What’s Hiding Behind Chafee’s Divisive Rhetoric?
I’m beginning to worry about what the Chafee administration and its puppeteers might be trying to distract Rhode Islanders from with his assault on talk radio. As you’ve likely heard, yesterday RI Governor Lincoln Chafee called on advertisers to boycott talk radio. Apart from the petty activism indicated by his lambasting of an entire information medium (and a popular one, at that), the philosophical and direct assault on economic activity during the Great Recession and Rhode Island’s continuing decline is bizarre, given the times. The more charitable explanation is that the governor has some sure-to-be-unpopular dealings going on in the background and wishes for everybody’s eyes to be elsewhere.
In his partial defense (maybe), I will note that my impression from a more extended clip than Steve Klamkin provides in the above link was slightly different. It almost sounded as if, in response to some leading questions from the Pawtucket Times’ Jim Baron, Chafee was bumbling his way to the point that private action should shut down divisive media, not government. Even if we make that stretch on the governor’s behalf, however, his inarticulacy is reckless and damaging. As a press release from the RI Tea Party puts it:
The RI Tea Party finds the Governor’s actions and words to be irresponsible and divisive. The Governor is the highest elected official in our state. By virtue of that Office, Governor Chafee carries a special responsibility to weigh the ramifications of his public messaging. He has failed to do so.
And the oddity extends beyond the governor’s off-the-cuff remarks. Asked how Chafee’s recent characterization of Sarah Palin as a “cocky wacko” fits into his call for tempered discourse, spokesman Michael Trainor says:
That remark was not made in a talk-radio format. We do not think it is an equivalent situationl
When Chafee’s lips move, it’s not what you say, but where you say it.
Less than a month into his term, the governor is way off message and is ensuring that political discord in the state will be greater during his reign than it was before… except perhaps to the extent that the public-sector unions quiet down. And that’s where one suspects the origin of this initiative from the governor’s office lies. No doubt, Linc is truly aghast at the tragedy in Arizona and, in his simplicity, has been led by national spinmeisters to blame talk radio and conservatives.
But then, perhaps he’s also being led to weaken a medium that doesn’t well serve his union backers. Talk radio has allowed reformers, notably Governor Carcieri and Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, stretches of airtime to discuss their policies at greater length than is possible in other media. The live, extended format has also not been kind to defenders of the inexcusable status quo.