Gold Dome, Politics

Salazar’s slip – the embarrassment, then the farce

Freshman lawmaker Joe Salazar, (D. Thornton) became an embarrassing distraction for the liberal juggernaut in Colorado last week when he blurted out what he really thinks of the Second Amendment, the right of self defense, and the faculties of women in peril.

Hint: his views are appalling. As backlash developed, Salazar offered a defensive, non-apology. Then, the liberal power structure went into a defensive goal-line line crouch to contain the damage. The whole drama offers a two act play: embarrassment, then farce.

Embarrassment hit when Salazar argued women should be barred from bearing arms for self defense on campus. Debating a bill to carve colleges and universities out of Colorado’s concealed carry laws, Salazar intoned: “It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at.”

He wasn’t done. “And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble when you may actually not be, that you pop out that gun and you pop … pop a round at somebody.”

Of course, happens all the time.

This perfect distillation of paternalistic liberal hostility to arms and self defense, wrapped in contempt for the stable judgment of women under stress wasn’t immediately reported. (Who can imagine why such sexy nuggets went unseized by Colorado’s scribes?)

The bill was part of an extensively covered slate of anti-gun measures, but Denver’s media tried to ignore the blunder. The blockade broke the following week when the political website Revealing Politics posted the clip on YouTube and criticism caught fire on social media.

As the flames licked around him, Salazar hastily offered the classic non-apology: I’m sorry if people were offended because they misunderstood.

“We were having a public policy debate on whether or not guns make people safer on campus,” he said. “I don’t believe they do. That was the point I was trying to make. If anyone thinks I’m not sensitive to the dangers women face, they’re wrong. I am a husband and father of two beautiful girls, and I’ve spent the last decade defending women’s rights as a civil rights attorney.”

Denver’s old media couldn’t keep ignoring the story, but at least instead of “Lawmaker trashes self-defense; ridicules women.” the scribes could announce: “Lawmaker apologizes.”

Of course, it wasn’t an apology, defined as “the acknowledgment of error coupled with an expression of regret.” Salazar actually doubled down: Critics misunderstood. He’s a sensitive guy, just explaining why guns are unsafe.

Exactly. The offensive words perfectly explain the policy Colorado Democrats are ramming into law: Self defense is undesirable. Public measures like call-phones, “safe zones,” or screaming “help!” are preferred. Because, you don’t know whether you’re really vulnerable to assault or just jumpy. You don’t know who you’ll shoot; likely you’ll “pop” a harmless stranger.

Salazar can’t truly apologize, because he means it. His position depends on it. If he disavowed, he’d have to support the right of arms for defense. But no: every ugly word was sincere.

Enter the farce.

The wagons circled quickly. Colorado’s House Speaker pronounced Salazar a “great legislator” and praised his “taking responsibility.” Governor Hickenlooper approved the “apology” and went silent.

Then, old media turned from the revealing blunder to attacking the errors of its critics. The second article on the situation from The Denver Post snarled about “false” claims in social media, spitting at errant tweets that got facts wrong.

This is remarkable. Never before –not in the 2010 scrums involving Colorado’s GOP gubernatorial or senatorial candidates, or the 2012 nationally bandied miscues of other candidates– has the Post ever trolled social media, hunting overstatements against the targeted politician, in order to slap them down. Not on day two of coverage. Not in the story lead. Not ever. Different standards are at play here.

Next, the Post editorialized, this was no Todd Akin style gotcha! Salazar’s words might be subject to criticism, but didn’t rise to Akin levels. Period. Akin, after all, sought to undermine the sacred: “a woman’s right to choose.”

So there. Akin misstated a biological consequence of rape, and unforgivably disrespected a right the Supreme Court discovered in 1973 by a 5-4 vote. It had been a moot, contrived question in any event, since Akin’s particular view is in the distinct minority in the Senate and was a nonstarter as long as the court upholds Roe v. Wade.

In contrast, Salazar mocked the idea of self defense embodied in actual constitutional text, and called women potential hysterical killers. He and Colorado Democrats are pushing hard to codify this view.

By many measures, Salazar’s words are more offensive and consequential than Akin’s. The Post’s decree otherwise was both arrogant and unnecessary. If Salazar’s words merit criticism, as the Post conceded, then criticize!

What news judgment made extensive comparison with Akin the relevant story? If anonymous social media commenters overreached, ignore them, or, in a concluding paragraph, express disagreement with the more breathless critics.

Only willful or unconscious sympathies to protect a beleaguered lawmaker, a philosophy, and an ongoing legislative agenda that the Post endorses explain the unprecedented shift from reporting Salazar’s gaffe to discrediting social media critics.

The Farce Train heads to Colorado’s Senate next week.

Shawn Mitchell is a former Republican Colorado State Senator from Broomfield

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