Playing defense

    When politicians screw up, or lie, or act in ways that contradict their words, they typically seek to spin their way out of trouble. Some fresh examples:The “I Didn’t Do It” Defense. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the GOP’s Great Latino Hope, tried this one the other day when he was outed for lying about his Cuban parents.For years he had insisted that his parents fled Fidel Castro’s communist coup in 1959, reaching these shores in search of freedom. Political exiles are at the top of the Cuban-American pecking order, and Rubio clearly wanted to make common cause with those conservative voters. His official website biography stated: “Marco was born in Miami to Cuban-born parents who came to America following Fidel Castro’s takeover.”But then, last week, when it turned out that Rubio’s line was patently false – press reports revealed that his parents came to America on immigration visas three years earlier, in 1956, when Cuba’s pro-western dictator reigned supreme – Rubio insisted that he hadn’t said anything wrong. He said it was “outrageous” to suggest that he had distorted his family’s past for “political gain,” and then he doubled down, declaring that “the essential facts of my family’s story are completely accurate.”Gee. And here I had always thought that “following” was a synonym for “after,” and that 1956 occurred on the calendar before 1959.Rubio then tried to insist that his parents still fit the definition of “political exiles,” because they had supposedly yearned to move back to Cuba. Indeed, Rubio claimed the other day that “in February 1961, my mother took my older siblings to Cuba with the intention of moving back.” But that didn’t square with what he had said in the past. Two years ago, in an interview on NPR, he said only that “my mom went back with my sister and brother to take care of her father” – who had been hit by a bus.Trapped by his lies, Rubio opted yesterday for a modified ‘fess up, The “Everybody Does It” Defense. Speaking in Florida, he said: “We do have a tendency in modern politics to exaggerate things.” Yes, he was trying to spread the blame in order to sorta come clean, but wait…then he said that his parents’ actual story “is essentially the same one” as the story he’d long peddled.Gee. I never knew that “essentially” could be defined so broadly. This guy’s dictionary is clearly more flexible than Webster’s.Meanwhile, we’ve seen several uses lately of The “I’m So Tired” Defense. After Rick Perry proved himself not ready for prime time, behaving during debates as if he’d just been kicked in the head by a horse, his spin team insisted this was only because he was fatigued by insufficient rest. (Of course, now that he’s presumably been rested, he’s reportedly preparing to flee many of the remaining debates. Real tough guy. He can shoot a coyote with his gun, but apparently he can’t match wits with his underwhelming rivals.)And now we have Herman Cain, whose spin team is now blaming his serial blunders on candidate fatigue. When Cain went on CNN and declared himself to be both pro-choice on abortion and pro-life on abortion within a span of 20 seconds, that’s because he was “really tired.” When Cain remarked that maybe it would be a good idea to trade hundreds of Guantanamo terrorist suspects for one U.S. soldier – same defense there, too. As a Cain spinner puts it, the candidate wouldn’t have uttered that howler “if he’d been rested.”Wow, what’s next, Beatles lyrics?I’m so tired, I haven’t slept a winkI’m so tired, my mind is on the blink…You’d say I’m putting you onBut it’s no joke, it’s doing me harmYou know I can’t sleep, I can’t stop my brainYou know it’s three weeks, I’m going insane…Memo to Cain: Welcome to the big leagues, kid.And lastly today, we have The Loophole Defense. This is typically employed by politicians whose actions belie their words, yet still insist – via sleight of hand and the splitting of hairs – that there is no contradiction. President Obama is currently working this turf.Obama vowed in 2008 that he would never take a donated dime from Washington lobbyists. And indeed he hasn’t – not from registered lobbyists, anyway. The hitch, however, is that Washington is packed with all kinds of special-interest influence peddlers who don’t bother to register as lobbyists. They simply refer to themselves as “strategic advisers,” “consultants,” and other euphemisms that mask their inside game. And it turns out that more than a dozen of these prestigious shadow players are Obama “bundlers” – people who donate campaign money to the president and solicit their powerful pals to do the same.It’s a great loophole. Federal ethics law requires that lobbyists register themselves if they have “direct” and “active” contact with public officials,” but if those contacts are merely indirect or “routine,” they don’t need to register. To avoid registration, in other words, movers and shakers need only define their contacts as “routine,” and rendezvous informally with public officials in places, like coffee shops, where their meetings are not officially logged.The Loophole Defense will have to speak for itself, because the Obama White House refuses to discuss its bundlers. Which is another manifestation of The Stonewall Defense, a favorite of politicians since time immemorial. In that sense, nothing has changed under Obama. Cue the lyrics from Paul Simon: “After changes, we are more or less the same.”——-Non-baseball fans can skip this section:The astounding Game Six of the ’11 World Series, which was capped by an 11th-inning walk off homer by the home team, stirred my personal memories of the astounding Game Six of the ’91 World Series, which was capped by an 11th-inning walk off homer by the home team. Because I was there, covering the Twins and Braves for The Philadelphia Inquirer.It was virtually 20 years ago to the day. I had to write the game story. The plot arc had shifted a dozen times, only to be clarified when Kirby Puckett struck the winning blow. I had one hour to write on deadline. I was 15 rows behind home plate, swaddled in 55,000 people going berserk. It was like working inside a jet engine. I had to interrupt the writing to fight my way up the aisle and downstairs to the interview room, to garner players’ quotes. This is the story I cobbled together. Thanks to the drama last night, my Game Six feels like it happened yesterday. Happily so.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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