Note to GOP: Sometimes an Opinion Isn’t Just an Opinion

herman cain

Herman Cain: "End of discussion!"

Senator Jon Kyl (R. AZ) advanced the art of GOP prevarication last April when he claimed that Planned Parenthood spends 90% of its budget on abortions.

The grossness of the falsehood — the correct figure is 3%, not 90 — was par for the course. The imaginative leap was Kyl’s explanation that his lie was “not intended to be a factual statement.” In other words, it was just Kyl’s opinion.

Flash forward to last weekend’s Value Voters Summit, where Republican presidential hopefuls refused to disavow Robert Jeffress’s implication that Mitt Romney isn’t a Christian — and that Mormonism, his religion, is a cult. After all, Cain, Bachmann and others seemed to say, Jeffress’s statements are just a matter of opinion. Jeffress himself offered a variation on the theme when he told Chris Matthews that “cult” means something other than the derogatory, commonly understood Webster’s interpretation. Here, it wasn’t a number that was a matter of opinion but the definition of a word.

Rick Perry, the intended beneficiary of Jeffress’s insult to Romney, has himself made liberal use of the “It’s my opinion” trope to deflect questions about evolution and climate change. For him, these are just theories that people have “the right” to opine about one way or another.

Herman “I don’t have facts to back this up” Cain — whose surge in the polls underscores the vacuousness of both Romney and Perry — was recently given an opportunity by MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell to acknowledge that sexual preference isn’t a choice. In the Alice in Wonderland world of Republican politics, this would pass for a courageous stance. Cain too chose the “It’s my opinion” route.

The mealy-mouthedness of his opponents’ “It’s my opinion” gambit gave Romney a chance to show a snippet of courage. But he wouldn’t take Jeffress on, preferring the safe harbor of going after Brian Fischer, who believes that Mormons have no First Amendment rights and that grizzly bears are a “curse.”

Hedging your beliefs, if you even have beliefs, comes with its own dangers. For all Romney’s parsing and brownnosing, he ended up with a pathetic 4 percent in the Value Voters straw poll. Perry’s pontification (is the pontiff a real Christian or is Catholicism just another cult?) about his own Christianity and his key role in facilitating Jeffress’s appearance at the Summit netted him an anemic 8 percent. Which prompted Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, sponsor of the event and the poll, to hearken back to seminal GOP liar Richard Nixon and essentially declare the results “inoperative.”

To be fair, John Huntsman, the other Mormon GOP hopeful, did call Jeffress a moron. But the former Utah governor has little to lose. The latest Public Policy Polling survey in Iowa puts him tied for 8th place with 3 votes. That’s votes, not percent.

The profiles in dis-courage on the Mormon issue comport with GOP candidates’ laissez-faire attitude to cheers from the audience after the “Let him die” incident at the CNN/Tea party debate and their stony silence after some in the crowd booed a gay soldier at the Fox News debate. In the latter case it was homophobe Rick Santorum’s weaseliness that stood out. The former Pennsylvania senator said he never heard the boos — a statement perhaps not meant to be factual.

“It’s my opinion-ism” isn’t limited to Republicans, of course. In the heat of the 2008 battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton was asked by 60 Minutes whether candidate Barack Obama was a Muslim. Instead of a simple “No,” she took a page from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s slimy playbook, averring “I take him (Obama) at his word.” She made a further play for the know-nothing voting block(head) by adding that Obama wasn’t a Muslim “As far as I know.” Twelve percent of Americans still believe the president is a Muslim — up from ten percent a few months ago — so I guess this leaves that question in the court of public opinion.

michael sigmanWhen it comes to bald-face lying, though, Republicans do it meaner and better. Their dissembling is exceeded only by their hypocrisy. When it comes to reproductive choice, medical marijuana, raising taxes and a host of other issues that are debatable, “It’s my opinion” becomes “It’s my way or the highway.”

As Herman Cain likes to say, in a phrase sure to warm the hearts of condescending CEOs everywhere, “End of discussion.

Michael Sigman

Republished with the author’s permission from Huffington Post.

Published by the LA Progressive on October 13, 2011
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About Michael Sigman

Michael Sigman is a writer/ editor, media consultant and the president of Major Songs, a music publishing company.

Prior to his current activities, Sigman was the president and publisher of LA Weekly, the nation’s largest alternative newsweekly, from 1990-2002. He joined LA Weekly in 1983 as general manager and was named publisher the following year.

Sigman was also the founding publisher of OC Weekly, sister paper to LA Weekly, when it was launched in 1995.

Prior to joining LA Weekly, Sigman was a music journalist, and served as a reporter, then managing editor, then editor-in-chief of Record World Magazine, a leading music industry weekly, from 1971 to 1982.

Michael Sigman graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude, with a BA in Philosophy, from Bucknell University in 1971. He currently serves on several Boards, including InsightLA and Society for Singers, and is Chairman of the Board of the Wright Institute, a non-profit psychoanalytic institute which provides inexpensive long-term psychotherapy to the poor.

Comments

  1. You have an interesting take, since with things started sounded Clintonian, you knew it was time to get an umbrella. Did the Clinton administration invent “plausible deniability”? I’m not sure, but that’s certainly when we started hearing the term popularly.

    Unfortunately, what politicians tell us they generally tell us to get elected. What they do in office is generally to stay in office, or to feed the hands of those helped elect them. Bush, Obama, Clinton, … all pretty sad. I must confess that Obama’s silver tongue certainly put a new shine on his “restatements” of mean-spirited comments on segments of the population changed into seemingly priceless praise of them. But then, he was apparently trained in Chicago. The truth? What’s that?

  2. I find a great number of those in public office to tell me what they think I want to hear. I see members of both parties telling big lies. Look up how much money the gas tax brings in yearly for building/repairing roads and such. Then look up what percent of that money, which is for only that purpose goes for roads. I found 60% and want to know where the other 40% went. This tax brings in big bucks so the part that is missing is still big bucks. Who has it??

  3. Peter Ramsey says:

    Obama’s father was a Muslim (under Islamic law that makes his son a Muslim).
    The penalty for “aposty” is death under Sharia law.
    Sooo…how come Barack Hussein Obama is so popular in Muslim circles?
    I better get back to the kitchen or my bacon is gonna burn.

    • Lee Marshall says:

      Yeah, and under Sharia, Obama’s mother would have been a Muslim and would have wear “modest dress,” which she wasn’t, isn’t and doesn’t. If Obama were a Muslim, he wouldn’t attend Christian services or let Michelle wear sleeveless dresses. Could it be Obama is popular in Muslim circles because he can tell the difference between terrorism and religion?

    • Ray Bishop says:

      Peter you should stick with the cooking of your bacon and not get distracted so to cause it to burn.
      We live in American where people originally came to express religious freedom. Here we don’t dictate religious law. This is also known as freedom.
      We don’t execute people for having their own beliefs although I sometimes wonder if the religious extremists on the right have other thoughts about this.
      Did you ever hear the words, “Give me Liberty or Give Me Death”?
      This is why we 99% must protect America and our rights to freedom and all that comes with it.

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