23 Sep 2010

David Friedman’s (Partial) Defense of Christine O’Donnell

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David R. Henderson pointed out David Friedman’s series of blog posts looking into the “common knowledge” that Christine O’Donnell is a nut. This is the best one, in my opinion.

Let me be clear: I think I speak for both Davids, as well as myself, when I say that the point here isn’t to say, “Christine O’Donnell is one smart cookie. In fact, if she loses the election I’m going to hire her to tutor my kid.”

No, the point is that there are all sorts of positions being attributed to O’Donnell, the evidence for which is very weak. For example, until I read Friedman’s post (linked above), I had thought O’Donnell thought the government should ban masturbation. Didn’t you think that–and after all, you probably heard it from three different sources, so it must be true?

Well, Friedman tried to find out the basis for that claim, and this is what he came up with:

Getting curious, I followed up on some of the other evidence offered that she was a nut. One repeated claim was that she was, in Moynihan’s words, “opposed to the sinister habit of masturbation,” which makes it sound as though she had been campaigning against it. Another story describes her as the “masturbation hating candidate” and links to another informing us that “One of the most notable things on her political résumé is her well-publicized position against masturbation.”

All of this seems, as far as I can tell, to be based on a single comment made in the course of an MTV program on sex in the nineties. O’Donnell asserted that the bible says that lust in your heart is to commit adultery, and that you cannot masturbate without lust—both, I think, correct statements. As best I can tell, that is the sole basis for the claims of “well publicized position” and “masturbation hating candidate.”

That’s about 2,000 km away from the view being painted in the media–by both “right” and “left,” incidentally. Far from conjuring up a Big Brother program putting chastity belts on everybody, this is something that is quite standard for anybody who thinks the Bible is a source of moral instruction.

It’s funny, because I have had this “revelation” a few times, and yet I keep forgetting it. For example I have seen firsthand how people out to trash writers that I know personally, can cherry-pick stuff from their past to paint the person as an ogre. For most of the things, it’s not an outright fabrication, but the point is that if you actually know the person, then the image being painted by the critics is completely misleading.

Take another example: We all know that Dan Quayle is a moron, right? I mean, the guy doesn’t even know how to spell potato! Ha ha!

But do you know the context of that infamous event? Quayle was doing a photo op at an elementary (I think) school spelling bee. The teacher had written the words on index cards. So Quayle is flipping through index cards, asking kids to spell words and checking them against the key that the teacher had written.

Well duh, the teacher wrote “potatoe” on the card. Yeah, that’s pretty dumb, but it’s not in the same category as taking a bath with a transistor radio. After all, the plural is potatoes.

But my point is, Dan Quayle didn’t volunteer his opinion that it was spelled “potatoe.” It was written that way on the answer key. So he’s the vice president, probably thinking about what he’s going to ask the Secret Service to get him for lunch, and maybe he’s got gas he’s trying to hold in because there’s 50 people in the room, and the little kid is spelling “potato” differently from how the teacher wrote it on the index card.

Is it really so crazy that in this context, Quayle didn’t go out on a limb and say the teacher was wrong? Can you imagine what the late-night talk show hosts would have done, if Quayle were wrong? “Vice President tells teacher how to do her job!!” “Quayle apparently against education after all!” etc.

(Incidentally, just to prove my point of this post, you should go independently confirm my story of Quayle and the potato. I truly believe that it was happened, but I must confess right now I have no idea what makes me think so. I.e. I can’t remember where I read/heard this version of events. Trust no one, not even me…)

9 Responses to “David Friedman’s (Partial) Defense of Christine O’Donnell”

  1. Bob Roddis says:

    This is just more evidence that the biggest group of hard core haters in the US are the “progressives”. Wild eyed hate for Christians and average people explains the antics the media, but also of Krugman and DeLong. They see the long arm of the state as necessary for guiding these alleged dodos and they themselves as running the state and this guidance project. They cannot imagine life without being in charge of the state guidance project. I think you can anticipate and explain almost everything they do with this theory.

    In fact, this is the source of the success of Fox News and Limbaugh, constantly giving examples of this behavior. This is also how Fox and Limbaugh recruit warmongers. They say, look, liberals hate you, they are hysterical and they are irrational. Oh, and by the way, liberals are for peace. That’s because they hate you and they hate America.

  2. English Bob says:
  3. JimS says:

    I clearly remember the Quayle incident and I remember it the same way. Sorry I do not have a source other than my adled mind.

    I also remember seeing him on a CNN show called “Sonja Live.” He was then a senator. The host was absolutley awful in her treatment of him, essentially because he claimed he was not in favor of the big government give aways. Despite the poor treatment he was a perfect gentleman toward the host and the callers.

    Also, this treatment of politicians and their alledged ignorance is not a two way street. I remember hearing President Clinton giving an address on the “enormity of feeding the nation’s poor children.” Enormity is associated with big and evil, not simply big. We can speak of the enormity of the Third Reich. Unless these ares some very bad children, which of course is what immediately popped into my twisted mind, the term should not be used. No one else thought this was funny, though everyone claimed what a smart man he was.


  4. David Friedman says:

    My favorite example of the double standard is Biden. In his debate with Palin, he claimed that when the stock market crashed, FDR went on national television to reassure the public. That’s two big blunders in one, but he didn’t end up with a Dan Quayle reputation.

    In the same debate, he claimed that Article I of the Constitution established the VP as a member of the executive branch. Article I deals entirely with the legislative branch, and establishes the VP as president of the Senate. Pretty clearly, he not only didn’t know the details of what was where in the Constitution and was pretending he did, he also didn’t realize the shift in how presidential elections were run from the original Constitution to the present.

    • Lucas M. Engelhardt says:

      I noticed the same thing (about Biden and the Constitution) when I watched the Biden/Palin debate. Though Palin’s cutesy routine made me a bit ill, at least she didn’t show herself to be too horribly ignorant of the structure of the Constitution.

      Yet, you saw few headlines saying “Biden doesn’t know the Constitution”…

      • JimS says:

        Did anyone catch Obama about a year ago talking about the Japanese surrender after WWII and the Emperor of Japan being on the Missouri for the signing of the surrender? The emperor was NOT there. Not a mention of it in the press.


  5. Ash says:

    It’s funny, because I have had this “revelation” a few times, and yet I keep forgetting it. For example I have seen firsthand…

    Forgot what you were talking about for a moment.

  6. Fascist Soup says:

    I thought Christine O’Donnell was a fascist neo-con that wants unlimited war against brown people forever?

    Am I wrong on this?

  7. Avram says:

    Hopefully with the advent of social networking sites and all that not far from now every single politician will have so much dirt piled up on them that all this nonsense will come to an end .