by David Safier
The Star's Political Notebook picked up on a comment I made on the blog last week about Bruce Ash accusing Regina Romero of using her newborn baby as "a political HUMAN SHIELD !!" [Those are his caps and exclamation points, not mine.] As Bodfield pointed out, I expressed outrage at Ash's choice of words. She portrayed my outrage as excessive. Believe me, I wasn't pretending to be outraged. Ash's comment honestly made me tremble, then settled in my stomach as a dark black ball.
Bodfield came to the conclusion that, since Romero and Ash were both trying to score political points, both deserve equal censure.
So let me get a bit more professorial here, leaving the outrage behind and analyzing the situation from a political/linguistic point of view.
Bodfield showed once again she's an excellent reporter, summing up the whole episode with clarity and precision. But she showed a lack of sophistication about the dramatic difference in the type of the language and imagery the two sides employed. Bodfield seems to think both Romero and Ash were equally guilty of trying to gain political advantage, and I was being overly partisan by condemning Ash and not Romero. I think there's a huge difference between the politically motivated statements from Romero and Ash. Romero's tone was playful. Ash's was brutal.
"Regina Romero's new baby girl says WAAHHH to the recall effort."
Playing politics with her newborn? Absolutely. It's a blatant, but playful, attempt to use her new motherhood to rouse people against the recall effort.
These are images I pulled up when I googled "Human Shield." Notice any difference?
There's nothing playful about the visual imagery Ash conjures up. It's violent, brutal and inhuman. If, as Ash says, Romero is "using [her] offspring as a political HUMAN SHIELD !!" that means she's holding her baby in front of her to catch the bullets while she guns for her enemy.
Ash is a major Republican political operator in Southern Arizona. He uses his money and influence to try and win elections and shape public opinion. His "human shield" statement shows he's the poltical love child of Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. No language is too vile or over the top to use against your opponent. Call doctors who perform abortions baby killers. Accuse Max Cleland, who lost both legs and one arm in Vietnam, of being unpatriotic, and create a campaign ad linking him with Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Accuse Romero of holding her baby in front of her to take a bullet for her. It's all part of the same Republican tactic. No accusations are too exaggerated, no imagery is too vile to use against your political opponent.
The headline for my original post was "Unspeakably vile." I used the terms "unfeeling," "inhuman" and "monstrous" to describe Ash's imagery. I stand by those accusations.
Would I retract any of my accusations if Ash said, truthfully, that he wrote the blog comment hastily and didn't really plan to evoke the imagery I've described? Absolutely not. As Freud said, people reveal themselves by the language they choose. Shakespeare understood that as well, making his characters give themselves away, not just by what they said, but the way they chose to say it. If "human shield" was the first term that popped into Ash's mind, and his immediate instinct was to put the words in all caps with two exclamation points following, that tells me the man has a twisted mind that could benefit from a few hours on Freud's couch to come to grips with some of the personal traumas that turned him into this kind of creature.
I'm also going to stand by the final statement in my original post. Bruce Ash owes Regina and her family a full, public apology.
NOTE: Ash's comment was on a post by Tedski congratulating Regina on the birth of her baby girl, Luciana Reyes. Tedski nicely — too nicely, in my opinion — offered to delete the comment if Ash wanted him to. Instead, Ash defended his comment, saying "Romero shows no class when she uses her new baby to complain about a recall election she will surely lose." Please, Mr. Ash, don't stop now. Express your thoughts here as well. I would love to read what you have to say.