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September 18th, 2021

Insight

One foolish remark and a presidential candidate is toast

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published April 9, 2019

One foolish remark and a presidential candidate is toast
Robert Burns wrote his famous tribute to skewered intrigues — "the best-laid schemes of mice an' men gang aft a-gley, and leave us naught but grief an' pain for promised joy" — and paid it to a disap­pointed mouse. But it's apt consolation to politicians who run their mouths in the wrong direction.


Take that, Joe Biden, and use it for whatever comfort you can. You're not likely to find sufficient balm in Gilead, or anywhere else. It's a cold and unforgiving world out there, and nowhere more than in the nation's capital.


Good old Joe is not the first politician to say some­thing he thought was clever, or learned, and as a result committed suicide, or something close to it, like losing election to the White House. Sometimes one remark that should never had been said is all it takes to consign the unwary to a forgotten footnote to a presidential campaign.


Probably nothing Walter Mondale could have said would have eased the pain of getting caught in the rocks and briars of the landslide that propelled Ronald Reagan to a second term.


When you lose 49 states, you're pretty much in the position of the man who backed into a buzz saw and never figured out which one of the teeth of the saw first cut him.


But when, in their first presidential debate Mr. Mon­dale uttered what he imagined was a clever promise to raise necessary taxes — "he won't tell you taxes will have to be raised, and I just did" — he sipped the Kool-Aid.



Michael Dukakis, smarting from the torrents of con­tempt he called down on himself when, in debate about capital punishment with George Bush the Elder, he was asked by the interlocutor what he would do to the man who raped the missus, he replied that he would appoint a task force to study the causes of crime.


He, too, was probably never destined for the White House, but with that foolish answer to a foolish question he doomed himself to public ridicule and G od knows what when he got home that night.


George Bush the Elder finished himself off with a foolish remark four years after that when, after specu­lating that the wise men who hover about a president would come to him to persuade him to raise taxes, and he would say "no." They would come again with the same advice and he would once more say "no."


But on their third try he would answer with the most memorable words of the campaign: "Read my lips!" We all read those lips and the little Duke was sent packing back to Boston. Later it was Mr. Bush himself who forgot to read his lips, and Bill Clinton sent him back to Texas.


Many months later, aboard his famous cigarette boat at his summer home in Kennebunkport, I asked Mr. Bush, my favorite of all the pols I've known, how he could have unhorsed himself so needlessly; it would have been better to organize bake sales and take up collections on street corners to pay for the government rather than betray such eloquence of three little words. "I got a lot of advice about what to do," he told me, "and I listened to the wrong man."


One remark, and a carefully planned cam­paign goes down the drain, or wherever such campaigns go when slain by a loose tongue. Joe Biden's harmless hugs and massaged shoulders with never the follow-through, and not an unfortunate remark on the stump, is what has slowed his momentum toward a 2020 campaign.



The hugs and massages diverted the attention of the ever-dozing media to the really chilling things he said in a speech the other day at the Russian Tea Room in Man­hattan. He was trying to offer a full grovel to the radical feminists for his close questioning of Anita Hill at the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings in the previous century. If we take him at his word he's willing to sacrifice America's crown jewels to make the benighted ladies feel better.


The trouble with America, said good old Joe, is the white man. The political culture of centuries of dreadful white men in charge has encouraged violence against women, and Joe knows why.


"It's an English jurispruden­tial culture, a white man's culture," he said, "and it's got to change." He did not specify which of the bedrock items of the "English jurisprudential culture" he wants to throw away. The right of a trial by jury? That a citizen is innocent until proved guilty? That a criminal trial must be open to the public? Must all these rights, bought by the blood of patriots, be trashed to make it up to the angry #MeToo ladies abused by a politician's wandering hands?


Say it ain't so, Joe.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times. His column has appeared in JWR since March, 2000.

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