Feature: D.C. Water Cooler

CNN Arizona Debate: Is Birth Control the New Third Rail of Politics?

Author: Jimmy Zuma
Published: February 23, 2012 at 11:48 am

The heart stopping moment in the CNN Arizona Republican debate came when a citizen named T’sah posed a simple, online question,

“Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why?”

The Mesa, Arizona audience booed loudly. (It was a stark reminder of the gay soldier question.) You could watch each of the candidates squirming like schoolboys. The two Catholics and the Mormon looked like they were about to get rapped on the knuckles with a ruler. Ron Paul – turtle-like – seemed to try to duck down into his suit, but for once it fit well enough to offer little protection. It seemed clear that each knew the power of The Pill.

In case you’re too young to remember, it was 1981 when the nation’s most famous U.S. House Speaker, Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, first called Social Security reform “the third rail of American Politics.” It was an apt metaphor referring to the high voltage rail for electric trains and subways. Anyone touching this rail was instantly electrocuted. Barry Goldwater had suffered this metaphorical fate after he opposed Social Security during his disastrous 1964 presidential run.

Back in the present, Gingrich was the first to duck the question, predictably attacking the question and the media by claiming that no one had asked Barack Obama why he was a baby killer. This, Gingrich implied, was summary judgment of the illegitimacy of this question. And then – just as predictably – he presented his “so there!” pout rather than answer. With it, he greased the panel’s pivot away from the question and toward their views of “religious freedom.”

Revealingly though, Gingrich had spoken the phrase, “If you want to have a debate on who the extremist is…” telegraphing the true fear of these candidates. That wasn’t part of the question. But they are all aware – except for Crazy Rick Santorum maybe – of how much the party risks losing the election from extremist views. This year, any debate on who the true extremist is – on most any subject – favors the incumbent, President Obama. Today, Republican George Pataki voiced his agreement – it was a good night for Obama, he admitted.

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Article Author: Jimmy Zuma

What is your political office talking about around the DC Water Cooler? Email Jimmy at jimmyzuma@smartvstupid.com or call 202.681.4091. America's Favorite Liberal™, Jimmy Zuma, writes Technorati's DC Water Cooler, a weekly feature of what the politicians and pundits are talking about. …

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