with. And there’s something about raping companies and leaving them in debt and setting up Swiss bank accounts and corporate businesses in the Grand Caymans. I have a serious problem with that.” I winced when I heard the word “rape.”Because Clyburn is such a gentleman who isn’t known for shock language, perhaps he meant to say “raiding” instead. That would have been much better.

And then there’s Dewitt. At a retirement reception in her honor, the labor leader celebrated by taking an aluminum bat to a pinata with Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s face on it. Dewitt wasn’t blindfolded. And when it dropped onto a picnic table, folks cheered. One rather exuberant watcher yelled repeatedly “Hit her again!” as Dewitt whacked the face of the pinata.

“It was all fun and games, and there was certainly no ill intent,” Dewitt told the Huffington Post. “Guys who know me know we’ve had to fight the governor and her comments on unions. She’s been taking whacks at us for a couple of years.” AFL-CIO headquarters here in Washington got it just right: “[T]here is absolutely no place for that kind of joke in a conversation that is extremely serious about how to rebuild our middle class and our country.”

If it was right and just for people to roundly criticize Sarah Palin for “don’t retreat, reload!” or when her PAC put gun sights over Democratic districts, then Dewitt deserves the drubbing she is getting now for her equally ill-advised “fun and games.”

Jonathan Capehart is a member of the Post editorial board and writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog.
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