Carroll: Don’t judge from the cheap seats | AspenTimes.com

Carroll: Don’t judge from the cheap seats

Meredith C. Carroll
Guest Commentary

When it was revealed just a few days before the 2000 presidential election that George W. Bush had been arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol 24 years earlier, it clearly didn't hurt his career trajectory. Even some of the biggest Bush naysayers agreed that while they didn't want him to win and thought his eight years in the White House were abysmal, the DUI revelation was just plain dirty politics.

The same can be said for the quasi-October surprise delivered on the front page of this paper on Friday, which reported that Pitkin County commissioner candidate Patti Clapper, a registered nurse, had sanctions levied against her by Colorado's nursing board 15 years ago. That Clapper was once accused of inadequately treating a patient hardly means she won't make an effective commissioner, but clearly the underhanded local gadflies who tipped the paper off about Clapper are from the "politics have no relation to morals" school of thought.

Still, this election season hasn't been all bad for everyone. Somewhere, Olivia Newton-John is rejoicing. Not since her song "Physical" hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts 33 years ago has exercising in a windowless studio while wearing a leotard and sweatband garnered so much attention. She is not alone in her delight, either. The moment Republican Cory Gardner managed to work the word "Jazzercise" into a U.S. Senate debate with Democrat Mark Udall last month, rumor has it Richard Simmons also put a rush on his order for new tank tops and candy-striped short shorts.

Gardner dropped the J-bomb when the discussion turned to the supposed Ebola crisis on American soil, suggesting the country needs to "close our borders" to all traffic from West African countries. Udall didn't necessarily disagree that travel restrictions might be in order, although he said, "senators and congressmen shouldn't be making those decisions. We should be supporting the resources that are necessary to meet the Ebola challenge," in reference to the nearly $300 million in cuts Republicans made to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's emergency response teams.

"Jazzercise programs, massage therapy and urban gardens," Gardner replied. "How about we use money responsibly to make sure we're protecting the American people instead of spending it wastefully under this administration?"

Since it's an election year, political nerds have been on the lookout for a strategic surprise. You could argue this year's biggest one was the Ebola outbreak, which seems to gratify Republicans in a wicked way, given that many of them schemed to prove their worthiness by virtue of what they painted as President Barack Obama's ineptitude in handling the situation.

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The problem is that when just a handful of people out of a population of 318,924,000 contract the same infectious disease in the United States, it's not so much an outbreak as it is an opportunity for politicians and cable news channels to rabidly fear monger.

And sure enough, Ebola (and Jazzercise) has emerged as an election issue (if not a health one). So, too, is recreational marijuana. No, it's neither on the ballot in Colorado again nor do most people really believe Bob Beauprez will succeed in getting it repealed should he beat incumbent Gov. John Hickenlooper tomorrow. But with the Denver police's unintentionally comic warning parents to carefully scrutinize their kids' Halloween candy for pieces that might be marijuana in disguise, you'd think a joint would have been to Halloween costumes in 2014 what the Sarah Palin mask was in 2008.

It's unclear why the police thought anyone might purposefully give away a treat that's taxed in the double digits, making it an exponentially more precious commodity then a bite-sized Snickers bar or roll of Smarties. Certainly not because anyone actually believed drug pimps would hide in suburban shadows waiting for 9-year-olds to sample pot-laced watermelon gummies plucked innocently from their trick-or-treat bags, get high and instantly addicted like they might to, say, crystal meth or a "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" (RIP) marathon. On the other hand, though, it is a commendable urban myth in the making, although not quite on par with razor blades in apples.

At this point, it seems any remaining surprises — and genuine ones, at that — will likely come after tomorrow. Should those voting in favor of Amendment 67 emerge victorious, for instance, you can bet they (as well as their wives, daughters, granddaughters, sisters, moms and nieces) will be stunned and upended upon realizing how the rights they had previously enjoyed as gospel disintegrate in favor of a few cells being incongruously safeguarded by interlopers. It's stupidly easy to judge people and their decisions from the cheap seats. When the time comes for those laws to bite you in your own uterus, however, it's a whole different story.

Short of that, though, while a real election surprise might have been a nice treat for a change (or at least just an actual surprise), moving forward, affecting the ballot box in earnest will require a cleverer trick.

More at MeredithCarroll.com.

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