Understatement of the Week: Big Bird

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Oct. 7, 2012 at 2:28 AM
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What's the opposite of grandstanding?

Sometimes, it appears, a presidential campaign, especially a toe-to-toe presidential debate on national television, involves just a wee bit of grandstanding.

So, what do you call it when the grandstanding is kind of a side-arm curve ball or maybe even a knuckle ball?

If grandstanding is a fastball down the middle of the plate, what do you call it when a presidential candidate says, "I like PBS. I love Big Bird," and then says he would pull the plug on the funding for these national treasures?

Or then he says, "Look, I'm all in favor of green energy. [But] $90 billion ... that would have ... hired 2 million teachers."

That's what the Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, said referring to the amount of money Democratic President Barack Obama spent on green energy initiatives.

He likes PBS, but he would cut it. He is all in favor of green energy, but he wouldn't fund it, because it could hire 2 million teachers. But that's another odd side-armed pitch, because he has no intention of hiring them, he's just using them for an insincere talking point. He's just pointing out that you could hire those 2 million teachers if you were, not to put too fine a point on it, a liberal type, like Obama, who is wasting taxpayers' money on green energy, which he (Romney) also insincerely likes.

The seething liberal that dwells within says you can't have it both ways. You can't pretend to like something and then give it the ax. Call it like you see it. If you like tanks better than education, just say it and get it over with.

"You know, this is where budgets matter, because budgets reflect choices. So when Gov. Romney indicates he wants to cut taxes and potentially benefit folks like me and him [wealthy folks], and to pay for it we're having to initiate cuts in federal support for education, that makes a difference," Obama said.

And Romney agreed. "You make a very good point, which is that the place you put your money just makes a pretty clear indication of where your heart is," he said.

And so he said, if elected president, Big Bird is gone. He also said, "I do not believe in cutting our military. I believe in maintaining the strength of America's military."

Now, that's a fast ball. Clear, precise, on topic and right down the middle. It was beginning for a while to look like it would be dangerous to have Romney profess how much he liked something, which apparently, if he was elected president, would spell its doom.

In response, the folks at "Sesame Street" said it was a not-for-profit educational program and, as such, did not comment on presidential campaigns. They added, however, "We're happy we can all agree that everyone likes Big Bird."

Said a co-creator of "Sesame Street," Lloyd Morrisett, "To argue that's going to save much money [cutting PBS] is a stretch of the truth. I think it's sort of silly."

And, it turns out, the first pitch just sets up the second pitch, because now, here comes the crazy part.

The crazy part is the liberal Republican former governor of Massachusetts is being completely insincere. He has no intention now and never had any intention to cut funding for PBS.

He just thinks that's what conservatives want to hear. It isn't even grandstanding. It's whatever the opposite of that might be.

That's right: It's a spitball.

And Big Bird said, "Never refer to me as an item. I'm a bird."

Of course, he said it long ago. But it will serve as this week's Understatement of the Week.

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