Bob Franken

King Features Column

(As usual, the arrangement with the syndicators means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)

^BITTEN BY THE SOUND BITE@< ^(For use by New York Times News Service clients)@< ^By BOB FRANKEN@= ^C.2011 Hearst Newspapers@= WASHINGTON _ Let's face it, the very most anyone remembers from any political debate is one sound bite. But sometimes, as in the Oct. 11 Bloomberg-Washington Post debate at Hanover, N.H., we have a rhetorical embarrassment of riches. Or just an embarrassment. There was Texas Gov. Rick Perry, fending off comparisons with Mitt Romney's economic proposals, blurting, "Mitt's had six years to be working on a plan. I've been in this for about eight weeks." Usually a candidate's admission that he's been thinking the economy for just eight weeks would have easily made him the sound bite award winner. But he was contending with Michele Bachmann. No one yields a pithy phrase like her. And this time she was actually on target when she turned to Herman Cain. Cain has now shot slightly ahead of the field in the Oct. 12 NBC poll, even edging out Romney, 27 percent to 23 percent. Much of Cain's traction has come from his so-called ``9-9-9'' plan which makes taxes on all individuals and corporations 9 per cent and adds a 9 sales tax for bad measure. Never mind that it's truly a Hood Robin, in that it takes from the poor and gives to the rich. It's really, really simple. That gave Bachmann her opening to clobber him. ``When you take the 9-9-9 plan and turn it upside down, I think the devil is in the details.'' Now that as Perry himself might say, is a whuppin'. Not that it does her much good. In the NBC poll, she is down at 5 per cent and Perry is at 16. Both are former hopes of the ABM crowd, meaning ``Anybody But Mitt.'' Now it's Cain's turn.

Actually “The Herimnator”, as he loves to call himself, is no slouch when it comes to snappy harshness. This is the man, after all, who told the Wall Street Journal, on Oct. 6: “If you don’t have a job, and you’re not rich, blame yourself. It’s not someone’s fault if they succeeded, it’s someone’s fault if they failed.”

Was that callous or what? Particularly when we remember that Cain had stomped all over Rick Perry on ABC just a few days before for “a lack of sensitivity.” That was after news disclosures that Perry had maintained hunting property marked with a rock painted “N—–head.”

So it’s Perry to Bachmann to Cain. But instead of being a double play combination, it’s a double talk one, and a vicious circle.

Vicious is nothing new in political rhetoric. Listen to the various responses to the Wall Street-and-beyond protests. It’s a “mob,” declares Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, that wants to “divide America.”

Let’s see here: My online dictionary defines a “mob” as a “disorderly or riotous crowd of people.” The Wall Street protesters have been remarkably docile.

This is more along the lines of what the Constitution protects as “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” You remember the Constitution, don’t you Congressman Cantor? That’s what you and your fellow GOP members had read out loud when you took over the House. Were you not paying attention to the words of the First Amendment? Or to the activities of your pals in the Tea Party movement?

And let’s not overlook Newt Gingrich, even though just about everyone else is. He’s an old reliable demagogue, jumping in to call the spreading demonstrations “a natural product of class warfare.” Nice try Newt, but you’re getting trounced in the smear tactical warfare these days.

As for President Obama, he described the Occupy Wall Street movement during his news conference as a manifestation of how “people are frustrated.” Wow. Leave it to Barack Obama to non-boldly go where everyone else is going. Actually, Mr. President, and those who want your job, most aren’t frustrated. They’re angry.

What we might be seeing is a demand to realize Abraham Lincoln’s “Government of the People, By the People and For the People.”

What a pity we didn’t have TV back them, because that would have been a great sound bite. Of course, it is chiseled in marble in the Lincoln Memorial on the Mall in Washington. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been chiseled into the thinking of most our leaders.


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