Sometimes it’s a relief when the media gets something wrong.
Last November the newspaper Politico noted that Mitt Romney hadn’t yet pulled out all the stops in his race against then-frontrunner Rudy Giuliani. “So far, the tough shots from Romney have not been fired. Some top strategists warn of a ‘murder-suicide’ scenario, in which Romney might draw blood from Giuliani but get splattered himself if voters are turned off by attacks and take it out on the attacker,” Jonathan Martin wrote.
Wow. “Murder-suicide?” Doesn’t get much worse than that. Luckily for both men, even though their political campaigns died, they themselves didn’t.
Martin’s story provides an extreme example, but it perfectly highlights a problem with our political rhetoric these days -- too many people use violent words to describe non-violent activities.
It’s not just in politics, of course. “If I’m going to go down in flames, I’m at least going down with someone I enjoy watching play,” Texas Tech basketball coach Pat Knight said after his team suffered a lopsided defeat. In the online business world, Lance Ulanoff of PCMag.com declared that “Facebook’s death spiral has begun.” We can only hope nobody gets hurt during these impending crashes.
But it’s politicians and political reporters who are most likely to use violent metaphors. Candidates are said to have a “war chest” to pay for their bid. Debates trigger a “war of words.” Contenders promise to “fight to the finish.”
And here’s how MSNBC’s Chris Matthews sees the political picture: “The Republicans are like the -- like the Iraqis. Have you noticed?” he asked on the Tonight Show in January. Actually, Chris, I hadn’t noticed. Could you explain?
“They got their Shia wing, the fanatics. They’ve got Huckabee. This where I get into trouble. This is just where I get into trouble. Huckabee and Thompson are the Shiites, and the Sunni, the more moderate guys, are McCain, and -- who else they got over there? And uh, Rudy Giuliani. And then they got Romney, the Kurd.”
It seems almost impolite to remind Chris that there’s at least one big difference. While Iraqis frequently settle their disagreements with bombs and guns, the Republicans do so with words and votes.
That’s the beauty of our system. A political campaign may be many things, but it’s almost never violent. All those who’ve dropped out of the race to date did so unharmed, although it’s still possible Hillary could kneecap Barack, or vice versa.