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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

Journalistic Jargon

Some of the guys in the presidential parade have “suspended” their march. I absolutely abhor that word usage, with its implication that they are merely pausing to regroup and may return to the trail. Ben Carson gets little credit from me, but at least he did use the verb correctly when he suspended his campaign because some of his Iowa workers had a serious car accident. He planned to return and did – but meanwhile, many people assumed that he intended the current lingo and thought he had quit. Not that I mind, but his campaign did lose some of that also overused word, “momentum.”

Both in politics and in other fields, way too many people seem to think that turning language into their own private jargon is an essential qualification for the job. As a writer, I understand the value of shorthand codes for complex ideas, but I see an unnecessary amount of that in political analyses, especially on television. It seems that some politicos don’t want the public to truly understand: instead, they court the image of high priests and magicians who enjoy mystifying, not clarifying.

They do that not just with what they say, but especially with want they don’t say. Most reporters behave like a herd, asking the same questions, repeating the same daily press releases instead of independently raising original ideas and exploring new topics. They don’t realize that sins of omission are as important as sins of commission. This applies to both sides of the political spectrum, as lazy reporters acquiesce in the allowing the candidate to set his own agenda. And yes, I mean “his.”

Sins of Omission

Everything is fair game for female candidates, especially Hillary, while male candidates rarely are asked the same questions in any detail. When many of my leftist friends were chasing after Ralph Nader, I was outraged that they didn’t seem to notice that he never went on record with positions on abortion or other feminist issues. All that mattered to him was consumerism and the environment, and both his supporters and the media let him get away with that – a real sin of omission.

So with Bernie Sanders being somewhat analogous to Ralph Nader, I want to fill you in on a few facts you may not know – things that you would know if the personal lives of men were examined in the same way as with women. I’m not being judgmental, but facts are facts and should be known. Bernie is only slightly older than I, and we grew up in the same revolutionary days of the sixties and seventies, so I understand the milieu of his youth – but his sexual history is more unconventional than mine or Hillary’s.

Here are the facts that the media has failed to mention. Bernie was married between 1964 and 1966, but his only child was born after that, without benefit of wedlock. He married the youngish-looking woman who occasionally appears with him in 1988, and because of her, has three stepchildren. Again, I’m not criticizing these personal choices – but don’t you think that if this history had been Hillary’s, you would know all about it and more? If she had a child outside of marriage, wouldn’t that rate prime time in every sort of media? The ancient double standard is alive and well.

The Real Story of Iowa

Beyond that, political pundits are too likely to think only about the present and forget the past, even the recent past. An example: I was eating a free lunch in the authors’ hideout at the Miami International Book Fair last November when a guy sat down next to me. He turned out to be the political expert for The New Yorker, surely a high-placed position of influence. When he learned that I’m a Floridian, he wanted to talk about Marco Rubio. He was surprised that he wasn’t seeing the enthusiasm for Marco that he expected here.

I had to remind him that our junior senator has won only one statewide election – and that with less than a majority of the vote. The expert had forgotten about Kendrick Meek, the Democratic nominee, and Charlie Crist, who made it a three-way race by running as an independent. Rubio started running for president almost as soon as he entered the US Senate and rarely comes home to Florida – something that this major national politico had not considered. It might help him and other analysts to re-read last year’s news instead of concentrating solely on the last five minutes.

In a true case of failing to see the forest for the trees, pundits commenting on the Iowa caucuses also seemed to miss what I think is the real story: Nearly 2/3 of Republicans voted for someone with a Hispanic name! Now that is news, but no one I heard on either radio or television as I followed the news on election night and the day afterwards made that point. Hubby listens to right-wing radio (to see what craziness they are currently promoting), and he said that Rush Limbaugh did point out this presumable evidence of Republican liberalism. If Ben Carson is added into the mix, many more Iowa Republicans – almost all of them white – voted against the epitome of angry white men, Donald Trump.

Maybe it’s because he’s a New Yorker. Maybe these farmers just couldn’t identify with a billionaire businessman who has repeatedly declared bankruptcy. Many Iowa Republicans are Catholics who take family values seriously, and they may have noticed Trump’s marital histories. Certainly Cruz provided the bald appeal to Christianity that they want, using Jesus in a way that Jesus would not. Rubio wooed this crowd by saying that he would ban all abortion, even those of girls who are victims of incest and women who had been raped. I can only conclude that the caucus attendees who voted for Cruz/Rubio have a stronger desire to keep women in their place than they have to join Trump in barring the gates against Spanish speakers.

Odds and Ends

I subscribe to Daily Kos Elections, a news service that ranks its items by type of office (US Senate, for instance); within those categories, states are covered alphabetically. After reading “Florida,” I just scan the rest, but the short sentence in the “Ks” could not be missed. Most stories are several sentences and even paragraphs, so I loved the brevity with which they dismissed Rand Paul’s “suspension” of his presidential race. Under “Kentucky,” it said simply: “Local man turned down for promotion, will focus on keeping current job.”

Another tiny item a few weeks ago lingers in my memory. When the armed terrorists took over a wildlife refuge owned by us, the federal taxpayers, one of the lunatics who berate government turned out to be a foster father who abandoned the children he was paid to care for when he joined the militia. Social workers acted responsibly in finding another home for the kids, and the guy complained: “They took away my main source of income.”

But instead of focusing on such hypocrites and generating a serious discussion of values, the media runs to superficial coverage of the next horror story. At the midterm elections, it was Ebola – which never killed a single American, but did hurt Democratic candidates because of the implied connection to Africa and therefore Obama. Now it’s Zika, which affects only pregnant women and not many of them -- but from the amount of noise on TV, one would think it is a major threat to national security. Because it is based in Latin America, Trump supporters use it as another reason to bar the door.

And if Zika is a real problem, will it dawn on anyone that the affected woman might want the choice of whether or not to continue her pregnancy with safe medical care? If men got pregnant, I’m sure there would be no question about that particular freedom.


Doris Weatherford writes a weekly column for La Gaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper. With pages in Spanish, Italian, and English, it has been published in Tampa since 1922.
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