David Pakman: Political upside-down cakes
NORTHAMPTON — In the Seinfeld episode “The Opposite,” George Costanza decides that because his instincts have served him wrong for so long, he will live under the paradigm of doing the opposite of what comes naturally. This way of life is launched, for that episode, when George declares at a coffee shop, after placing his typical lunch order: “No, no, no, wait a minute, I always have tuna on toast. Nothing’s ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of tuna on toast. Chicken salad, on rye, un-toasted, with a side of potato salad ... and a cup of tea!”
Observing politics lately makes me wonder whether a collective decision of doing the opposite has been made.
There appears to be some kind of opposite-logic being applied nationwide to the most basic analyses of political issues. Let’s look at some examples: Two of President Obama’s cabinet nominations, Sens. John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, are both decorated military veterans. Unlike George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, outspoken pro-war conservative Ted Nugent and many others, Kerry and Hagel actually served in the military, and between them were awarded a number of combat medals, Purple Hearts and other commendations.
However, Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who did not serve in the military, argued that Kerry and Hagel may not have been good choices for secretary of state and secretary of defense because, as Cruz put it, they aren’t “ardent fans of the military.” Cruz believes himself to be more qualified to judge matters of war, peace, defense and diplomacy than senior individuals who have actually participated in these processes at the highest level.
However, there is another layer to the hypocrisy. The idea that to be a good secretary of state or secretary of defense, one must be a “fan” of the military is amateurish and misguided — the secretaries must be logical, calculating, incisive and not swayed by personal “fandom” one way or the other. This is Seinfeldian opposite day in the real world.
Let’s look at another example: Missouri has a huge problem with sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies among teens. Missouri also has extremely limited sex education classes as part of its school curriculum. The limited sex education that does take place is the “abstinence-only” type, known to be ineffective in reducing unwanted pregnancies or disease transmission. Logic would dictate that exploring how to solve this problem would be a top priority. Not so. Instead, Missouri is considering a bill that would create a mandatory gun safety course for first-graders — who are 6 and 7 years old — sponsored by the National Rifle Association, the biggest gun lobby in the country. Eight hundred words is nowhere near enough space to explain why this idea couldn’t be more absurd. For those arguing that it isn’t a bad idea to talk to first-graders about gun safety, I’ll agree — in part. Teachers could teach and reinforce, along the same lines that they teach “don’t get into a stranger’s car” and “wash your hands when you are done in the bathroom,” they could add “if you ever see a gun, don’t touch it and tell an adult.” Bringing in a group whose sole priority is to increase gun sales at any cost to teach a course about guns, clearly set up to begin a gun culture indoctrination, makes no sense.
When coupled with continuing to ignore sex education and the problems of infection and teen pregnancy in Missouri, this is Seinfeldian opposite logic, particularly when sensible sex education would reduce the number of abortions that Republicans claim they want to address.
As I continue to talk through these and more examples daily on “The David Pakman Show,” I’m reminded of what came later in that Seinfeld episode. After living “the opposite” for a little while, things get confusing. George is asked whether an offensive comment he made was his natural instinct, or part of him doing “the opposite,” and it isn’t really clear.
Maybe the normal rules of logic and reason no longer (did they ever?) apply to day-to-day decisions made about a whole range of life issues in the United States, and what seems to be the “opposite” thought process has become the natural instinct, the status quo and the establishment — and a challenge to reverse.
As difficult as it was for George Costanza, maybe the new mantra of American political decisions when dealing with outdated conservative ideas and modes of thinking should be: “Whatever our natural instinct is here — let’s do the opposite — for the good of the country.”
David Pakman, host of the internationally syndicated political talk radio and television program “The David Pakman Show,” writes a monthly column. He can be reached at www.davidpakman.com.