Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Will You Listen To Yourself?

Latest Column- The Pilot Newspaper: 

It’s often said that a big part of our problems these days is that we don’t listen to one another. This is undeniably true. However, a big part of our problems also comes from people not listening to themselves.

If people could really hear, objectively, some of the stuff that comes out of them, they might reconsider ever speaking again. Take, for example, former Democratic Congress-man Anthony Weiner, now running a campaign for mayor of New York that’s an absolute train wreck.

Mr. Weiner’s sexy tweets and pictures of his manly part, sent over text and Twitter, have already been documented in nauseating and depressing detail. But then it was revealed that in some of his communiques, he called himself “Carlos Danger.” Really? Anthony. Dude. Step back for a moment and take a good look at yourself, and not through the viewfinder of your camera phone.

It’s true that New Yorkers are a tolerant bunch. After all, the last mayor’s wife had to get a restraining order to keep him from bringing his mistress into the mayor’s mansion. The denizens of the Big Apple can handle a womanizer. But if the latest plunge in your poll numbers is any indication, they draw the line at a cheesy and lame one.

Then there’s Weiner’s communications director, Barbara Morgan. Morgan recently responded to an unflattering online tell-all article written by a former intern with a blistering and profane tirade against said intern that I’d love to reproduce for you here, except that not one word in three could be printed in a family newspaper.

Her excuse? She didn’t know she was on the record. Babs, sweetie, listen to yourself for a minute. You’re the communications director. Isn’t it part of your job to know when you’re on and when you’re off the record?

Another person who should probably have listened to what’s coming out of his mouth is Kentucky Sen. and probable GOP presidential candidate Rand Paul. Speaking at a fundraiser in Tennessee, Paul directed a slam at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (also a likely presidential candidate) and New York Congressman Peter King: “They are precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending. They are ‘gimme, gimme, gimme all my Sandy money now.’”

Oh, Randy, no. Are you listening to the sounds that come out of the front of your head? There’s plenty of spending you could have chosen to mention. But spending on victims of Hurricane Sandy? That’s what you’ve chosen to demonize? Do you hear what you’re saying?

Christie, never one to sit still for an insult, responded quickly, noting that Paul’s state gets back $1.51 from the federal government for every dollar it pays in federal taxes, while New Jersey gets back only 61 cents. He sarcastically praised Paul for his skill in “bringing home the bacon.”

Paul then fired back a zinger of his own, describing the portly Christie as “the king of bacon.” Because when you’re having a serious debate on spending priorities, the best way to get your point across is with a fat joke. Stay classy, Senator Paul.

But for sheer “do you even hear yourself?” effrontery, it’s hard to beat San Diego Mayor Bob Filner.

Filner, as of this writing, has been accused of sexual harassment by no fewer than eight women. Apparently, Hizzoner’s preferred seduction technique was to put his intended paramour in a headlock and/or tell her that she should come to work without underwear on. It worked about as well as you’d expect.

What qualifies Filner for the Chutzpah Hall of Fame, however, is his request that the city pay his legal bills for the defense of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by one of his victims, in part because — get this — the city failed to provide him with sexual harassment training.

“It is my understanding,” Filner’s lawyer wrote, “that such training was scheduled, but the trainer for the city unilaterally canceled. … Therefore, if there is any liability at all, the city will almost certainly be liable for ‘failing to prevent harassment.’” The city declined to chip in, probably because they’re suing him too.

Back many years ago, when I was working in radio, we had what was called a “seven-second delay” — a tape gizmo that allowed us to cut off the transmission if, for example, someone dropped an F-bomb or said something otherwise inappropriate. With all of modern technology, you’d think we could design something similar to strap to politicians so they can think, however fleetingly, about how what they say is going to sound.