Need to Know Video

GOP’s Leading Ladies: Bachmann’s Her Own Woman

Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
May 31, 2011, 4:37 p.m.

A Rasmussen Re­ports (IVR) poll; con­duc­ted 10/4; sur­veyed 500 LVs; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 4.4% (re­lease, 10/9). Tested: LG Den­nis Daugaard (R) and state Sen. Scott Heide­priem (D).

Gen­er­al Elec­tion Match­up

- Now 9/8 8/3 7/6 6/10 5/26 4/21 3/25 2/23 D. Daugaard 57% 57% 59% 52% 52% 51% 53% 49% 41% S. Heide­priem 33 28 27 35 36 36 33 32 32 Oth­er 4 4 4 4 3 7 5 6 7 Un­dec 6 11 10 9 9 6 9 13 19

I’ve spent a fair amount of time this week pon­der­ing what it means to stand one’s ground.

The term has taken on a new, dis­turb­ing mean­ing as the story of the shoot­ing of an un­armed Flor­ida teen­ager took on a life of its own. I don’t know any­one who’s ever loved a boy who was not un­nerved by this. Flor­ida’s self-de­fense law, known as “Stand Your Ground,” al­lows cit­izens who feel they are in im­min­ent danger to pro­tect them­selves — with a gun, if need be.

The idea of pro­tect­ing one­self, one’s fam­ily, and one’s prop­erty from in­truders is so ap­peal­ing that 21 states have ad­op­ted some ver­sion of the law. In this case, the pro­tec­tions of the Flor­ida law ap­peared to have al­lowed 28-year-old George Zi­m­mer­man to es­cape im­me­di­ate ar­rest and pro­sec­u­tion for shoot­ing 17-year-old Trayvon Mar­tin dead late last month. Mar­tin was walk­ing through a gated com­munity with candy and a can of iced tea.


Cit­izens of San­ford, Fla., protest the death of Trayvon Mar­tin (CNN)

The up­roar con­sumed the blo­go­sphere, talk shows, news­pa­per front pages, black ra­dio, and in­nu­mer­able kit­chen-table con­ver­sa­tions. Does stand­ing one’s ground mean de­fend­ing one­self no mat­ter what? And when civil rights lead­ers in San­ford, Fla., later de­clared “the line has been drawn in the sand,” wer­en’t they too stand­ing their ground?

Stand­ing one’s ground sounds great. It sig­nals cour­age and back­bone. Politi­cians have been trad­ing in this cur­rency forever. They call it lead­er­ship, and voters usu­ally agree.

Stand­ing one’s ground has polit­ic­al as well as so­cial con­sequences, as we have seen this week — which brings us to Mitt Rom­ney. As I have writ­ten in this space be­fore, the former Mas­sachu­setts gov­ernor and still-likely GOP pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee can­not shake his chief weak­ness — the per­cep­tion that he is too flex­ible.

This repu­ta­tion, rooted in his days as the Re­pub­lic­an gov­ernor of a no­tori­ously blue state, has dogged him throughout the primar­ies. Fueled by the de­term­ined pur­suit of Newt Gin­grich and Rick San­tor­um, the Rom­ney-as-un­re­li­able meme has now be­come a re­cur­ring top­ic on the trail.

And just when he seemed to re­gain the sense of in­ev­it­ab­il­ity that he wore as a front-run­ner’s cape by scor­ing a de­cis­ive win in Illinois, his chief spokes­man re­minded every­one of his can­did­ate’s chief weak­ness.

Ap­pear­ing on a CNN talk show, strategist Eric Fehrn­strom re­spon­ded to a ques­tion about wheth­er Rom­ney would be able to veer back to­ward the cen­ter dur­ing a gen­er­al elec­tion cam­paign after re­peatedly trum­pet­ing his con­ser­vat­ive bona fides dur­ing the primary sea­son.

“Well, I think you hit a re­set but­ton for the fall cam­paign,” he said. “Everything changes. It’s al­most like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and start all over again.”

Let us pause here to say this made the folks at Obama headquar­ters in Chica­go very, very happy.


Rick San­tor­um holds up an Etch A Sketch in San Ant­o­nio, Texas (CNN)

By the end of the day on Wed­nes­day, Rom­ney was try­ing to clean up the day’s mini-storm by stat­ing flatly that his is­sues would be “ex­actly the same” in the fall gen­er­al elec­tion. But by then, the Rom­ney cam­paign had — not for the first time — com­mit­ted an­oth­er un­forced er­ror, and on the very day he should have been cel­eb­rat­ing his win in Illinois and a Jeb Bush en­dorse­ment. Gin­grich and San­tor­um promptly got hold of Etch A Sketches to bran­dish on the cam­paign trail. A San­tor­um aide even raced to a Rom­ney event in Mary­land to hand out the toys to re­port­ers.

We can­not res­ist a toy. And we can­not res­ist a ker­fuffle that plays in­to a pre­con­ceived no­tion.

But we do like con­sist­ency. I was re­minded of that this week when I sat down on Cap­it­ol Hill to in­ter­view re­tir­ing Sens. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Jeff Binga­man, D-N.M. As we chat­ted be­fore the in­ter­view began, it hit me how long it had been since I had been able to get sen­at­ors of op­pos­ing parties to sit down next to each oth­er for a joint in­ter­view. At best, we are only able to get Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats to sit down “back to back,” rather than en­gage each oth­er dir­ectly.


Binga­man and Snowe, of course, who rep­res­ent the van­ish­ing middle in their parties, are on their way out of the Sen­ate. Their con­sist­ency is rooted in a firm be­lief in the value of bi­par­tis­an­ship. But Demo­crats on the left and Re­pub­lic­ans on the right have come to treat the search for com­mon ground as a sign of un­re­li­ab­il­ity.

“There’s not much of a cen­ter,” Snowe told me. “And we have to de­cide that the in­sti­tu­tion has to not only solve prob­lems, but the Amer­ic­an people have to give re­wards to those people and in­di­vidu­als who are will­ing to work across party lines. There are no polit­ic­al re­wards for that today.”

So of­ten our ideals clash with our ac­tions, wheth­er in life or in polit­ics or in stand­ing your ground.

What We're Following See More »
PLENTY OF MISTAKES IN COVERT TESTS
Report: U.S. Ill-Equipped to Detect Dirty Bomb
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

A DHS report "found gaping holes in domestic nuclear detection and defense capabilities and massive failures during covert testing." A team put in place to assess our readiness capabilities found significant issues in detecting dangerous radioactive and nuclear materials, failing to do so in 30 percent of covert tests conducted over the course of the year. In far too many cases, the person operating the detection device had no idea how to use it. And when the operator did get a hit, he or she relayed sensitive information over unsecured open radio channels."

Source:
WON’T INTERFERE IN STRUCTURING NSC OFFICE
White House to Give McMaster Carte Blanche
8 hours ago
THE LATEST
RESTROOM ISSUES RETURN
Trump To Rescind Trans Protections
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump is planning to reverse an Obama-era order requiring that schools allow students to use the bathroom that coincides with their gender identity. Trump "has green-lighted the plan for the Justice Department and Education Department to send a “Dear Colleague” letter to schools rescinding the guidance." A case is going before the Supreme Court on March 28 in which Gavin Grimm, a transgender high school student, is suing his high school for forbidding him to use the men's room.

Source:
NAIVE, RISK TAKER
Russia Compiling Dossier on Trump’s Mind
10 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Retired Russian diplomats and members of Vladimir Putin's staff are compiling a dossier "on Donald Trump's psychological makeup" for the Russian leader. "Among its preliminary conclusions is that the new American leader is a risk-taker who can be naïve, according to a senior Kremlin adviser."

Source:
PLANS TO CURB ITS POWER
Pruitt Confirmed As EPA Head
4 days ago
BREAKING
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login