Almost every Republican presidential candidate wasted no time in piling on Donald Trump over his ill-advised joke about Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) military service, a lightning-fast reflex that cannot be lost on the Mexicans whom Trump called rapists, and which prompted only long-delayed scoldings about “tone.” In case you missed it, here’s what Trump said:
“He’s not a war hero. He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, okay? I hate to tell you. He’s a war hero because he was captured. Okay? You can have — and I believe perhaps he’s a war hero.”
Only two candidates declined to denounce Trump: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Dr. Ben Carson, who took the additional step of not being sure McCain actually is a war hero. Then there’s former future Vice President Sarah Palin, who achieved something quite amazing with her response.
On his HBO program Last Week Tonight, John Oliver uses a segment called “And now, this…” to break up his show, and these usually feature compilations of news and political personalities doing something really annoying, like calling things “selfies” that aren’t selfies. Unfortunately, Oliver has yet to catch up on one of my personal pet peeves, so I’ve put together my own compilation of People Who Don’t Know What “Splitting the Baby” Means. And now, this:
There are actually many more examples of news personalities and others misusing this metaphor, which, as Law and Order: SVU‘s Stabler explained, does not mean what you think it means. It’s derived from a Bible story in which King Solomon uses his mad wisdom skillz to decide which woman is a particular baby’s real mother, and which one is lying. He orders that the baby be split with a sword, and half given to each woman. What happens next is pure wisdom magic:
Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.
The story had me until the other woman says “Yeah, cut it up and gimme half!” because who would do that? So, I call bullshit on that part of the story. The rest of it is solid.
Still, though, the point of this parable is not to end up with two dead halves of baby. If you split the baby, you are not arriving at a compromise, you are not each getting some of what you want, you are not meeting halfway. Neither party is getting anything that is of any use.
That’s what is so remarkable about Sarah Palin’s response to the Trump/McCain kerfuffle, because she actually managed to split the baby. In an email to CNN, Palin declared that JOhn McCain and Donald Trump are both heroes:
“Sen. McCain dedicated his life to serving our country, and in my humble opinion the sacrifices made by all ethical service members are heroic — putting it all on the line to defend freedom IS heroic — and Donald Trump is a hero in another arena.”
In this case, the baby is the word “hero,” and by conferring the title equally on John McCain and Donald Trump. she renders the word a bisected, bloody heap. It’s as if Solomon had been like CHOP! “Here are your respective half-babies! Have a nice day.”
While hardly Solomonic, though, Palin’s response is likely a predictor of how this will shake out for Trump. Everyone’s wondering if the controversy will put a dent in Trump’s now-humongous lead in Republican primary polls, but they’re basing most of their concern on a false premise. The alleged Republican reverence for military is complete bullshit, and extends only to people they like (see Kerry, John and/or Cleland, Max).
Because mainstream media types love McCain so much, they fail to understand the depth of dislike that exists for McCain among the belligerent nativist base from which Trump draws his support. Couple that with the built-in pass that Donald Trump gets for being an unfiltered verbal woodchipper, and I doubt this will affect his poll numbers at all.