I’ve got a beef with whole “Mitt’s bet” thing from last night’s debate that’s a little different than what I’m seeing in most of the media.
But I’ll start with a recap in case you aren’t up to speed.
Last night in the Iowa GOP debate, Mitt Romney and Rick Perry were sparring over whether Mitt ever supported individual health care mandates. To hammer home his claim that he hadn’t, Mitt tried to bet Perry $10,000 that he was right. “I’m not in the betting business ...” Perry replied. (If Perry had always shown this degree of good judgment, he’d probably still be a contender. This, at least, was a smart response.)
So the bet didn't get made, but it has still caught the eye of the media, mostly because the proposed amount highlights Romney’s wealth. Perry spokesman Mark Miner said later, “Mitt Romney probably had $10,000 in his pocket.”
And Jon Huntsman’s campaign rushed to get onto the bandwagon with this brief and probably quite effective commercial:
What’s Bugging Me
What has me annoyed about the offer of the bet is how it seems to say something really damning about all of them and the world they live in. It epitomizes the easy way that the Republicans show they are above the issues they debate about. It’s a lot like the war on drugs, for example. People are routinely put in jail for quite minor offenses while the rich can do the same act with complete impunity as mere sport.
I quote here from the Iowa Code (Chapter 725 VICE):
And since Perry didn’t accept the bet, I doubt any legal problem actually occurred. And the bet wasn’t offered to Huntsman, so he probably isn’t in a legal position to accept. As such, he’s probably off the hook, too.
But it doesn’t matter. Even if they had been real bets, I’m quite sure no one would have been prosecuted. I just don’t have enough faith in the US justice system any more to think it really cares about what rich people do.
Putting This in Perspective
I’m somehow reminded of a speech given by Chris Rock in the period leading up to the 1996 re-election of Bill Clinton. This bit was a favorite of mine and shows really keen insight on Rock’s part.
The essence of Rock’s point was that since Bill Clinton has the same problems you and I have, he wasn’t as likely to try to pass a bunch of stupid laws that make the mere being of you and me illegal. There’s something about being rich and in politics that increases the likelihood of becoming detached from the impact of the laws being made.
I think it’s why they can talk casually about deporting eleven million people as if it were no big deal. I think it’s why they can talk about turning women into felons for getting an abortion or now even for using birth control. It’s why they can talk about repealing Obama’s health care achievements (“ObamaCare”) as if it were a good thing. All of these things seem come from one basic place: Security in the knowledge that, whatever the impact, it won’t happen to them. And the rest of us be damned.
It’s why Newt Gingrich can emerge “largely unscathed” [boston.com] from last night’s debate, even though in previous years he was reprimanded by a bipartisan Congress for ethics violations as Speaker of the House. Small matter to guys like this. Ethics, schmethics. A simple matter of money buys a lot of PR and voilà, the record is clean. He’s as good as new after something that would dog the rest of us for our entire lives—not to mention that he’s free to contribute again to the passage of the kind of legislation the Republican party likes best: the kind that promises “accountability” and that assures that people will pay dearly for the choices they’ve made. And by people will pay, they mean the “little people,” that is—people like you and me, not the rich people like were on that stage in the debate.
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Mark Pritchard picked out another good quote from Chris Rock back in 2008. Why isn’t Chris Rock one of the pundits we see after debates? He’s really so on the mark and he expresses things in emotional terms that people can really understand.
Also, about the law, it looks to me like the venue is also at risk under 99B.9 [“Gambling in Public Places”], too. And, fortunately for Huntsman, if his acceptance (which I assume came from his home bas in Utah) were treated as legal, the Utah laws on betting seem more flexible and look to me like they only make any potential crime a misdemeaner.