The three remaining presidential candidates have each taken turns suffering through the same "crisis" over the last two weeks. It is entirely a creature of the New Media age with its endless airtime to fill and heavy reliance on the Duelling Pundits format. Of course I'm referring to the fact that each candidate has taken heavy criticism on account of someone else's big mouth.
McCain has gotten criticized over John Hagee's virulent anti-Catholic rhetoric. Hillary had to deal with Geraldine Ferarro's enlightened views on race. Obama has taken heat over his pastor's different yet equally enlightened racial views. Personally, I find these discussions diversionary, pointless, utterly irrelevant, and unfair. Unfair? Yes. You may argue that it is fair to criticize the company a candidate chooses to keep. You may also argue that the candidates should be held to account for the views of those who endorse them. If either of those things crossed your mind, I want you to try a little thought experiment.
You wake up tomorrow morning and, through some series of events not relevant here, you are your party's nominee for President, Governor, the Senate, or some other high-visibility political office. Media descend on your home in droves. Everyone you've ever met suddenly claims to be very close with you and is giving TV interviews about you. Many of your friends and family are thrilled to support you vociferously. Now, tell me how long you believe it would take for someone you know to say something asinine on camera. In my case? Given some of the knuckleheads I know? Three hours. Tops.
Think about all the people you know. Think about how bat-shit insane some of them are. Think about all the bizarre views some of them hold. Think of how completely and totally unprepared they are to have a camera shoved in their face and be interviewed for an audience of 100 million. Think about how terribly, terribly wrong things would go if some of your acquaintances, co-workers, friends, religious community, or family members were given the chance to flap their gums on camera. We don't even need to play the degrees-of-separation game; one degree would be just fine for most of us.
While it can be argued that public figures like Geraldine Ferarro should know better, my point holds – would you find it fair to be held accountable for the words and actions of anyone and everyone you know? I didn't think so. Now consider the fact that Clinton, Obama, and McCain are running for president and their pool of associates prepared to say something stupid is several orders of magnitude larger than yours. Frankly, it is extraordinarily unlikely that this wouldn't happen at some point. Too bad we waste so much time and effort blowing hot air when it does.