If you're just joining this controversy, you've got some catching up to do. A brief recap: In a Saturday Night Live bit the weekend prior to the midterm elections, Dan Crenshaw -- a Republican Congressional candidate in Texas -- found himself as the butt of a bad joke. Cast member Pete Davidson made fun of Crenshaw's eye patch, which the former Navy SEAL wears because he lost an eye while serving in Afghanistan. The cheap shot, which was not delivered out of ignorance, was roundly condemned. Several days later, Crenshaw won his race fairly comfortably. Indeed, it was a bright spot amid a relatively worrisome performance by some Texas Republicans. Capitalizing on the cultural stir and his subsequent electoral victory, Crenshaw made a surprise appearance on SNL last weekend, skewering Davidson (including a pretty stinging tease about the comedian's recent celebrity breakup), then transcending bitterness. In case you missed it, here's the clip:
Outstanding work. Even the Washington Post's style section was impressed:
He’ll join a freshman class with two dozen other newly elected House members who are under 40 and, at least, 15 who are veterans. Yet, Crenshaw seems poised to stand out. His potent life story, his striking presence and his military and Ivy League credentials have set him up as a rising star for a Republican Party in bad need of one, after losing what could turn out to be three dozen seats once the dust settles...“It’s life,” Crenshaw said, sitting at a conference table in his Houston office last week. “It’s not a challenge.” He was the picture of calm. The eye patch was off. The gold trident sparkled. Behind him was a large framed photo of Ronald Reagan. Ahead of him was the next mission.
Following-up on his funny, then lovely, SNL cameo, Crenshaw took his anti-umbrage-culture message to NBC's Today:
He used his first (and likely not last) moment on the national stage to advocate grace and forgiveness, while drawing attention to veterans -- and also subtlely reminding a distracted public that there's still a war on, with real consequences for our warriors. Rather than stomping his feet about an (admittedly) nasty an gratuitous barb, he said that Americans need to come together to reject the temptation to wage political wars via grievance and offense-taking. It was exceptionally refreshing. National Review's David French is a fan, and hopes this was a watershed moment:
Crenshaw had attained the rarest position for a Republican politician: aggrieved-victim status. He was free to swing away. Instead, he refused to be offended. He noted that the joke was bad, but his handling of the whole affair was — as the Washington Post described him — “cool as a cucumber.” Then Saturday Night Live called. The show wanted to apologize, and they wanted Crenshaw on-air. He said yes...It turns out that there’s a market for grace in American politics. Within minutes, clips of the apology and Crenshaw’s tribute to Davidson’s dad rocketed across Twitter. As of this morning, the YouTube clip of the moment — not even 48 hours old — already had more than 5 million views. And it seems as if this is no act. This act of grace was an expression of who Crenshaw is...It turns out that one of the messages we needed to hear came from Crenshaw himself. Even in the age of Trump, a Republican politician can be his own man. He can show that grace isn’t weakness and that reconciliation can sometimes be more compelling than division.
Sure, Crenshaw's approach to politics and life is quite different from the president's -- Allahpundit accurately marvels that "the man positively radiates chill. No wonder he was a great soldier" -- but I'm not sure this needs to be about Trump at all. It's about someone rejecting an opportunity to grandstand, declining an opening for easy point-scoring, and conspicuously refused to feed the outrage wars. And, crucially, succeeding as a result of those choices. That alone is worth celebrating. On a more crudely partisan note, Republicans who may be worried about the future of the party ought to take a long, hard look at the future of Dan Crenshaw inside that party. This is a guy who once said that the GOP needs to appeal to future generations by making conservatism relevant and 'cool.' To that end, it seems his victory at the polls in suburban Houston wasn't the only important win he notched over the past week.