Not ready for prime time?
Yesterday was a day that Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke may want to forget. His first swing through Iowa as an official candidate was marred by a “joke” about his wife that drew heavy criticism and the revelation by Reuters of his membership in a hacker group as a teenager where he posted a story about kids getting run over by a car on the group’s message board.
O’Rourke was on the defensive most of the day, apologizing profusely for saying his wife Amy raised their three kids “sometimes with my help.”
O’Rourke made the comment at multiple campaign stops during his first swing through Iowa, including earlier Friday, eliciting laughs each time, but he also drew criticism as being insensitive to the challenges faced by single parents raising children.
O’Rourke said the criticism of his “ham-handed” attempt to highlight his wife’s work in their marriage was “right on.”
Apologizing for a lousy attempt at humor is one thing. But the outrage mob was lying in wait for O’Rourke and he gave them an obvious opening with his self-deprecating crack. Presidential candidates in 2020 are going to have to walk on eggshells, weighing every word for its potential “insensitivity.” In this case, activists complained that a woman couldn’t make the same joke, so it was insensitive.
Indeed, O’Rourke humbly begged the world’s pardon for his white privilege:
“Not only will I not say that again, but I’ll be more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage, and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege,” he said.
He pointed to his ability to walk away from two arrests as a young man without serious consequences as a example.
“So yes, I think the criticism is right on. My ham-handed attempt to try to highlight the fact that Amy has the lion’s share of the burden in our family — that she actually works but is the primary parent in our family, especially when I served in Congress, especially when I was on the campaign trail — should have also been a moment for me to acknowledge that that is far too often the case, not just in politics, but just in life in general. I hope as I have been in some instances part of the problem, I can also be part of the solution,” he said.
O’Rourke dodged a bullet there, but what about those online postings when he was a member of a hacker group that a clinical psychologist would have a field day with:
One article he wrote as a teen mused how the world would work without money. After changing the system, including the government, O’Rourke foresaw the end of starvation and class distinctions.
“To achieve a money-less society (or have a society where money is heavily de-emphasized) a lot of things would have to change, including government as we know it. This is where the anti-money group and the disciples of Anarchy meet,” O’Rourke wrote under his pseudonym. “I fear we will always have a system of government, one way or another, so we would have to use other means other than totally toppling the government (I don’t think the masses would support such a radical move at this time).”
Another t-file from O’Rourke, written when he was 15, is a short and disturbing piece of fiction. “One day, as I was driving home from work, I noticed two children crossing the street. They were happy, happy to be free from their troubles…. This happiness was mine by right. I had earned it in my dreams.
“As I neared the young ones, I put all my weight on my right foot, keeping the accelerator pedal on the floor until I heard the crashing of the two children on the hood, and then the sharp cry of pain from one of the two. I was so fascinated for a moment, that when after I had stopped my vehicle, I just sat in a daze, sweet visions filling my head.”
A 15-year-old daydreaming about a “moneyless society” is pretty common. But “sweet visions filling my head” after running over a couple of “happy happy” kids with his car is definitely not common. I have to ask it: what do you think the reaction would have been if a Republican candidate had written that? Every amateur Democratic mental health professional would declare the candidate unfit for office.
But for Beto? His apology suffices:
“I’m mortified to read it now, incredibly embarrassed, but I have to take ownership of my words,” the Democratic presidential candidate said during a taping of the “Political Party Live” podcast in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Whatever my intention was as a teenager doesn’t matter, I have to look long and hard at my actions, at the language I have used, and I have to constantly try to do better.”
If only Republicans had it so easy.