On January 23, 2016, private citizen Donald Trump famously said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
Political geniuses like me said that only a political novice – or a New York real estate developer – could be so self-absorbed to have (a) said that, and (b) believed it.
I was wrong. Trump was right.
That level of cult-devotion has only grown over the ensuing 6½ years.
In Georgia, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Herschel Walker is accused as having paid for an abortion for an ex-girlfriend in 2009. That claim, first published by the on-line news site Daily Beast has been denied by Walker, but is backed by a signed check, a get-well card and the assertion of another child by the same woman who is alleged to be Walker’s son.
Walker has used his opposition to abortion as a center-post of his campaign including the hardest-line position of no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the woman. “There’s no exception in my mind,” he told reporters last Spring according to the NY Times.
There was nothing illegal, in 2009, in paying for someone’s abortion. Not so clear in 2022. But the larger point is, there was a time – maybe as recently as January 22, 2016 – that this kind of hypocrisy would cause party leaders to be searching for giant erasers to get Walker’s name off the ballot and someone else’s name on.
Republicans from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to former Speaker Newt Gingrich have jumped into the fray defending Walker.
As if that weren’t enough for Republicans, up in Pennsylvania, the GOP candidate for U.S. Senate is TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz. In an NBC News report Oz, while working as a medical investigator at Columbia University, “inflicted suffering on and killed over 300 dogs, 31 pigs and 661 rabbits and rodents” from 1989 to 2010.
The report goes on to assert that:
“In these experiments, animals are exposed to toxic chemicals or diseases and imprisoned in barren cages. They are usually killed after experiments are completed.”
Which reads like the script for an ASPCA plea for donations.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that as the result of a whistleblower complaint,
“The USDA eventually ordered Columbia to pay a $2,000 penalty for violations of the Animal Welfare Act as part of a settlement.”
Look. I am alive today because of advances in medical science. I get that these experiments have been used to test drugs and procedures that have saved thousands – maybe millions – of human lives.
But, the mental image of Oz killing little baby puppies and precious tiny bunny rabbits in some laboratory is not one a campaign for U.S. Senate wants uppermost in voters’ minds as we enter the final month of the midterm election cycle.
Both the Georgia race and the Pennsylvania race are razor thin. In Pennsylvania Democratic candidate Lt. Gov. John Fedderman’s lead over Oz has shrunk slightly from +9 to +6. In Georgia, incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock has seen his small lead grow from about two percentage points to just over four percentage points over the past week.
These two examples of 2022 October Surprises will likely not be the last we’ll hear, see, or read about between now and election day. And some will almost certainly be launched against Democrats who are not immune from cringe-worthy behavior.
No one is shooting anyone on 5th Avenue while running for President, but the Trump concept has hardened like concrete on the U.S. political system.
See you next week.