In this day and age where political operatives try to find bits of video or writings that conflict with an image an opposing candidate is trying to craft, one politician who has made it easy for the other side is Nevada Republican candidate for Senate Sharon Angle — with her comments against social security, fleeing reporters, and deciding only to allow herself to be interviewed by
Republican p.r. official Fox News’ conservative talk show host Sean Hannity. Will a piece of video that has just been uncovered have the kind of legs that were as enduring as the chicken feet that sunk GOPer Sue Lowden via a politically fowl video?
Perhaps. A 2009 video has come out showing her criticize mandated insurance coverage for autism. And it could not come at a worse time for Angle — when polls find her tied in her race for Senate against Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid. Here’s the video:
And now a controversy has erupted:
The national Autistic Self Advocacy Network on Friday called for Nevada GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle to apologize for a statement she made regarding health care and autism treatment.
Video of Angle speaking at a 2009 Tea Party rally surfaced this week. In it the former state legislator slams Democratic health care policies.
“You’re paying for things that you don’t even need, they just passed the latest one is every, everything they want to throw at us now is covered under autism, so that’s a mandate that you have to pay for,” she said, making air quotes around the word “autism.”
The Nevada Democratic Party posted a video of the speech on YouTube.
“We’re concerned by the Angle campaign’s claim that individuals and families ‘falsely label other symptoms as autism’ in order to take advantage of insurance mandates,” the ASAN said in a statement. “Lack of insurance coverage for habilitative services, such as occupational therapy and speech pathology services, is a barrier to the civil rights of autistic Americans both young and old.”
Dems are hoping that Angle’s autism moment, which they are portraying as heartless and cruel, will take on the same kind of let-them-eat-cake aura and momentum that “chickens for checkups” ultimately did. Of course, Sue Lowden was the one gave “chickens for checkups” its legs by ham-handedly confirming that poultry barter for health care is a legitimate policy prescription. Angle and her campaign, for all their early missteps, have sharped up a good deal in recent weeks and won’t do anything so inept.
Also: You just never know which incidents and gaffes will take on the kind of defining quality that “chickens for checkups” did. That some take on a life of their own and others sink like a rock is one of the mysteries of politics. This one doesn’t seem quite on that level.
But the autism moment is, however, beginning to gain some traction: The Nevada media is on the story, and autism advocacy groups are now calling on Angle to apologize.
Sharron Angle thinks that she, with no grounding in medicine or any scientific field, understands autism better than the experts who have defined the autism spectrum. She thinks she is qualified to dismiss the spectrum as an attempt by doctors to sweep a variety of unrelated symptoms under the umbrella of autism, thereby allowing people to get mandated coverage for autism when they really don’t “have” autism.
And she is compounding this nasty arrogance by suggesting that mandates for coverage of autism are inherently wrong and unfair. And she can afford to have such an attitude because she has been fortunate enough to not have an autistic child and face the nightmare of trying to nail down a diagnosis and then an effective course of treatment, to locate and access programs to help the child in education and socialization, etc. Angle doesn’t have these problems, so why should she be forced to pay for that mandated coverage?
Like most ideologically rigid self-centered people, Angle views her life as completely under her control. She may credit God as the one doing the driving, but she smugly believes that God likes her better than those people who have been dealt [bad] hands. Why should she share – even fractionally – in the cost of covering an unplanned pregnancy or autism when God has afflicted other people with these punishments and not her? Rather than thinking “There, but for the grace of God, go I,” Sharron Angle goes through life with an attitude that challenges she hasn’t had to face are other people’s problem.
The Las Vegas Sun’s John Ralston notes that Reid has had a truly lousy week, puts his foot in his own mouth and has his share of flaws — but that Angle has become the gift that keeps on giving:
Unlike Reid’s, Angle’s lips are not loose. They are instead locked into positions that no amount of massaging and spinning can obscure, positions that she seems to recite by rote with no real comprehension of the real-world implications. She can stay on script, all right. But many Republicans think they can see the end of this movie and it’s a train wreck climax.
I sometimes think the Reid folks have a vault labeled “Sharron Angle and the Extremes Greatest Hits,” which they disseminate whenever the time is right. Phase out Medicare and Social Security. Privatize the VA. Not my job to create jobs. The hits just keep on coming.
The Reid folks believe they unearthed another instant classic this week: Angle at a 2009 Tea Party in Winnemucca ridiculing a legislative mandate to cover autism. Team Reid played it as Angle mocking those with the condition, but that was — how shall I say this? — an extreme interpretation. Angle was deriding government’s expansive approval of mandates for illnesses and using autism as an example.
But the real issue with what Angle was saying is that she often mouths conservative shibboleths — mandates bad, privatization good — without any apparent sense of the consequences. There is a superficiality to her philosophy, with an undercurrent of religion always over reason, that indicates she is plagued by a different kind of carelessness than is Reid, but one that is perhaps more dangerous.
Call it, as the progressive blogger Desert Beacon did, “compassionless conservatism.” Or just call it a one-philosophy-fits-all approach to a complex world.
So is it better to re-elect the careless four-termer with juice who drives the Democrats’ agenda and is likely to say more intemperate things in the next six years? Or is it better to elect the careless woman who will likely be marginalized in the Club of 100 because of her strange statements but will reliably vote no unless God tells her otherwise?
That, alas, is what the Nevada Senate race has come down to.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.