Everybody makes mistakes. That’s why pencils have erasers, right? (If you’re under 30, google “pencil.”) And if you’re a politician, your mistakes can provide ammunition for your opponents. You’re never going to avoid making gaffes, because you’re only human, but there are some simple, basic things you can do to avoid the really big pitfalls. So here’s some free advice for anybody with any political ambitions in the United States of America:
DON’T. PRAISE. HITLER.
Freshman Rep. Mary Miller apologized Friday for quoting Adolf Hitler earlier in the week, but said critics were trying to “twist” her words. Speaking before members of Moms for America on the Capitol grounds Tuesday, the Illinois lawmaker said, “Hitler was right on one thing. He said, ‘Whoever has the youth has the future.’”
Her apology came after days of denunciation by Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as numerous Jewish advocacy organizations.
Here’s the section of Miller’s speech for which she’s apologizing:
And here’s her apology:
Congresswoman Mary Miller (R-IL) issues a statement on her remarks at the recent Moms for America event in Washington, D.C. pic.twitter.com/3349AZwbN7
— Congresswoman Mary Miller (@RepMaryMiller) January 8, 2021
Okay, my knowledge of political speechwriting begins and ends with half-remembered episodes of The West Wing, but doesn’t Miller have a staff to help her? Didn’t any of them read that speech beforehand? If I were a member of her staff, the first thing I would do is cross out the word “Hitler.” Just don’t even mention Hitler. I mean, why mention Hitler? People tend to have strong feelings about that guy, no matter why you’re bringing him up. Drop his name into a speech and nobody’s going to listen to anything else you have to say. They’re not going to care about “context” or “nuance” or whatever.
I’m just trying to imagine the thought process there: “Okay, I really need to punch up this speech. This is so boring. ‘Kids are important, we need to save the children,’ blah blah blah. What can I do to really make this pop?”
If you want to drive home the point that children are the future, why not just quote Whitney Houston?
So now, all the Democrats are going to call her a Nazi. They would call her that anyway, of course, because that’s one of the few tricks they’ve been trained to perform. But why make it so easy for them? Why hand them this bright shiny gift?
It’s reminiscent of this koan by our greatest living philosopher:
issuing correction on a previous post of mine, regarding the terror group ISIL. you do not, under any circumstances, "gotta hand it to them"
— wint (@dril) February 15, 2017
Or that episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry calls his wife “Hitler” as a joke and it turns into a whole big thing:
You don’t have to clarify your remarks about Hitler if you just don’t make any remarks about Hitler. This is really basic stuff.
The good news for Miller is that pointing out the brighter side of Hitler doesn’t even make the top 10 list of stupid things Republicans have done recently: Insisting the 2020 election was stolen, encouraging voters to stay home from an election that handed the Senate to the Democrats, inciting a deadly riot in the Capitol Building… All in all, approvingly citing one of history’s greatest monsters was a relatively minor oopsie.
Okay, Mary Miller? Sound good? We’ll have no more talk of Hitler, then. Do a word search if you need to make sure some prankster didn’t slip his name into another one of your speeches. Believe me, it’s for your own good.