It’s tough to tell whether he was being vapid or vicious, but it was Democratic through and through.
South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg tossed out a bit of groundless speculation in an interview with Axios over the weekend that insinuated at least one previous president was a closeted homosexual.
But he didn’t try to give a name.
The moment came in an “Axios on HBO” interview that aired Sunday when Buttigieg was asked to anticipate Republican criticisms of his campaign – in the extremely unlikely event Democrats are insane enough to nominate him for the presidency.
“Republicans claimed that John Kerry was a traitor in Vietnam. That Barack Obama was a Muslim,” Buttigieg was told.
“If you were to win the nomination, they’ll say you’re too young, too liberal, too gay to be commander in chief. You are young. You are a liberal. You are gay. How will you respond?”
Buttigieg’s reply was even more smarmy than usual.
“I’ll respond by explaining where I want to lead this country. People will elect the person who will make the best president. And we have had excellent presidents who have been young.
“We have had excellent presidents who have been liberal. I would imagine we’ve probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn’t know which ones.”
Check it out here:
How very precious.
First of all, just to be clear, the question itself was a red herring.
The many good reasons not to like John Kerry and Barack Obama had precious little to do with Kerry’s actual service in Vietnam or Obama’s religious background.
Kerry’s lies about his Vietnam experience were his problem, not Republican accusations about them. (Remember how he had a memory “seared into my brain” that was factually impossible?)
And if there were any question about how Kerry would have performed in the presidency, just look at his wasted four years kowtowing to Iran and trying to bully Israel as secretary of state to think how that might have gone.
As for Obama, the man who will someday compete with Jimmy Carter and James Buchanan for the title of “Worst President in History” had successive administrations so hostile to the history and foundations of the United States and its Constitution that his religion was essentially irrelevant.
The man and his party represented a danger to the country itself that no Islamist terror outfit could hope to achieve – whether billionaire Saudis such as bin Laden or the rag-tag guerillas of the Islamic State group.
Likewise, Buttigieg’s being gay has literally nothing to do with what a lousy president he would make. And his problem isn’t that he’s too young – the natural course of time and the pressures of the presidency would take care of that pretty quick.
The problem with Buttigieg — and modern Democrats as a whole — is summed up in his total non-answer to the question.
He didn’t tout his own experience. He has none that’s relevant. He didn’t come up with any facts or arguments. He has none.
He came up with a counterstatement that was only tangentially relevant — that other presidents before him have been young and liberal — then came up with a statement on his own that was utterly unsupported by anything other than his own wishful thinking.
“I would imagine we’ve probably had excellent presidents who were gay — we just didn’t know which ones,” he said.
Buttigieg probably didn’t expect the answer to get even passing scrutiny, so he didn’t have an answer for the natural follow-up: “In your reading of history, do you believe you know who they were?”
He came back with a gay adult version of “My dog ate my homework.”
“My gaydar even doesn’t work that well in the present, let alone retroactively. But one can only assume that’s the case.”
So, was he being vicious, or just vapid?
By the time the 2020 election rolls around, 45 men will have held the presidency. If we stipulate that Donald J. Trump is not a likely candidate (if he were, this would probably be much bigger stage than “Axios on HBO”), that means Buttigieg just smeared 44 men with an implication that’s almost perfect in its awfulness:
The living would demean themselves by refuting it, and the dead can’t deny it.
Maybe he was doing it to titillate the national audience before the upcoming Democratic debates, when hopefully more important things than one Indiana mayor’s choice of sleeping partners will be on the agenda.
Maybe he was just trying to smirk his way out of an uncomfortable question — and one he couldn’t answer, in any case. (Try to imagine being Pete Buttigieg and trying to convince yourself there’s a reason you should be president. It’s not easy.)
But when push came to shove, even in the friendly confines of “Axios on HBO,” the best Buttigieg could do was come up with a line that – at the very least – declared one or more of his predecessors to be outright liars (as well as immoral by the standards of their day, for the most part.)
Really, it was a vicious attack on presidents past, both living and dead, that Buttigieg launched in that interview, and vapid in the sense that he offered not a shred of evidence to back up the idea, or even a manly assertion that he was personally convinced of its truth.
Just that “statistically, it’s almost certain.”
Vicious and vapid at the same time is a pretty repellent combination. But as a symbol of the Democratic Party in 2019, it’s damn near perfect.
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