Sunday, November 02, 2014


I recently heard some right-wing radio guy ranting that Dan Quayle's speech about Murphy Brown was right..Yep, they're still going on about that. It's become conventional wisdom in conservative circles that Quayle was right, but was he? (It's also become conventional wisdom that this conventional wisdom is unconventional, and even brave. Oh well.)

Perhaps the left overreacted in its response, mocking Quayle for taking a TV show so personally, as if he couldn't tell the difference between real life and fiction (and the show loved it, even bringing Quayle into their fictional world).  But if you look at his original speech from 1992, it's still pretty ugly and dishonest.

Here's the famous part:

Bearing babies irresponsibly is simply wrong. Failing to support children one has fathered is wrong and we must be unequivocal about this. It doesn’t help matters when primetime TV has Murphy Brown, a character who supposedly epitomizes today’s intelligent, highly paid professional woman, mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice. I know it’s not fashionable to talk about moral values, but we need to do it! Even though our cultural leaders in Hollywood, network TV and the national newspapers routinely jeer at them, I think most of us in this room know that some things are good and other things are wrong. And now, it’s time to make the discussion public. It’s time to talk again about the family, hard work, integrity and personal responsibility. We cannot be embarrassed out of our belief that two parents married to each other are better, in most cases, for children than one. That honest work is better than handouts or crime. That we are our brother’s keepers. That is worth making an effort, even when the rewards aren’t immediate.

About the first line--yes, Dan, doing anything irresponsibly is just wrong.  And I don't think there's much of a constituency in favor of fathers failing to support their kids.  But the way he talks, you might think there is.  This is why political speech is so often hateful--not characterizing the opposition fairly, or even rationally.

And that's what he does with Murphy Brown.  I used to watch the show, and it certainly didn't treat having a baby alone as a "just another lifestyle choice." This was something that was happening in America, and Murphy Brown was trying to deal with it--maybe inadequately, as you might expect from a sitcom--but the last thing the show did was suggest this was anything other than a massive decision that would change your life, and not to be entered into lightly.

So this is the lie at the heart of Quayle's' famous speech which the right so proud of.  In that line alone, he decided to mischaracterize the show and the issue, and thus not enter into a serious debate.

Of course, he continues with his nonsensical characterizations, claiming "it's not fashionable to talk about moral values" when the left and right both love nothing better.  And then he has the nerve to demonize "Hollywood, network TV and the national newspapers" for jeering at moral values.  They didn't (and don't) do that Dan--they may be jeering at you, but they're not against moral values.

I have to give Vice President Quayle (and his speechwriters) credit for bringing up Murphy Brown--it took a routine speech and turned it into an historical one--but the lack of honesty is distressing. And the willingness of the right to ignore this lack of honesty is equally unfortunate.


Blogger ColumbusGuy said...

I don't know, feels like you're trolling. Certainly you're committing the sin you are accusing him of, setting up straw men. Who were you listening to, Medved? That's your own fault.

A common assertion now is that politics follows culture, and there isn't much question that culture is in control of libs (making them conservatives, delish). I mean, Ellen wasn't even on the air yet, and when she did get on the air she wasn't gay until five or six years later--about the time she went off the air. And it had been, what, 16 years or maybe 20 since being gay was removed from the DSM?

Now not being gay is nearly enough to get you indicted on federal charges, at least if you cross Eric Holder.

As to families, I wonder how far you would get with studies showing longer term commitment to children across gay or straight partners. I'd say not very far, unless the studies showed greater commitment among gay partners.

And certainly the Moynihan observation is becoming ever more validated. You want a decent environment for kids and a decent economic life, marry, and stay married.

Not that I've ever been much of a fan of Quayle, but to describe This as ugly and dishonest seems a bit overwrought. It'd be nearer the mark to call it cliche, except that it was certainly an important phenomenon well underway.

2:46 AM, November 02, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does trolling for trolls count as trolling?

DQ went out there on a plank with his killer issue and got the response anyone actually out in the world could have foreseen.

Mockery is never overwrought- it either works or it doesn't.

5:27 AM, November 02, 2014  
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