‘Ducking’ a controversy and looking ahead to an election year

January 7, 2014

That didn’t take long.

Last week, because of an early deadline, my column was out of date by the time it hit the newsstands. I had written that A&E had suspended Phil Robertson “indefinitely” from his top-rated cable show “Duck Dynasty.”

The famed duck hunter had run afoul, so to speak, of the station because of controversial comments about gays and race relations.

By the time my column appeared, he was already back on. In fact, he was never really off. A&E already had a whole season’s worth of episodes ready to fly.

In its original announcement, A&E said Robertson’s comments didn’t correspond to the station’s core values of “creativity, inclusion and mutual respect.”

Apparently, they left out another core value - making money. Phil Robertson is a big part of an important piece of business for A&E.

A&E did announce it was going to begin a new PSA promoting “unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people.” Meanwhile, the “Duck Dynasty” stars opened a new line of business, selling shotguns and rifles.

So everybody’s happy, presumably including Republican leaders like Gov. Bobby Jindal and Sen. Ted Cruz, who rushed to defend Robertson.

But I can’t help wondering if the episode, in the long run, won’t hurt the Republican brand.

Despite the uproar, Robertson wasn’t excoriated for his religious beliefs. If he had said, “I am a Christian who believes that God intended marriage to be between a man and a woman,” there would have been no controversy.

What he said went way beyond a simple statement of religious principles. In a speech two years before the Esquire interview, he said of gays, “They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent new ways of doing evil.”

His comments about blacks in the pre-Civil Rights era show an extraordinary insensitivity. As a young man - he’s 67 now - he said he never saw a black person mistreated. Nor did he ever hear one complain about white people.

No kidding. During the 1940s, the U.S. averaged 10 lynchings a year. As late as the ‘50s, there was still an average of three lynchings annually. In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman.

I’m guessing black people were pretty careful about what they said around whites.

Phil Robertson has every right to say what he believes, and naturally Republicans have the same right to support him. But do Republicans, who often talk about having to reach out to minorities and independents, really want to be associated with such remarks?

Here are some other things I’m wondering about for 2014. Delaware will remain a blue state, of course, but Republicans have an opportunity to make inroads because of problems faced by leading Democrats.

State Treasurer Chip Flowers is up for re-election this fall, and yet he still hasn’t settled the case of a former deputy treasurer who admitted to using a state credit card for personal expenses.

I don’t care if she paid the money back. It’s a firing offense. And yet as recently as late December, she remained on the public payroll to the tune of nearly $100,000 a year. It’s unbelievable.

Another odd case involves Attorney General Beau Biden, son of the vice president. In August, he suffered some sort of medical emergency. He sought help at three different medical centers, finally landing at a renowned cancer center in Houston.

The only public comment he’s made since then is that he’s been given a “clean bill of health.”

I sympathize with him. Obviously, whatever happened to him was a serious scare, and if he’s not running again, it’s his personal business. But if he expects people to re-elect him to one of the most powerful positions in the state, he’s going to have to be more forthcoming.

It takes a ‘Village’

A few years back there was a commercial on TV where a man introduced himself as not only the founder of the Hair Club for Men but a customer. Despite the dramatic difference between his old, sad, bald self and his new happy self with a head full of hair, I never applied for membership in the Hair Club.

I was reminded of that ad recently after getting a phone call from Barbara Vaughan, a former Lewes City Council member who was among those instrumental in getting the Greater Lewes Community Village started.

The idea behind the Village is “aging in place,” offering assistance to people so they can remain in their homes.

As luck - in this case, the bad kind - would have it, Vaughan became a customer soon after the Village opened. A broken ankle meant the normally active Vaughan - I’ve seen her often at a local gym - needed some assistance herself. Fortunately, the Village was there to help.

And the “aging in place” concept is already spreading. Another reader, Dennis Leebel, leader of the Parkinson Education and Support Group in Sussex County, wrote to let me know that a community forum on the topic will be held from 5:15 to 9 p.m.,Thursday, Jan. 23, at Cape Henlopen High School.

It’s sponsored by a wide variety of organizations, including this newspaper.

Let’s hope that next year at this time, we’ll be able to look back on the successful launch of an important community service.

  • A number of accomplished writers will be appearing in the Politics column every Tuesday on a rotating basis to explore the dynamic world of politics at the local, county, state, national and world levels.

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