Jack Colwell: Taking a stab at defending Mourdock
Sunday, July 08, 2012 3:33 PM
SOUTH BEND - Because of a silly mistake in releasing four differing responses to the Supreme Court health care decision - before the decision was announced - the national news media and late-night comedians portray Indiana’s Richard Mourdock as a fool.
Somebody needs to defend Mourdock, the tea party favorite who won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
So, I will. As best I can.
Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert was one who mocked Mourdock, seeking no doubt to make our Hoosier politician the 2012 joke equivalent of Delaware loser Christine “I Am Not a Witch” O’Donnell. Clearly unfair. Christine never sought to kill Chrysler.
The flap is all about the four responses - or what Colbert sarcastically calls “presponses” - mistakenly released by Mourdock’s campaign on YouTube. And quickly taken down, though not quick enough.
Preparing for four possibilities for Court rulings, Mourdock, standing in front of an attractive brick wall, had these four different opening statements:
1. “Well, we’ve had our brief moment of celebration because the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is in fact unconstitutional.” (Credit Mourdock with clairvoyance. There was a brief moment of celebration by Obamacare opponents when CNN and Fox News initially headlined that it was ruled unconstitutional.)
2. “Well, the Supreme Court has done what none of us really thought could happen. They ruled Obamacare constitutional.” (Alas, no clairvoyance here. Not a word about Chief Justice Roberts being the one to do what none of us really thought could happen.)
3. “The Supreme Court struck down part but not all of the health care bill.” (Mourdock’s campaign was just following the Boy Scout motto, “be prepared.”)
4. “The United States Supreme Court has done what none of us expected. They found an answer on the heath care issue which basically led them to no decision at all.” (Mourdock perhaps was thinking of Congress, where so often there is no decision at all.)
In defending Mourdock from the columnists, commentators, comedians and bloggers who made fun of him, I suggest that he intentionally gave them something silly to distract them from something he feared as potentially more serious, more damaging, the reports on June auto sales.
You see, as a thrifty state treasurer, Mourdock went to court, spending millions of taxpayer money in seeking to scuttle the federal effort to save Chrysler. He opposed the recovery plan for General Motors, too. Now, nasty critics point to how Chrysler, a major Indiana employer, has expanded its workforce and facilities, leading Indiana’s manufacturing recovery effort and helping the state increase revenue to build a surplus.
By skillfully focusing attention on those four health care “presponses,” Mourdock avoided having to respond to the Chrysler report. But he surely had four possible responses prepared, with opening statements something like this:
1. “Well, we’ve had our brief moment of celebration because Chrysler’s June sales plummeted. But we must fight on now against renewed efforts by left-wingers like Nancy Pelosi, Dick Lugar and Chief Justice Roberts to support another Chrysler comeback before the election.” (Unfortunately, there was not even a brief celebration. Nothing but bad news. Chrysler’s June sales were up a robust 20 percent, way above analysts’ expectations, for the best June since 2007. General Motors also had a big 15.5 percent increase.)
2. “Well, Chrysler has done what none of us really thought could happen. June sales were up quite a bit. (No clairvoyance. He didn’t see how American auto workers and management really could cooperate for success.)
3. “The American auto companies did have some good increases, but only part of them.” (Mourdock would be left pointing out that Ford was up only a healthy 7 percent.)
4. The auto companies did what none of us expected. They refused to issue June reports, a decision leaving us basically with no information at all.” (He would portray this, if it had happened, as a plot by the auto companies and the United Auto Workers to withhold good news about plummeting sales until after the election.)
The comedians may laugh at Mourdock. But he could have the last laugh. They portray him as a fool. But that doesn’t mean that Indiana voters will reject him. Haven’t we sent fools to Congress before?
Colwell has covered politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.