"W hich is worse?" Mr. Right asked Mr. Peepers the other day, "Carl Paladino telling Fred Dicker, 'I'll take you out,' or Harry Reid saying he wants to strangle Sharron Angle?"
"Paladino," Mr. Peepers answered promptly.
"You would," Mr. Right scoffed at the Democratic loyalist, "That's just more proof of the double standard that prevails on your side."
Had he asked me, I'd also have said Paladino. "Wanting to strangle" someone has become too much of a figure of speech to be taken seriously as an actual threat of violence. To me, such a remark doesn't compare to a politician threatening a reporter face-to-face, as was the case with Paladino and Dicker. If I'm applying a double standard, it's not based on partisanship or ideology but on an assumption, based itself on admittedly limited acquaintance, that Carl Paladino means what he says. If he wants to present himself as an unconventional politician, he shouldn't be surprised if people take his words as real threats, not typical political rhetoric.
Subsequently, Mr. Right defended Paladino's conduct by writing: "Tell you what: Any member of any organization whose photographer stuck his camera in my daughter's bedroom at night WOULD BE threatened with bodily harm and I'm sure you'd react the same way." This only shows why Mr. Right himself would be unfit for political office. On the other hand, he cites a professor of mass communications who contends that Dicker crossed a line of propriety while confronting Paladino, while Mr. Right himself is not uncritical of the Republican candidate. The Paladino-Dicker showdown was sparked by Paladino's blind accusation that his Democratic rival, Andrew Cuomo, had cheated on his wife during their marriage. In Mr. Right's opinion, Paladino's accusation was "reckless, crude and ignorant."
To be as fair as possible to Mr. Right, I decided to track down Senator Reid's remark about strangling Angle, his Republican challenger in Nevada. Here a problem arose: there appears to be no evidence whatsoever online of Reid ever saying such a thing. Given the breadth of the Republican reactionary blogosphere, had Reid said such a thing it should have been easy to find in transcript or YouTube format, with time and place referenced. Nothing of the kind exists. Mr. Right himself does not tell us when or where Reid said it.
I suspect that Mr. Right, while skimming the surface of the right-wing blog bog, came across this site, which is the first thing that shows up when you do a Google search including "Reid," "Sharron Angle" and "strangle." Read the blog itself and you find that the source isn't Reid but Angle -- and she isn't even accusing her opponent of saying that he'd like to strangle her. She's simply stating metaphorically that Reid tried to strangle her general election campaign by swamping Nevada with a massive ad buy immediately following her Republican primary win. Nor by headlining the "strangle" charge did the original blogger mean to accuse Reid of a desire to choke the life from Angle's body with his own hands. Mr. Right has most likely read too much into this headline by not reading the story closely enough.
The apparently fictional Reid quote isn't Mr. Right's only evidence for a double standard on the subject of physical threats. He cites Rahm Emmanuel "pronouncing a number of political enemies 'dead' [while] no one bats an eye," for instance. As for whether Paladino's threat to Dicker proves him "too angry" for elected office, Mr. Right absurdly offers the by-now infamously dispassionate President Obama as a counter-example of a liberal Democrat who doesn't take criticism well. Notice the change of subject. Mr. Right doesn't dare claim that Obama threatened to "take out" Fox News or its talking heads or do anything metaphorically similar. But he's desperate to show that Carl Paladino is not uniquely disqualified by his temperament from holding public office, so he reaches for any potential comparison in order to normalize Paladino's flash of thuggishness.
Finally, though, Mr. Right decides that personalities aren't the real issue in the New York gubernatorial campaign -- policies are. That's his cue to blame the economic crisis on Andrew Cuomo in his capacity as HUD secretary during the Clinton administration by encouraging the issuance of mortgages to poor people and somehow, presumably, strongarming banks to bundle and commodify and trade and insure them into an unsustainable bubble. I agree that the housing bubble should be an issue in this campaign so the extent to which Wall Street blew it up can be made clear. And if Cuomo does bear a share of blame, that's all the more reason for New Yorkers to consider third-party candidates as untainted alternatives to both Cuomo and Paladino. When political writers neglect to tell you that these alternatives exist, I'd really like to strangle them.