Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Driving a school bus has been among the most challenging jobs I've ever had. I did it for nearly a decade and the pressure in that job to keep a busload of kids safe is immense. Rules of the road have to be followed, a pattern of drop-offs has to be followed without fail depsite the fact it might change from day to day, and bored kids of all ages need to be managed. I often tell people that it's like teaching a one-room school full of kids at forty miles an hour backwards. If you can do that you are fine.

The job can call for some rough justice from time to time, and some kids don't cotton to it. One student once called me a "Dick" in response to some admonition I delivered to him. I wasn't staggered by the name, I've heard a lot of them, but maintaining discipline meant I had to respond and I wrote the kid up. The Principal said to him (in my presence) that while I might be a "dick" the kid couldn't call me one. I smiled and the kid smiled. It spoke to the moment perfectly, allowed the kid to keep his dignity and solved the issue.

The recent "controversy" over Mark Halperin, a longtime journalist with significant credentials and history, calling the President a "Dick" on The Morning Joe on MSNBC has me nonplussed. Halperin has been suspended indefinitely merely because he used the one-time phrase after asking specifically if there was a seven second delay. His intention was clearly to make the remark off the record, and a technical snafu caused him to deliver the comment over the air. At once, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brezinski had twin attacks of the vapors after both specifically having encouraged Halperin to make the remark. Halperin apologized immediately and I assumed that would be that. When I read that he'd been suspended I was very surprised.

If ever there was a tempest in a teapot this is it. That such a mild slur could cause such uproar speaks not to the truth of the moment, but the goals of those who critique the situation. Rudeness is a commonplace in the world we live in, and maintaining some decorum is necessary. But to get your shorts in a wad over something as meager as this seems stupid.

I'm supporter of the President by and large, though his policies on education and the war in Afghanistan don't sit well with me. But when I voted for him, I knew what both those policies were likely to be. He was quite clear on them during the campaign, and I'm often bemused by pundits today who seem not to remember that. But if President Obama really got so miffed about this comment that he felt suspension was necessary I'm disappointed. I'd hope if he's even heard the remark he merely smiled. Probably it's just MSNBC covering their collective asses on this one, hoping their access to the White House doesn't get diminished.

I heard the President's press conference that prompted the comment and while I agree with almost every point of policy and procedure he identified, his tone was a tad sarcastic and well... "dickish". The Chattering Class seems not to be able to handle these truths. I'd like to remind them all, that just because no one calls you a name, it doesn't mean the name doesn't apply.

Rip Off


  1. Totally agree that Halperin got an overly severe punishment.

    I really liked your story about being a bus driver. Neat insight into your real life, I didn't even know you were a bus driver.

  2. if Obama was still a Senator, it would be one thing. Not an "adult" thing to do and certainly not polite, but not a "suspendible" offense.
    But, as President, when you insult him by calling him a derogatory name (not criticize him, which is, after all, Freedom of Speech), you not only insult him, but the office of The President of the United States.
    How would you have reacted if a newsman had called George Bush (and if anyone ever deserved the insult, it was him) a "dick"...on-camera?

  3. Britt -- I'd have felt pretty much the same way, and folks called Bush worse. They've called Obama worse too, but that's the thing, while the office deserves respect reporters and just plain folks ain't part of the chain of command.

    If Halperin's bosses want to discipline him, that's fine by me, but I think and "indefinite" suspension is a bit much. Maybe a day or two to make sure folks know the act isn't being ignored, but beyond that it seems like rubbish.

    Rip Off

  4. I agree, the indefinite suspension IS overkill.
    And, not to start a fight here (I like you too much to start a war over this) but while journalists criticized Bush and his policies (as they do Obama and HIS policies, and rightfuly so, when ANY President screws up, you have the right to point it out), they NEVER called Bush a "dick", "butthead", "a-hole", etc. on-camera!
    (We're obviously not including non-journalists like Stewart or Colbert.)
    It's the juvenile name-calling I object to.
    We should exchange ideas, not insults.
    Let's act like adults already!


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