During Tuesday's foreign policy-themed debate on CNN, the GOP presidential hopefuls rallied around the real common enemy: political correctness. This, however, is just the latest salvo in the war on political correctness, which has been long brewing. And so, Brooke offers a consideration of what they meant when they railed against PC.
BOB: From WNYC in New York this is On the Media, I’m Bob Garfield.
BROOKE: And I’m Brooke Gladstone. This week the fifth Republican Primary Debate was held in Las Vegas. The theme was “foreign policy” and in their opening statements, two candidates, Dr. Ben Carson and Senator Ted Cruz zeroed in on the primary threat to our national security:
CRUZ: It’s not a lack of competence that is preventing the Obama administration from stopping these attacks: it is political correctness.
CARSON: And we should never give away the values and principles that made America into a great nation for the sake of political correctness.
CRUZ:We will stop the terrorist attacks before they occur….we will not be prisoners to political correctness.
CARSON: Right now, the United States of America is the patient. And the patient is in critical condition and will not be cured by political correctness…
CRUZ: And political correctness is killing people.
BROOKE: Political correctness keeps us from defeating ISIS. Political correctness keeps us from winning, at anything. Trump.
TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. [APPLAUSE]... frankly don’t have time for total political correctness. ...This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore.
BROOKE: Carly Fiorina not long ago.
FIORINA:by the way, there’s way too much political correctness in politics... people are tired of sanitized soundbites and bumper sticker rhetoric.
BROOKE: And Jeb Bush last summer, after being criticized for calling the children of immigrants “anchor babies”:
BUSH: I think we need to take a step back,and chill out a little bit as it relates to the political correctness that somehow you have to be scolded every time you say something.
BROOKE: Of course, this crop of contenders didn’t invent the term. Jeb may have learned it from his Dad, George HW Bush, who said, at a commencement speech in 1991:
BUSH: We find free speech under assault throughout the United States, including on some college campuses. The notion of political correctness has ignited controversy across the land. And although the movement arises from the laudable desire to sweep away the debris of racism and sexism and hatred, it replaces old prejudice with new ones.
BROOKE: In the Washington Post this week, Philip Bump traced one of the first modern uses of the term “politically correct” to a 1934 New York Times article about pre-war Nazi Germany. It described how German journalists had to publish only “politically correct” opinions --those sanctioned by the state-- or risk imprisonment. But no one in America risks jail for speaking his mind, unless he’s talking about killing the president. You know, like singer Ted Nugent in 2012.
NUGENT: Because I’ll tell you what, if Barack Obama becomes the president in November, again, I will be either be dead or in jail by this time next year.
BROOKE: Oh wait, he’s not in jail, cuz, obviously, he was speaking metaphorically.
NUGENT: when I kick the door down to the enemy's camp, would you help me shoot somebody?... And again, that's a metaphor ladies and gentleman, I'm not recommending shooting anybody.\
BROOKE: Nugent’s a putz, but he’s not that stupid.
So let’s assume that the GOP presidential contenders are campaigning against political correctness not because it threatens their right to speak (cus it sure hasn’t) but because it’s popular. They can reasonably fuel their anti-PC campaign with the controversies now raging on college campuses over such things as trigger warnings, initially designed to flag material online that might trigger post traumatic stress in the vulnerable, but now employed to head off speech that might offend, which of course, means heading off a lot of speech. This week Yale University inspired gasps when dozens of students signed a petition supporting repeal of the First Amendment! But what does political correctness really mean, as invoked in this week’s GOP debate? Judging by the comments of the candidates, it seems to mean that they sick and tired of having to kowtow to what Fiorina calls “bumper sticker rhetoric” about liberal obsessions.
At the debate, a question for Carson:
HEWITT: Could you order airstrikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores, but the hundreds and the thousands?
BROOKE: Carson temporizes about how he’s had to give kids facing brain surgery the low down and then says…
CARSON: you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by a thousand pricks.
HEWITT: So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilian. It’s like—
CARSON: You got it. You got it.
BROOKE: Yeah, the audience got it. Calling the slaughter of innocents a mercy was politically incorrect. So apparently, is championing the suspension of the First Amendment (when it comes Islam, not Yale), and equal protection under the law, and the Fifth Amendment's edict that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Unless we rid ourselves of all this strangulating political correctness, America can never be great again.
BOB: Coming up, polls, you can’t live with with ‘em, you certainly can’t avoid them.
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