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December 4, 2012
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Andy Stone: A Stone's Throw

"Hey, batter! No, batter! Swing, batter! Jinx! Miss!"

We've all heard - and, most likely, shouted - versions of that jeering chant from the stands at a baseball game.

Playground, sandlot or major league stadium. It's always the same.

"Swing, batter! Jinx, batter! Miss!"

It's part of our rowdy national pastime.

There's no question that hitting a round ball with a round bat is one of the hardest feats in sports - and especially at the major league level, where that ball is dipping and dancing and going 90 miles an hour.

And adding to that big-league difficulty are the 50,000 fans screaming and jeering when batters face the home-team pitcher.

"Hey, batter! Swing, batter! Miss!"

The same is true of basketball.

When a player from the visiting team steps to the line for a foul shot, hometown fans sitting behind the basket turn the stands into a sea of violently waving distractions.

Need to focus on that critical shot? Good luck.

You don't care about sports? Hang on. We'll get past this in a moment.

But first let me note that, while baseball and basketball reveal their rough and ready origins, different rules of decorum are enforced for the more genteel country-club sports of tennis and golf.

The challenges of those sports are no more demanding (and a lot safer than facing a 90-mph fastball), but the rules require absolute silence while the players go about their business.

Quiet, everyone! We're trying to focus here.

And that, of course, brings us to politics (what else?), where the Republican Party is abandoning the decorum of its country-club roots to scream "Hey, batter! Jinx, batter! Miss!" while our newly re-elected president faces some serious fastballs, knuckleballs and curves.

I'm not talking about the battle over taxes and budgets. That's always been a bare-knuckle roughhouse, featuring lies, insults and jeers. So be it.

But international diplomacy is supposed to be played at a more serious level. No shouting "Jinx!" while the world hangs in the balance.

And yet, as Israel and Palestine and Egypt and Libya and Syria and Afghanistan and Iran and the Congo and Nigeria and Mali and, ... you get the idea: As the whole damn world threatens to melt down, the Republicans are doing a grand imitation of sixth-graders on a playground screaming at the man in the batter's box.

Jinx!

At issue, a nonissue: whether U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is "unfit" to be secretary of state, based on her statements during the Benghazi Crisis.

The Republicans' points - which are hardly worth bothering with - are based on the idea that Rice showed her unfitness for the top diplomatic post when she stated publicly exactly the information she had been given.

Yes. She was told what information she could release, and she did exactly that. Outrage!

Outrageous that a diplomat would stay "on message" when discussing sensitive matters. And never mind that the information been carefully edited by intelligence agencies to avoid compromising state secrets.

She protected national intelligence secrets when speaking on Sunday morning television programs at a time of crisis! How dare she?

I'd bet that if she had ignored the intelligence agencies and told everything she knew, we'd be hearing cries that she was unfit for the job because she had blabbed about secret matters.

This is not about what she did or did not say.

It's about distracting the man at the plate.

Hey, batter! Jinx!

Consider the threat by Sen. John McCain (and others) to stamp his trotters and block her nomination, taking advantage of outmoded Senate rules that allow such bad behavior.

Let's skip over the sad McCain, who seems determined to prove over and over again how lucky we are that he was not elected president.

Instead, let's take a moment for an apt historical comparison: In November 2004, George W. Bush nominated Condoleezza Rice (no relation to Susan Rice, needless to say) for secretary of state.

As U.N. ambassador in 2012, Susan Rice might have slightly obscured the truth of our knowledge about who was behind the assault that killed our ambassador in Benghazi, Libya.

As national security advisor in 2001, Condoleezza Rice ignored warnings about the Sept. 11 attacks. And then, in 2003, she helped lead the charge to invade Iraq - including issuing dire unfounded warnings about Saddam Hussein's nonexistent "weapons of mass destruction."

And while Republicans now say that Susan Rice was "too political" in her Benghazi statements, in 2004, Condoleezza Rice became the first national security advisor to campaign actively for an incumbent president.

But just weeks after Bush was sworn in for his second term, Condoleezza Rice was confirmed by the Senate.

Yes, a number of Democrats voted against her; but no one considered flat-out blocking her nomination from even being considered.

Why not?

Because Bush had won, however narrowly. Because the world was in wild disarray, as always. Because - and here's the real heart of the matter - the president gets to choose his secretary of state.

But even though none of the basic circumstances are really all that different this year, those country-club Republicans want to play by sandlot rules: Hey batter! Swing, batter! Miss!

They are demanding the right to dictate to the solidly re-elected president whom he should appoint as secretary of state. (At the moment, they seem to want John Kerry - a man they treated in truly vile fashion in 2004.)

Oh, they know they lost the election, but they're trying to act as if they won.

Why? Because they think they can get away with it.

Or, to slip back into the sixth-grade idiom they so richly deserve, because they're sore losers.

To be more precise: stinky-head sore losers.

Jinx!


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 5, 2012 06:07AM Published Dec 4, 2012 11:24PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.