Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Ugly B Word

I'm sure you've all heard this by now. The item in the news about John McCain and his campaign stop in Hilton Head, S.C.? The one where what is, I'm sure, a sophisticated, old-money, blue-blood, demure South Carolinian dame stood up during a Q&A and asked Mr. McCain a question.

"How do we beat the bitch," she asked.

Two things here: unless you've been sleeping under a rock, "the bitch" she's referring to is Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, first. And second, while McCain was described as uncomfortable and while he says he "respects Mrs. Clinton" and while observers noted that he didn't address the statement head on, he did manage to "artfully dodge" it.

Well, that's nice. I'm glad he at least managed that, because in a world full of hateful rhetoric--and presidential campaigns are more frequently than not hatefully rhetorical--it's nice to know that kindness and accountability are still at play in the world.

Oh, wait? They're not. Right. They're not.

All sarcasm aside, and noting that I am in no way endorsing one candidate over another on this blog yet,* I'm disturbed by Mr. McCain's or anyone's lack of stronger response to this. If Mrs. Clinton (or any female candidate or woman in public office, for that matter) allowed to stand a reference to Mr. McCain (or any male candidate or man in public office) as "that bastard" you can bet the double standards would be whipped out faster than Wee Willy's winky.**

That said, I'll grant you he's getting some heat in the press. Sadly, he had an opportunity to change some of the tone that was foreshadowed in that single question and he blew it.

Here's how artfully I wish he'd dodged that question. Actually, here are two ways:

Hilton Head Woman: How do we get the bitch?

Mr. McCain: (pause, quizzical look on face) First of all, I want to thank you for being here today. Second, I appreciate the question, but I'm afraid I don't know who you're referring to. To whom are you referring?

That's one way. Make the woman be accountable for her words. Or, there's this way.

Hilton Head Woman: (See above question, because I refuse to type it a third time)

Mr. McCain: (pause, stunned look on face) Thank you for your question. Before I answer it, I want to say this. The use of such a word to describe my esteemed colleague from New York and a fellow candidate for office in this setting is shocking and unacceptable. While I have certainly been known to pepper my language with epithets, I'm disturbed that you would use such a word to address a question to me about Mrs. Clinton. It shows an utter lack of respect for yourself, for Mrs. Clinton--who, by the way, you may not like and that's fine and that's your right, but who deserves our respect as a human being, or for me as a candidate for president of the United States.

(Pause to breathe...)

Mr. McCain: Having said that, ma'am, when you vote, please don't vote for me, because I don't want votes from people who would disrespect others and this forum by leveling such an ugly word at a woman who has done nothing to you except announce her intent to be president. I don't want those kind of votes. When you go out to vote, if you vote for me, I want it to be because you believe I can do the best job for our country and not because you dislike another candidate. The world is full of enough ugliness without calling each other names--and there will be plenty of that in the weeks and months ahead--but I'm asking you not to refer to Mrs. Clinton or any woman in public office by that word and to show a little respect, please. Next question? Yes, you sir, up there....

That would have been the artful dodge that really would have made news. And worthy news at that. But then I live in a world of pipe dreams and un-realities, where I'm naive and kind, and where I believe that every American--black, white, Hispanic, male, female, Mormon, Muslim, agnostic, old, young, veteran, war protestor, gay, straight, whatever--has the right to run for office and should be given a chance not on the basis of their demographically attached labels, but because they believe in the right to a democratic process.

And now, having said all that about Mr. McCain's lack of artful dodging, don't even get me started on women who call other women "bitch."***

* For the record, though: I'm not voting for McCain, that's fer darn sure.
** Not a reference to Bill Clinton and the Gap Dress Affair.
*** In the interest of full disclosure and so as not to be labeled a hypocrite, I am ashamed to admit that I have used this word when talking about some women who have pissed me off. I'm making a commitment, here and now, to purge this word from my vocabulary. The bigger point here is my point about every American having the right to run for public office. Those who do, deserve our respect, period. Doesn't mean we have to agree with them or vote for them, but we should respect them.

Update: I've already had one comment from a spammer because I used the b word. If this continues, I'm going to have to go back to moderating comments. My apologies to my readers.


Cele said...

Excellent post. We gripe about people using derogatory comments and then use them ourselves. It needs to be across the board. I would love to see a candidate take the higher road, yet like you, I have pipe dreams.

Sideon said...

Well said.

The B word woman was probably puffed up in pride for the rest of the day. Maybe she gleefully signed up for an interview on the Glenn Beck show, or that nasty O'Reilly. Whatever the case, I find her as repugnant as that vile creature Ann Coulter.

Opinion is one thing, but respect and common courtesy should be the standard, not the exception.

ME said...

Would love to see what Jon Stewart would do with this if it weren't for the writers strike.

I'm with you in wishing McCain had either played dumb or confronted the woman rather than letting an insult of that proportion essentially go unchallenged.

Can you imagine the outrage if someone had used the n-word in that way referring to Obama? Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Love your hypothetical responses. I'm never so quick to come back with brilliance, and I'll bet McCain lay in bed all night with his own hypothetical comebacks.

But I guess some of our quickest responses come from deep inside the gut instead of from the brain.

I'm going to remember this post for a long time, and work on stocking my gut with responses that unite rather further divide human beings.

Thanks, Tewks


J.M. Tewkesbury said...

Cele: I would love to see a candidate take the higher road, too, but it seems the load road is easier and quicker.

Sid: Ann Coulter is a bbbb... bbbb... bbbb... Oh crap. I want to say it and, in this particular case, she deserves to be called, but I made a vow. Let's just say, she makes me itch. She's a vile, vile creature. Vile. As for what you said about opinion: AMEN!!!

ME: I said the same thing to Bee right after I wrote this piece. I'm no fan of McCain, but I wish he'd done a little more with this than just blow it off.

Phoebe: I don't know if I'd have been brilliant in the heat of the moment, but it would be nice to think that even under the lights and with cameras clicking one could at least muster enough reaction to say "Hey, I don't think that's appropriate." Oh well. I'm with you, though: I'm working on stocking my gut with better reactions that unite.

Liz said...

J.M. Tewkesbury for President!