Yesterday in Virginia, Vice-President Joe Biden criticized Mitt Romney’s plan to “unchain Wall Street,” warning that “he’s going to put y’all back in chains.” He said that because he is Joe Biden and there were black people in the audience. Presumably, he was referring to Romney’s actual talking point about unshackling the economy, and he meant that all the members of the audience would be shackled, not just the black ones. The slip hardly lived up to his Bidentity as an unstoppable gaffe machine, but daughter of person who was almost president Meghan McCain jumped on it. Props to Ben al-Fowlkes for the link. Joining Mac & Gaydos on Arizona’s KTAR [boinging sound,] McCain called the Vice-President an “idiot.” Her point:
I’m so sick of this BS from [Biden]. I can’t stand Joe Biden because I think stupid is worse than being mean. I just think any insinuation that in America we’re going to go back to slavery times is delusional. It’s ridiculous and it’s ignorant…If I were Obama I would’ve never picked Joe Biden in the first place.
First of all, Meghan McCain, if you were Obama people would not ask for your opinions, because you wouldn’t know your dad. Second, is stupid really worse than mean?
In order to perform a close reading of Me-Mac’s claim, we’ll need to understand a few premises. “BS” is a euphemism for “bullshit” used by people with overbearing fathers. Also, she is working from the assumption that Biden meant Romney would return the country to slavery.
That might be uncharitable. When Biden says that Romney’s plan to unshackle the economy would “put y’all back in chains,” he is probably referring to the rollback of regulations, union rights and social services that would straiten the lives of working people for corporate profit. Marx said that the workers of the world had nothing to lose but their chains. Now we’re reaching, though; probably Biden said “chains” because he has a knack for that kind of thing.
Regardless, that’s Me-Mac’s straw man and she’s sticking to him. The beauty of this particular fallacy is that it is completely foundational: once you lay it in there, every conclusion that follows can be logically valid. I agree with McCain that “any insinuation that…America [is] going back to slavery times is delusional and…ridiculous.” I worry about the present state of our nation, but only an absurdly dumb person would believe we are headed back to the Peculiar Institution. Which brings us to Me-Mac’s main point.
Is stupid really worse than mean? Related question: Does Meghan McCain genuinely believe that Joe Biden meant Romney would take us back to slavery? If she heard the word “chains,” noticed there were black people in the audience and made the leap, then she is probably stupid. The difference between a delusional insinuation sent and a delusional insinuation received lies with who is deluded.
I don’t think Me-Mac is stupid, though. Famous dad and comma splices notwithstanding, she went to Cornell. [Ed.: Correction! She went to Columbia. Thanks, Luke.] I think she is mean. It’s mean to assume that the Vice President would say something patently absurd. It is also mean to claim that what people can’t help about themselves—being dumb, for example—matters more than what they can control, like cruelty. Here’s a quick list of different kinds of people in similar situations, so you can decide who is “worse”:
- Lenny from Of Mice and Men versus Curley from Of Mice and Men
- Sherri Shepherd versus Ann Coulter
- Homer Simpson versus OJ Simpson
And that doesn’t even touch Forrest Gump, the first Conan movie and after-school specials about developmental disabilities. Pretty much every aspect of American culture agrees that being stupid is not as bad as being mean. You know what one exception is? Conservative politics.
The Republican Party is one place where being unable to fend for yourself is considered worse than being callous. How else to describe a party that has so zealously pursued tax cuts at the expense of welfare? Why else would you propose a budget that eliminates every federal function but eldercare and war? The policies of the contemporary GOP presume that incompetence is worse than greed, that needing help is worse than being selfish.
It’s an agenda that holds people responsible for who they are, but not for what they do. I do not doubt that Meghan McCain actually believes stupid is worse than mean. It makes sense that a senator’s daughter would decide that screwing up is more reprehensible than pressing your advantage. I just cannot understand her position at all. Maybe I’m being stupid now, but I bet a majority of Americans can’t, either.