The games of silly season

    Can we please not debate whether Ted Nugent or Hilary Rosen is the more flawed surrogate?Let’s call a moratorium on these pointless “equivalence” games. People who publicly support presidential candidates are bound to say stupid stuff, badly-phrased stuff, off-message stuff. It’s a waste of time to argue over which side’s surrogates are better or worse. It’s also a waste of time to hold the candidates responsible when these surrogates (many of whom are not even in the loop) go out and say something loopy.The current equivalence game pits Nugent fans against Rosen fans. The Nugent fans (in the Romney camp) say that Rosen is worse. The Rosen fans (in the Obama camp) say that Nugent is worse. Since those of you who actually have lives may not be familiar with this latest online exercise, here’s a brief recap: Rosen is the Democratic strategist who said on CNN last week that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life,” and was thus accused far and wide of maligning the labor of stay-home moms. Nugent is the heavy metal rocker who said last weekend, at a gun-rights rally, that Republicans “need to ride onto that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.” He was referring to Democratic heads. He also said, “If Barack Obama becomes president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.” He also said, “If you can’t go home and get everybody in your lives to clean house in this vile, evil, America-hating administration, I’m don’t even know what you are made of.”For starters, should we even give a hoot what Ted Nugent says? Granted, Guitar World magazine credits him with the 31st best guitar solo of all time, but the guy’s career peaked around the time that pet rocks were hip, and he has long since shown himself to be a nitwit on matters of state. His main contribution to the ’08 presidential cycle was when he publicly called Obama “a piece of excrement” (his actual word was more pungent) and invited Obama to have oral sex with his machine gun. He also called Hillary Clinton “a worthless bitch,” which sounded like a recycled lyric from one of his old songs.Nevertheless, lots of Rosen defenders are ticked off that Nugent hasn’t gotten nearly as much public attention. Their arguments: Whereas Rosen was merely trying to make a point about Ann Romney’s economic privilege, Nugent’s remarks were far more incendiary, violent enough to warrant scrutiny from the Secret Service; and whereas Rosen is a CNN talking head with no official role in Obama campaign, Nugent was cajoled into endorsing Romney – by Romney himself. Indeed, after Nugent signed on, one of Romney’s sons tweeted about how great it was to have the guy join the “team.”But, of course, two sides can play the equivalence game. The rejoinder, among conservatives, goes something like this: Whereas Nugent typically says all kinds of stuff that shouldn’t be taken seriously, Rosen is a serious political player who intends for her views to be taken seriously; whereas Nugent is just a rock n’ roller, Rosen is an inside player who has reportedly visited the Obama White House 35 times; therefore, it’s wrong to call Nugent a “Romney surrogate,” but right to call Rosen an “Obama surrogate.”Those are merely the basics of the game. Ancillary arguments abound. For instance, some Democrats contend that if a black rap star had said what Nugent said – if a rapper had called for the decapitation of Republican heads – Fox News would be in overdrive, fulminating 24/7 about scary black people. There’s also a sub-skirmish about which candidate has done a better job of denouncing its own surrogate. Democrats say that the Romney campaign’s Tuesday statement about Nugent was woefully tepid – the statement said, “Divisive language is offensive no matter what side of the political aisle it comes from. Mitt Romney believes everyone needs to be civil” – but Republicans say that it struck the appropriate tone.Meanwhile, there’s general agreement that the White House moved swiftly late last week to distance itself from Rosen’s remark about Ann Romney, but this is where we find a sub-sub-skirmish…because some Rosen defenders say that the White House shouldn’t have distanced itself in the first place, given the fact that the offending remark was taken out of context. (Yes. It was taken out of context. Rosen was guilty of saying the right thing in the wrong way. Check out the full context, in my Thursday newspaper column.)Bottom line: These pointless tempests consume way too much energy. Unfortunately, we’re likely to endure many more, now that we’ve entered the long silly season that extends from the end of the primaries to the start of the conventions. So imagine the possibilities: will Bill Maher say something worse than something Donald Trump says, or will Trump trump Maher? Will right-wing donor Foster Friess say something stupid again (five days ago, on Obama: “I hope his Teleprompters are bulletproof”), or will some Hollywood liberal say something that Friess’ defenders can weaponize? And which campaign will be speedier to condemn its own surrogate, regardless of how loosely he or she is affiliated?The thing is, voters in November won’t care a whit about what some surrogate said during the silly season. As the equivalence games continue, let’s try to keep that in mind.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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