It's the oddest form of echo. Not a retort. Not a reasoned rejoinder. The only way we can describe it is in terms of speech pathology. Listen, and explain it to me.
Fox News host Geraldo Rivera says the issue in the Trayvon Martin tragedy is the hoodie he wore. So compelling is this, so reasoned and researched, that he gets invited on with Bill O'Reilly to restate his, um, theory.
Newt Gingrich calls it "disgraceful" when President Obama speaks about how he feels, as a black man, to contemplatie the so-sad-as-to-sicken Trayvon tragedy.
Meanwhile, right-wing players search the Internet for tragedies involving black-on-white victims to say, "Yeah, but what about this?"
Why do these people even have a need to speak?
Because they can't control themselves. It's speech pathology.
We'll call it the two-step stutter. Step one: Hear something that would appall reasonable people (particularly if many are liberals). Step two: Twist your mind in amazing ways to find some way to change the subject and turn the table on liberals.
Step one. A true outrage: Rush Limbaugh calls a woman a "slut" for asking to participate at an all-male Capitol Hill discussion about women's health care. Even Limbaugh acknowledges he went over the line.
Can Limbaugh's apologists leave it at that? No, they have to pile on Sandra Fluke. She's no average citizen, you know. She's a, a — you know — a feminist activist. And she's no spring-break coed. She's, she's 30 years old. Some "student."
(It never occurred to most of us that Fluke's age might incriminate her, but right-wing email threaders want you to know. Thanks for the big scoop, Matt Drudge.)
Oh, and what's more: You think what Limbaugh said was bad. You know what sexist things Bill Maher has said? (Run tape, Fox News.)
This is relevant how? Does Limbaugh gain frequent defiler points based on what's said on cable?
Regarding the Limbaugh matter, all that has happened in recent days has been the free market of ideas coming down on his high holiness in a way he's exploited it for years. The difference: Reaction to what he said has caused more than 100 advertisers to pull their money. To all those big on "freedom," this is called the freedom of association.
Limbaugh should have picked someone else to pick on. Gingrich and Rivera should have chosen topics other than Trayvon Martin. Ah, but they couldn't help themselves.
What we've been hearing for quite some time is not an adult conversation. It is the discourse of the jungle gym: "anti" commentators upside down, hanging from their knees — blood rushing to their heads — saying something, anything, to hear themselves emoting.
Say what you will about Obama's policies. He always manages to come across as an adult.
But, oh, Obama's public political adversaries are so flush with hatred for him, so consumed, they forget who is watching them as they toss pea gravel on the playground.
Who is watching? Voters, that's who. Women, in the case of Sandra Fluke. Minorities, in the Trayvon Martin horror. Do these blowhorns have a shred of common decency in them to know times when silence might become them? Are they so aflame in their political passions that they can't hear how they really sound?
And, no, the Trayvon story isn't just a story because he was black. It's also a story because he was young, and armed only with Skittles. It's a story became of vigilantism, and Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law — legislation served as a catered delight for the National Rifle Association in state after state. The law made it possible that Trayvon would die without any means of us ever knowing what "menace" he represented in that gated community, and without criminal charges.
Cold. Soulless. Out of touch. Blind to anything other than one's own pitiful agenda. That's what I call a person who ponders that boy's death and finds something in it to make the president the bad guy.
Longtime Texas newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.