One of the signature segments on Sesame Street was based on a song, “One of These Things (Is Not Like the Others),” created by Joe Raposo (music) and Jon Stone (lyrics). The refrain was accompanied by pictures of four items, one of which was outside the general category represented by the other three. One of the earliest examples included a banana, an apple, a peach and a shoe. I trust you can figure this out without my help.
I thought about this standard Sesame Street fare watching the cacophony of Republican voices invoking the “whataboutism” card in an effort to normalize Donald Trump’s indictment for violation of the espionage act and obstruction of justice. Imagine Elmo or Ernie pointing at a poster with images of Trump, Joe Biden, Mike Pence and Hillary Clinton and singing to Kevin McCarthy or Lindsay Graham:
Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn’t belong?
If you guessed this one (Trump) is not like the others,
Then you’re absolutely…right!
But, as is often the case, that is not what I came here to talk about. Today, I want to acknowledge a less obvious instance where one item or person stands out from the rest of the pack. It was triggered by Nikki Haley’s change of heart after actually reading the Special Counsel’s indictment. What struck me was not a pivot that would give John Kerry vertigo, it was her reference to her husband. After finally admitting Trump was “incredibly reckless with our national security,” she added:
More than that, I’m a military spouse. My husband’s about to deploy this weekend. This puts all of our military men and women in danger.
No contrition about how long it took her to reach this conclusion or her comments 24 hours earlier in which she claimed Jack Smith and his team were guilty of “prosecutorial overreach.” Nor did she mention that Trump endangered the lives of thousands of military service men and women way before she realized, “Oh, he is endangering my husband.”
The second image is a picture of former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. On July 15, 2020 Mulvaney criticized the Trump administration’s response to the spread of COVID.
I know it isn’t popular to talk about in some Republican circles, but we still have a testing problem in this country. My son was tested recently; we had to wait five to seven days for results. My daughter wanted to get tested before visiting her grandparents but was told she didn’t qualify. That is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic.
Again no contrition. It only became “inexcusable” when it affected his own daughter.
Image #3 is a two-person portrait of Representative Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and then Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). Thompson joined 75 percent of his GOP colleagues who voted against a bill to codify same-sex marriage protections just days prior to attending his son’s wedding to (drum roll) his male partner. To add insult to injury, Thompson’s office issued the following statement. “Congressman and Mrs. Thompson were thrilled to attend and celebrate their son’s marriage on Friday night as he began this new chapter in his life.”
Although Portman voted for the bill when it came before the Senate, the justification for reversal of his long-standing opposition to same-sex marriage was equally hypocritical.
It’s a change of heart from the position of a father. Will came to Jane and me and announced that he was gay, that it was not a choice. It was who he is and he had been that way since he could remember. Jane and I were both surprised, very surprised, but also very supportive of him. Our reaction was not about policy or positions. It was about him as a son and letting him know we were 110 percent supportive of him.
No doubt, Portman would have continued to deny other parents the same opportunity to celebrate a son’s or daughter’s love for another human being if his family had not personally faced the issue.
Which brings me to image #4, Fred Guttenberg whose daughter Stephanie was killed on February 14, 2018 during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Guttenberg has become a national leader in the gun safety movement since Stephanie’s death. But he still does not feel personally exonerated for his previous indifference to the suffering of other parents. On September 15, 2020, during a radio interview, Guttenberg said, “Every day I live with guilt I did not use my voice until it was my daughter.”
Again, I trust you do not need my help to determine which thing is not like the others.
For what it’s worth.